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 organic carrots and dukkah was "superb" and "magic".
Braised shoulder of venison with celeriac and mushroom purée (above) was "packed with flavour" but they can hold the roasted coffee beans next time, and in an epic feat of customer plamasing it came with two types of potatoes - champ and roasties. They enjoyed their desserts of espresso crème brûlée and "top-drawer" Armagh apple crumble, and she says she couldn’t fault anything they'd eaten, calling the service "flawless". Read her review here.
In the Irish Examiner Joe McNamee was delighted at the "vibrant yet intimate" Pigalle Bar & Kitchen, which has had a few iterations but according to Joe has finally found one with staying power. He says head chef Mark Ahern has a "serious commitment to sourcing the very best of local produce", like his "plump fleshy" mussels in a creamy sauce of seaweed and Little Fawn IPA, with nduja pork salume. Chunky, fresh monkfish fritters came with squid ink aioli and a "cracking" in-house shichimi chilli pepper condiment, "tasty" battered cauliflower came with "tender, carmelised" Crown Prince squash, pickled cauliflower and sautéed kale, and his Carrigcleena duck had "already superb flavours" maximised with some dry-hanging, before being cooked medium-rare and served with pumpkin, kale, and a puff pastry tarte tatin (phwoar).
The wine list was "tidy", the service had "genuinely friendly charm", and he ends by saying: "Ahern’s cooking is smashing: consistently superb produce is always honoured and delivered with a maturity and humility, his adroit hand and keen palate forever seeking an elemental purity of flavour over any need to showcase his own ego", calling the food "as authentic a strand of contemporary modern Irish cuisine as any out there." Read his review here.
Finally in the Sunday Independent, Lucinda O'Sullivan was living it up at Kim and Kayne's honeymoon destination - Castlemartyr Resort in Cork. She says through the boom and the bust head chef Kevin Burke has been delivering "stunning food", and a terrine of rabbit, ham hock and foie gras was "top notch", while Union Hall smoked salmon with beetroot and radish was "fabulous". Skeaghnore duck with parsnip purée and blackberry port jus was "wonderful", and her all time favourite thing to order, sole, was lightly chargrilled, with ratte potatoes, leek, mussels and lemon oil. Their signature dessert of Castlemartyr honey and camomile parfait, with honeycomb and milk purée was "superb", and she thought the sub-€150 bill was reasonable. (Review not currently online)
More next week.