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This Week's Critic Reviews


Another week, another blasting for the Old Post Office in Blackrock. Surely you'd just stop letting the photographers in? You don't really need to read this to guess what Tom Doorley in the Irish Daily Mail thought, but the topline is - shockingly expensive, pretty crap food. He went solo to try the €50 'early bird', and for that princely sum had a "very small" vegetable wonton, salt and chilli prawns (a whole three of them), in a batter both crispy and oily, and fillet of Hereford beef, broccoli and green pepper, with no discernible green pepper, and a taste akin to a takeaway. The beef itself however is described as "extraordinary ... quite mushy, turning to a sticky paste in the mouth". That Wongs menu is looking ever more appealing.

After that feast it was time for the "Irish cheese selection", featuring Wicklow Blue the texture of plasticine, smoked Gubbeen, and the pièce de résistance - Dubliner cheddar. Don't all run to book at once now. He calls the wine list "staggering" with prices starting at €50 a bottle and "gibberish" tasting notes that look like they've come from google translate. And for this multi-sensory experience he had little change out of €100. Anyone else think this could be some sort of social experiment? (Review not currently online)

A far more pleasant experience for Catherine Cleary in the Irish Times, who calls Argentinean café Alma in Portobello "very special". She says the "daughter-dominated" business are "serving the food they love to eat", and that there's a "friendly thoughtfulness" to everything. She describes a loaded batata with Argentine sausage ragu, limed sour cream, spicy nuts and fresh leaves as "the perfect lunch dish", and steak with chimichurri, eggs, potatoes and kale was "cooked as it should be: steak juicy, potatoes crisp and the kale freshly sauteed".

A lemon and poppy-seed pistachio cake for dessert was "an excellent piece of baking", and a brownie "gorgeously fudgy", and she says Alma are "cooking the food you love, with excellent ingredients". She gives it 9/10 and you can read her review here. We're also giving Alma the once over in this Tuesday's mail out - you can sign up for that here.

In the Sunday Business Post Gillian Nelis was silenced by the "gorgeous, uninterrupted" views in Portmarnock Hotel's Seaview Restaurant - and the food wasn't bad either. We're currently borderline obsessing about the "chicken and rabbit sandwich" - a meaty terrine between wafer-thin slices of pastry, on a nettle purée with truffle aioli and slivers of raw asparagus, which she calls "beautifully balanced and full of flavour". Salmon cheesecake also delivered on flavour, with "fatty and unctuous" tartare, and halibut was perfectly cooked, if the lemon emulsion seemed to be missing the lemon.

Another main of duck was overcooked, but the garnishes of white onion and truffle purée, beluga lentil salad and new season cabbage were "great", and she "adored" her dessert of Floating Island with local strawberries and a strawberry and elderflower consommé. She even liked the other dessert of white chocolate mousse with marinated sweet peaches and oat crumb, despite being a lifelong white chocolate hater. She calls it "an impressive showing", and says the food more than matched the views. Read her review here.

In the Sunday Times Niall Toner is falling for Frank's on Camden Street, and doesn't bat an eyelid at all the rules, like having to order sherry with your almonds or the possibility of standing around for two hours to get a table, saying it's worth the wait. Read his review here.

In the Irish Independent Katy was having the summer meal of our dreams in the wilds of Connemara. She was at the Sea Hare long-table pop up in Joyce's Bar in Cleggan, complete with "hyper-local" ingredients like seaweed pesto, horseradish crab, and pollack with a tomato and shallot concasse. Her highlights were the veg - freshly shelled garden peas and French beans, floury potatoes in seaweed butter and simply dressed bowls of garden leaves, and a raspberry fool for dessert was "simple and perfect". The only disappointment of the night was the pub wine (standard), but she gives the food, ambience and value 8/10. Read her review here.

Another pretty unhappy camper in the Irish Examiner where Joe McNamee was at Table Restaurant in Brown Thomas, Cork, with "The Granny" in tow. A penne pasta with pesto and Parmesan impressed, and a Moroccan lamb tagine with couscous was "a decent dish", but things went downhill with his bacon cheeseburger, whose meat was "overworked, dry" and "grievously under-seasoned", and the "skinny fries" he'd been craving were actually chunky, skin-on chips, which were "mealy and bland". The Granny's cod was good, save for soggy sautéed potatoes, and he says that while Table is an improvement on the last BT's restaurant, it was "an underwhelming lunch". Read it here.

Finally in the Sunday Independent, you guessed it. It's another top 20 from Lucinda. This week featuring the country's best "foodie views", and unusually there's nowhere in Dublin on there. Places that do get a mention include Aghadoe Heights in Killarney, The Lodge at Ashford Castle in Mayo, and Spillane's in Dingle, and if you fancy dinner with a water view in Dublin it sounds like you could do worse than reverting to Gillian's Nelis' review above. (Not currently online)

Lastly, if you work in the hospitality industry you might want to sign up for our jobs emails starting tomorrow. Find out more about ATF Jobs here.

More next week.


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