A bit of a bombshell this weekend with the news that Ernie Whalley's restaurant reviews for the Sunday Times have been axed. Despite the recent cuts to the Times Ireland office, involving 17 out of 20 staff being made redundant, this has still come as a shock, particularly considering the current wave of excitement surrounding the Irish/Dublin restaurant scene. Whether it's been shelved for good or foisted onto one of the three remaining full time staff members is currently unknown. He chose Little Mike's in Mount Merrion for his last supper, loving it as much as everyone else who's been through the door, and you can read his swan song here.
Also reviewing (and loving) Little Mike's was Lucinda O'Sullivan in the Sunday Independent. She calls it "cool and sophisticated", in comparison to big brother Michael's a few doors up - "rustic and charming" - but she compares the snug in the back to a "padded cell" - can't win 'em all. The famous whelks that chef/owner Gaz Smith says he won't charge for if someone doesn't like them had her converted, and whole, grilled Dublin Bay Prawns with salt and lemon were "resplendent".
Scallops with gremolata, capers and hollandaise were "divine", Lambay Island crab and Wexford prawn gratin came with crab claws "the size of a baby's fist", and she calls the whole thing "a fishy feast". Fried Gruyère cheese with honey was "lovely" and "stinky", and a chocolate tart was "the dessert of the evening". Review not officially online but you can read it on Gaz Smith's twitter feed here, and get a sense of his cruel taste in pranks here.
In the Sunday Business Post Gillian Nelis is on laugh out loud form whilst obliterating The Old Post Office in Blackrock. She thinks it should be renamed "Jesus It’s Fucking Expensive" as that's likely to be the first thing that people say when they open the menu, and that you can only get away with prices like €11 for soup and fillet of beef for €42 if the food is brilliant, but the food is "not even close to brilliant, and at times it’s downright poor."
Marinated sea trout with black bean sauce was "about as tender as an old boot", tasting "deeply unpleasant", a main of scallops for €38 contained four whole scallops, with noodles an extra €5, and gong bao chicken for €32 was "an instantly forgettable plate of chicken and cashew nuts", and cost another fiver for the fried rice on the side. Dessert of pear and chocolate tart came topped with green dust, "which could have been made of pistachio, matcha, broccoli or grass. It tasted of nothing", and she calls it "laughably expensive for a meal that barely tipped into the ‘good’ category, and mostly languished firmly in the ‘poor to mediocre’ one." Read the full cringe-fest here.
In the Irish Times Catherine Cleary says she has a new favourite restaurant - Frank's, the new wine bar on Camden Street by the same people behind Delahunt. Despite the temptation to keep herself and her husband's "new secret favourite place" to themselves, she felt it was her civic duty to tell us all about the "nutty, garlicky" ajo blanco with "an almost chewable texture", the Michelin-worthy barley cracker with globe artichoke petals and leek puree, and the asparagus with buttermilk and dill sauces and oils.
She says they're still thinking about the just-seared scallops, with lightly-pickled cabbage, juicy golden raisins and a ham hock sauce, pillowy house gnocchi came draped with butter fried oyster mushrooms and an egg with a fudgy yolk, and that Frank's is "utterly in tune with the casual 'let’s go get a bite' urge that feels easier than planning and booking a table in an actual restaurant. The delight is that the food at Frank’s is better than most sit-at-a-table restaurants". She gives it 9/10 and you can read her full review here.
In the Irish Daily Mail Tom Doorley was the last of the seven critics through the door of Circa in Terenure, and he makes it six out of seven thumbs pointing upwards. He says he was seduced by the "very cool, modern, stripped back establishment", and the team who are "serious about food without being serious". The buttermilk fried rabbit that every single person through the door seems to have eaten was "a plate jumping with sheer flavour", boudin noir was "sticky and gently cooked", its richness cut by burnt apple, and a taleggio, leek and potato pithivier was "a carb fest of the most elegant kind".
A kaffir lime parfait was "elevated to celestial levels" by sheets of caramelised white chocolate, and Cashel Blue came in "perfect nick" with homemade crackers. He calls Circa "lovely", with service that's "friendly, efficient and relaxed", and says it's "a very welcome addition to Dublin". (Review not currently online)
In the Irish Independent Katy McGuinness was revisiting One Pico, after hearing positive reports about chef Ciaran McGill's food. Turns out the rumours were true, despite the "complete lack of buzz in the room". A starter of pea veloute with shards of Iberico ham and a raviolo of 18-month aged Parmesan was "vivid green and heady with the promise of summer", and lobster ravioli in a crab bisque with shavings of summer truffle was "a luxe and lovely dish".
Cod with deep-fried florets of cauliflower, cauliflower purée, mussels, Goatsbridge caviare and capers was "impeccably cooked", and nettle gnocchi with violet artichokes, Coolea fondue, hazelnut vinaigrette and crackers was "a fine vegetarian option", but pommes purée with aged Comte and crispy shallots was dull once all the good stuff had been eaten. Service was "as lacking in personality as the restaurant itself", and she ponders whether this is deliberate so it can be all things to all people. She says that despite the somewhat dull experience, McGill's food is excellent, and gives them 8/10 for food and value. Read her review here.
Finally in the Irish Examiner, Leslie Williams liked Chimac's Korean Fried Chicken, but wished it was a bit more Korean. He recommends ordering the wings, loved the classic burger with Korean hot sauce and daikon slaw, and says the frosé was "far tastier than you might imagine", but wasn't a fan of the chips, calling them "half crunchy, half flaccid". He says it's is a great addition to Dublin and can see them rolling out to other locations, but wishes there was "more Seoul in the food". He gives them 7.5/10 for food and 9/10 for value, and says it's a good start but he's hoping it will get better. (Review not currently online)
More next week.