This week's reviews are a pretty good illustration of the general divide between the capital and everywhere else right now, with Dublin operating on the frisson of fresh pasta, French small plates and temples to tea and cakes, and everywhere else having a sole focus on Irish produce and three course dinners. Novelty vs substance? Innovation vs sitting still? We won't get into a Twitter spat about it...
In the Irish Independent Katy McGuinness took a real-life French person to Le Perroquet, to size it up for, well, 'French-ness'. They won a point for having legit French music on the stéréo, another for a vintage lollipop stand, and a few more for dishes like "properly tasty" beef tartare with sour cream and sheep's cheese, and "full of flavour" scallops with cauliflower and pancetta. Roast leg of lamb with seaweed potatoes and pickled pear had a "deliciously sticky" jus, but a cassoulet divided them due to a lack of the traditional sausage or duck - the second time a reviewer has passed comment on those meat-free beans.
Parmesan Aligot (the cheesy potato of your dreams) lacked the "essential stringy pull", and the 'Cinema' dessert with popcorn, caramel and ice-cream had "unwelcome" cola jellies. She says she'd like to know a bit more about the provenance of the food, but she enjoyed Le Perroquet's "unpretentious ways". The French friend gets the last word, calling it "good modern French food", and they get 8/10 for food and value. Read her review here.
In the Irish Daily Mail Tom Doorley discovers "a temple to real tea" in Dun Laoghaire with "splendid oriental cakes", at recently opened Nunki Tea House. It's wasn't all cake and tea though (but it was a lengthy diatribe on why stale, plastic-filled teabags are the actual devil). Gyozas were among the best he's tasted: "delicate, thin wrappers and proper savoury fillings", Kung Pao chicken was "stickily, savourily, saltily good", and "crunchy, salty" deep-fried green beans concluded a "lunchtime feast". He calls it "excellent value for money", saying he suspects they'll be regulars. (Review not currently online)
For the last of this week's Dublin reviews Niall Toner in the Sunday Times hated El Grito on Mountjoy Square, but a late night trip to new pasta place Sprezzatura made everything right with the world again. Perfectly cooked pasta trumps dry, tired tacos for the record. Read his review(s) here.
In the Irish Times Catherine Cleary thinks the whole country needs to visit Farmgate Café in Cork's English market, saying it "sets a standard for cooking any Irish restaurant should be proud to follow." Freshly shucked oysters from a stall downstairs with shallot vinegar, lemon, soda bread and Glenilen butter was "one of the best Irish food experiences money can buy, while lamb stew was "like it should be", with "generous chunks of gnarly soft brown meat". Steamed potatoes had "such an exuberance of flouriness" it was "almost comical", and an apple tart to finish was "ground zero for all apple tarts". She says nothing innovative but everything important is happening here, giving it 9/10 and calling it "a perfect lunch". Read her review here.
In the Sunday Business Post there's similar patriotic rhapsodising from Gillian Nelis who was at Brunels in Newcastle, Co. Down. She was pleasantly shocked to find someone rocking the goat's cheese and beetroot boat, serving her "gorgeously creamy" goats' cheese mousse with a pumpkin gel, toasted pecans and peppery mustard frill leaves. She doesn't think she's ever tasted a smoother parfait than their one of smoked duck liver with spiced plums, walnuts and balsamic, and slow-roast Mourne lamb shoulder and belly with organ