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This Week's Critic Reviews

It's all about Allta this week, with three reviews dedicated to the crab bigoli and Gubbeen cappelleti, and varying degrees of impressed-ness... (Look out for our Allta once over in this Tuesday's mail out).

In the Irish Daily Mail Tom Doorley was officially first in with his 'hot take' on Niall Davidson's new wine bar. While he "liked Allta a lot", he says he worries "it will not be fully understood by a lot of diners" - translation: your parents - but he says what's happening there is "impressive". He thought the charcuterie plate was "very good", with pancetta that melted on the tongue, "meaty" fuet and "tangy spicy ventrecina", and the marinated mushrooms they came with were so good he drank the juices from the bowl. He really liked the "meaty, moist" skate wing with seaweed cream, saying he'd go back for that alone, but also for the "silky" cappelletti filled with "molten, savoury, rich" Gubbeen cheese in a "smoky" broth of maitake mushrooms.

He calls the BBQ lamb with seaweed papardelle and wild marjoram "the most intriguing dish of the evening", and despite the fact that he found both the marjoram and the seaweed in the pasta "elusive", the lamb was "bloody brilliant", and together "it worked very well indeed". He found dessert of nitro ice-cream with sea buckthorn, white chocolate and smoked honey "puzzling" but "no hardship", and while Young Buck cheese was "ambitiously priced" at €9.60 a portion, the black bee honey and vinegar it came with was "an attractive touch". He says Allta is about "subtlety", and while prices may be "adventurous ... this is a place, and team, to watch". (Review not currently online)

Gillian Nelis in the Business Post was also in early doors, and while she has plenty of good things to say about the oysters ("fresh as a daisy"), housemade charcuterie ("grazing fodder par excellence") and pollock crudo in a cherry blossom vinegar with umeboshi ("beautifully light"), she found what came next a bit "rich". She seemed to like the chicken scarpinocc, smoked Gubbeen cappelletti and crab bigoli by themselves, but thought one after the other "they just didn‘t work ... the flavour of one competing with the other." She describes the solo nitro ice-cream dessert as "bizarrely bad", and says that despite the "lovely" staff and "great" atmosphere it was a "slightly frustrating visit". Read her review here.

A much happier visitor in the form of Niall Toner in the Sunday Times, who loved every dish, and like Tom Doorley even drank the juice from the bottom of the bowl of pickled mushrooms. He describes the crab bigoli as everything he ever wanted, the lamb BBQ pappardelle as a perfect marriage, and the ice-cream dessert as indulgently moreish. Chalk and Cáis na Tíre. Read that here.

Another new opening in the Irish Times, where Catherine Cleary is first in with a review of new Dublin vegan/vegetarian restaurant Glas, and apart from the vegan parmesan ("It’s a toss-up which is worse, texture or taste"), she quite liked it. Sweetcorn and jalapeno fritters were "lovely", white truffle and “forest mushroom pâté spread "tastily" on toasted bread, and spicy cauliflower ribs ("a stretch" for florets) were "nicely roasted, with a sticky, satisfying sauce." Her 'orisotto' with fermented barley, pickled pumpkin, cauliflower, radish and horseradish was "almost perfect", but she longed for cheese or butter to bed everything together. Dessert of poached pear with spices, oat-milk ice-cream and candied hazelnuts was her favourite course, and she calls Glas a "hard-working, professional restaurant bravely putting vegan dishes on a brasserie-style menu", giving it 7/10. Read her review here.

In the Irish Independent Katy McGuinness booked Peploe's for a Friday lunch in November, finding it "hopping ... full of people who know how to live." She calls the food "classic", but says it "surpassed expectations by a mile", with high points including veal kidneys with wholegrain mustard, grapes and Gubbeen chorizo ("as rich and delicious as they sound"); turbot with chorizo risotto, Argentinean red prawns and spider crab sauce ("gutsy fabulous"); and Wicklow pheasant with bread sauce, fondant potato, braised cabbage and port jus ("the essence of winter comfort"). A Rick Higgins T-bone with prawns was "sublime", while a hazelnut and chocolate Paris-Brest was "impeccable", and she says "it's hard to think of a restaurant anywhere in Dublin that combines such a genuinely warm (but not smarmy) welcome with top-class service, a ferocious buzz and exemplary food." She gives it 9/10 for food and 10/10 for value, and you can read her review here.

In the Irish Examiner Joe McNamee find another great café in Kinsale, Cork - the "little cracker" that is St. Francis Provisions. Roasted root veg soup with "pleasingly perky kale pesto" was "homely", sweetcorn, chard and Macroom buffalo mozzarella fritters with a mixed vegetable salad and ajo blanco dressing was "healthy, wholesome, and crucially, bursting with balanced flavours", but it sounds like the toasties stole the show. He says it would take "fair effort" to improve on the ones in SFP, slathered in butter and "grilled to golden, glistening, crunchy crisp". The standout sounds like the grilled cauliflower with Gubbeen, Young Buck, Hegarty’s cheddar, Dijon mustard and jalapenos - "a wildly sumptuous affair" - and he says St Francis Provisions is "another unique addition to a town fast regaining its magical masticatory mojo". He gives them 8/10 for food and you can read his review here.

In the Sunday Independent, lest any of the country folk feel left out, this week Lucinda is suggesting the best places for Christmas meet ups outside Dublin, after last week's focus on the capital's top spots. Among her twenty choices are Cask in Cork (below), Everett's in Waterford, Hooked in Sligo and Thyme in Athlone. (Not currently online)

More next week.

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