In the Irish Independent this week it's fair to say Katy McGuinness was less than impressed with Spitalfields in The Coombe, criticising the temperature as well as the food - "The woman at the next table wears her coat throughout her meal" - and you can feel the fury when she recounts how no one could tell her the provenance of the chicken in the cock-a-leekie pie. Only three of the five Parker House rolls in a portion contained meat - "inexcusably sloppy" - although the ones that did were "delicious", and a côte de boeuf was "nicely cooked" but "lacked flavour". It wasn't all bad. Loughshinny brown shrimp with aioli and Espelette pepper were "sweet and perfect", a Barnsley lamb chop with tapenade and salsa verde was "good", and a pistachio, pear and chocolate millefeuille to share was "as good as it looks". Despite the complaints she gives the food and value 7/10, saying the high point was manager Declan Maxwell's hospitality. Read her review here.
In the Irish Times Catherine Cleary goes where no critic has gone before - the Oireachtas member's restaurant at Leinster House. With all that money to spend on printers you'd think it would be caviar and fresh truffle central, but not so. She finds it "slightly rudderless", comparing it to "a pricey nursing home where most of the residents are out at aqua aerobics". Parsnip soup tasted mainly of potato, a super food salad with quinoa, pomegranate and watery tomatoes made "little sense", and she beautifully delivers this mouth-watering description of some spinach-and-ricotta tortellini: "gnarly pasta parcels rapidly cooling to the texture of bath-softened toenails are covered with what can only be described as despair in sauce form."
Desserts were "a trolley dash through the fancy dessert aisle by a cook whose guests would have loved a calming crumble", and she gives it 5/10, saying that the lovely staff saved it from going lower. She ends by saying that while it could be "a showcase for what we do brilliantly", instead it "feels as if we’re a long way from even beginning to work out what that is." Read her review here.
In the Sunday Times Niall Toner is first off the mark with his review of ex-Etto head chef Barry Sun's new Blackrock restaurant Volpe Nera. He calls the room and food small but almost perfectly formed, loving the many connections to the season (like the venison below), and it manages a very rare Toner four out of five. Break out the fizz. Read his review here.
In the Irish Examiner Leslie Williams was in his birth town of Athlone, and was pleased to report improvements to the formerly chain-ridden main street, as well as the food scene. His destination was Thyme, after they were awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand in September (the only restaurant in the Midlands with one), and he calls it "a treat of a restaurant, with prices to encourage regular visits". Starters were "uniformly excellent", including wild wood pigeon with black pudding, pickled grapes and romanesco, Young Buck mousse with pickled pear and crackers, and ham hock with celeriac mousse and a breaded deep-fried egg.
Loin of West Cork Waygu beef was "as tender and flavourful as you could hope for", and a squash, mushroom and Carlow sheep's cheese pithivier looked "perfect" with "good" flavour but could have done with a little more texture. Chocolate mousse and sticky toffee pudding to end were equally good, and he says Thyme is "perhaps the best ... reason to visit Athlone right now", giving them 9/10 for food. (Review not currently online but should be soon here.)
In the Irish Daily Mail Tom Doorley jetted off to London to Richard Corrigan's new opening Daffodil Mulligan. He admits early on that they know each other 30 years and have written a book together, which explains why he appears to have tasted everything on the menu. It verged from the fantastical (slow-cooked crubeens, "their gelatinously sticky meat fashioned into two little cushions, encased in a crisp overcoat") to the sublime (mashed potato topped with melted bone marrow and toasted crumbs - "from a solar system far superior to ours"), and he calls it "a consistently brilliant meal". He mentions fourteen dishes in total, and if we go we'll be ordering the "padron peppers from Cavan ... just blistered and scattered with pork crackling", and Peter Hannan's sugar pit pork with roasted pineapple, lychee and mint. (Review not currently online)
In the Sunday Independent Lucinda's back on her top 20 buzz, this time the best Christmas spots for "meeting and eating in Dublin" (waits for everyone outside Dublin to take offence at being left out). Amongst the lucky 20 are Davy Byrne's, which she describes as "a cosmopolitan refuge from the Grafton Street crowds", The Intercontinental Hotel which is "really the biz", and Marco Pierre White's steakhouse where there's "always a buzz". She also recommends The Commons at Moli for its "delightful setting", The Shelbourne as it's "synonymous with Christmas", and The Trocadero for it's "rich, theatrical atmosphere". Knock yourselves out this festive season.
More next week.