This Week's Critic Reviews
It's a weekend of slam dunks, both for new openings and old favourites, but the big question was whether or not the Sunday Times would have a restaurant review this week, after last week's news that long-standing critic Ernie Whalley had been given the heave ho in the latest round of budget cuts. So colour us surprised to see (this week anyway) lifestyle editor Niall Toner taking up the baton. He reviews Juanitos on Drury Street after a failed attempt at getting into Chimac, and you can make up your own mind about the new kid on the block here.
In the Irish Times, Catherine Cleary was lured back to Bastible four years after she first "caused a stampede" by the news that ex-Noma chef Cúán Greene has come home and taken up the mantle of head chef, and she's fallen in love all over again. She was hypnotised by the cultured butter, a perfect match for chef/owner Barry Fitzgerald's sourdough - "the best in the business" - and snacks of pumkpin seed purée with lovage pesto, Cooleeney churros and a cube of Nashville fried chicken, were of the "put the fork down and shake your head level of tastiness".
Knockalara cheese dumplings (above) were so comforting she thought they could be prescribed as beta blockers, and her pot-roasted cauliflower in a brown, buttery, miso crust ate like meat, and was Noma-esque. Smoked yoghurt woodruff cream for dessert was "wonderfully and differently delicious", and she calls Bastible "a beautifully memorable food experience, a steal at €55 for the tasting menu, and the start of something truly bloody exciting", giving them 9.5/10. Read her review here.
In the Irish Examiner Leslie Williams was very taken with new Camden Street wine bar Frank's. He thought the smoked salted almonds and “almost luscious” Nocellara olives were some of the best he’s had, ham hock terrine with Parmesan cream, pickled vegetables and spicy Jalapeño sauce was “a perfect dish”, and caramelised Grelot pearl onions with "flavour-packed romesco" and Gorgonzola was "a creative and nicely balanced mix of flavours".
More praise for violet artichokes with duck hearts and hazelnuts (above), sea bream tartar with avocado, and ripe peaches with ricotta and brown butter crumble, which was "a nice lift to the palate" post fish. A mature piece of Durrus cheese was “a beautiful thing”, and gariguette strawberries with sour cream and chicory crumble to finish was “delicious”. He says that while dishes are relatively simple, “they all have surprising and brilliant complexity”, and calls Frank’s “a wonderful addition to an already vibrant part of the city.” Read his review here.
In the Irish Independent Katy McGuinness says that Chapter One is still the best place to celebrate, and makes Michelin-starred dining “relaxed and unintimidating”. She’s a fan of their “quiet confidence … honing and refining, implementing subtle tweaks that keep making things better”, and cites the recent addition of smoked buttermilk to their pommes purée with scallions, making it one of the most “sublime” dishes she’s had this year.
Some of the highlights from a pretty spectacular sounding lunch include classic cheese gougères with truffle, smoked organic salmon with a Lambay crab pancake, peas and a cherry blossom vinaigrette, and a rose and mascarpone Paris-Brest, served with Irish raspberries, and she gives the food, ambience and value 10/10. Read the full mouth-watering rundown here.
In the Sunday Independent Lucinda O’Sullivan calls the cooking at Potager in Skerries “faultless”. She praises the “excellent” breads, the “magic” crab, tomato and basil salad, and the “divine” salt-baked celeriac stuffed with Ard Mhacha shiitake mushrooms, topped with a bacon crisp – “pure paradise”. Mains of duck and cod were perfectly cooked, and a smoked chocolate mousse with beetroot and cherries was “delicious”. She reckons it’s going to end up in the same league of hard to get tables as Liath, Aimsir and Mews, so advises getting in quick. (Review not currently online but you can read our Potager once over here)
In the Irish Daily Mail Tom Doorley is the second critic full of the love for Seasalt café in Cobh, saying it’s brought “a lot of joy” to the town. He loved that they “actually do home cooking”, and “don’t cut corners”, citing the Croque Madame made with sourdough, “proper” cheddar, “thoroughly meaty” ham and good bechamel, and the “outstanding” hake tacos – “so good … so unexpected”. A sponge cake with cream and strawberries was “a generous slice of old-fashioned heaven”, and he calls it “terrific value for food that is all made from scratch on the premises. (Review not currently online)
Finally in the Sunday Business Post Gillian Nelis relied on Michelin plaques to find good food in Fuerteventura, ending up at Restaurant Rompeolas, where she thinks there’s “plenty to recommend”, particularly the “prawns in a raincoat” and kid goat with roast garlic and charred padrón peppers. If you’re heading to Fuertevetura any time soon you can read that here.
More next week.