This Week's Critic Reviews
Portion size gripes, badly disguised digs and headache inducing playlists this week.
In the Irish Independent Katy McGuinness has some issues with the newly opened Commons at MoLI (Museum of Literature Ireland), calling the noise "cacophonous", the portions "stingy" and the prices "bullish". She could see its potential in dishes like the "excellent" Burren Smokehouse smoked salmon with fermented potato bread scones, horseradish crème fraîche and trout caviar, and the roast heritage and Iona carrots with organic buttermilk, dill and hazelnut dukkah - "perfection - balanced, nuanced, full of texture and flavour", but butternut squash soup was "bland and under-seasoned" and a braised beef blaa with Gorgonzola and pickled mustard greens had "the meerest smear of cheese". Despite the criticisms she gives the food 8/10, saying it's early days and she's sure the wrinkles can be ironed out. Read her review here.
In the Sunday Times Niall Toner dissects the "contentless blather" at this year's Michelin awards ceremony, before dissecting new opening and former "proper boozer" Spitalfields. He liked the food, he liked the service, he didn't like the different music being played on two different levels - "an unintended mash up too far", and despite calling the food "lovingly crafted" he couldn't bring himself to a full four stars out of five, hovering at three and a half. Read that here.
In the Sunday Business Post Gillian Nelis reckons she scored a coup by being the first person to pay for dinner at newly two-starred restaurant The Greenhouse on Dawson Street, after craftily booking the first table she could get post awards, and then rushing to summon the card reader before anyone else had a chance. If you weren't bothered about eating there before, you will be after reading this, with the canapés alone enough to make your eyes pop: "little globes of beetroot caramel filled with a cabernet sauvignon jelly; aged Parmesan custard tarts topped with preserved lemon; and gorgeous Flaggy Shore oysters from Clare with a cucumber emulsion, oyster chantilly and Champagne-pickled shallots."
They soaked up "every drop" of "perfect, angular" sea bream with a langoustine farci, chanterelles, Jerusalem artichoke purée and brown butter sabayon, and also loved the hare with celeriac, sauce poivrade, pear and Timut pepper - "a crunchy, slightly sweet, smoky delight". Dessert of "perfectly-made" chocolate mousse with praline and coffee ice-cream was the best her friend had ever eaten, and she says the customers are going to be lining up behind them. Read the full review here.
In the Sunday Independent Lucinda O'Sullivan L-L-Loved Lignum in Galway, calling it "the most impressive and important restaurant, showcasing Irish cuisine, to have opened this year" (in the worst veiled dig at Aimsir/Michelin/who knows in any media publication this year). To be fair, it sounds like a meal worthy of epic proclamations with dishes like raw seasoned shrimp in a hay-smoked bisque, ember-cooked plaice with juniper, seaside foraged herbs and XO sauce, and the one that's currently driving us to distraction - lamb shoulder on a vinegar based set smoked cream, with egg yolk jam. Pre-desserts and desserts were "stunning" and "spectacular", and she calls it "fine dining at its very best". Only 11.5 months until we find out if Michelin feels the same. (Review not currently online)
In the Irish Times Catherine Cleary is on fine literary form in describing her solo trip to Everett's in Waterford: "The river flowed the money into this small city and the merchants built their houses on the hills rising up from their income stream." Although prices were "steep" she says it was exactly the type of "hearty cooking" she needed. Brown bread made with macroom flour was "terrific", Andarl Farm pork belly with coco de Paimpol beans, smoked barbecue sauce and a gooey poached egg was given maximum flavour with some bacon salt, and Kilmore Quay cod came with a "beautiful" prawn bisque and local buttered queens. A blackcurrant sorbet with candied hazelnuts and a lightly poached pear was a nice reminder that we're into Autumn, service felt like "a welcome hug", and she gives it 8.5/10, calling it "another delightful reason to visit Waterford". Read her review here.
In the Irish Daily Mail Tom Doorley was at The East Room Restaurant at the University of Limerick, and wasn't quite as enthusiastic as Lucinda back in August was at who described it as "Michelin-level food". Tom calls it "excellent in parts", with a kitchen that's "skilled and ambitious ... when it's firing on all cylinders." The "excellent" included cured salmon with grapefruit jelly, cucumber, Doonbeg crab, fennel and smoked crème fraîche, and slow-cooked rib of beef with savoury barley, toasted hazelnuts, Jerusalem artichoke and herb butter. Other dishes showed a "lack of judgement", like pork belly with scallops gussied up with finely diced pineapple and chorizo, and a risotto of wild mushrooms and summer truffle with a crisp (not actually crisp) hen egg, under-cooked rice and "negligible flavour". Desserts of white chocolate bavarois and passionfruit tart were "ace", and he said it was unusual to find such careful judgement in some dishes, and a lack of it in others, but that there's "some excellent cooking going on here". (Review not currently online)
No Examiner this week as it wasn't in the shops and it's not online. The digital desk must have taken the weekend off. It's Joe McNamee's week so it's most likely somewhere in Cork. More next week.