This Week's Critic Reviews
In the Irish Times this week Catherine Cleary finally gets to Liath, and says "it puts the fun in fine dining". She brilliantly describes entering the tiny space in the deathly quiet of Blackrock market midweek as "like opening the small double door on a post-apocalyptic fine dining speakeasy", and the interior revamp as "less plucky start-up, more sleek, focused ambition". A succession of delicious dishes followed, including brown shrimp in fermented and charred sweetcorn with a chili miso and tarragon oil (below), a "zinger teaspoon of lemon done a gazillion ways", dots of oyster cream with crisp puffs of kelp crackers, dill, trout roe and the juice of Australian finger limes, that smoked eel and anchovy cone, and her favourite dish of the night - squid ink black dumplings filled with shiitakes, chanterelles and ceps in a mushroom, chilli and ginger tea.
Her only "spoilt brattish" complaint centres around the use of foie gras in a venison dish which she says she's had enough of - "no more slithery discs of rich folk’s pate please. It’s like a belch of fetid breath from starry meals past" - (chef Damien Grey has promised 12 courses of foie next time she visits). Desserts were gorgeous, and she says the non-alcoholic drink pairing is "the best fun any non-drinking friend will have in a restaurant." We bet the wine is more fun. She says Liath is "beautiful and joyful, reverent and irreverent in equal measure and we need as much of those experiences as we can get", giving it 9/10. Read her review here. Read our Liath once over here.
In the Irish Independent it's a review of two halves from Katy McGuinness when it comes to Mister S. Despite the dismal sounding headline - "Live-fire restaurant gives good Instagram but serves up a lacklustre meal" - she ends up scoring the food 8/10. It seems it was all going very well until the mains, with the burnt end spring rolls and lemongrass mayonnaise a good combination, the smoked chicken with romesco "tender" with smokiness "subtle but present", and the gambas in bisque butter on flatbread "full of gutsy flavour". A squash, shallot and Cashel blue tart topped with kale and cheese was also "excellent", but that's where the fun ends...
She says the flavour of the pork tomahawk was hard to discern due to the "gloopy sauce" it was swimming in, wagyu beef was "a real disappointment, lacking in both flavour and the unctuous butter mouth-feel that you expect", and she even thought those famous miso roasties were "gross rather than dirty fabulous". Desserts underwhelmed too with a pavlova "lacking that essential chew" and a "pleasant" salted caramel tart featuring "over-hefty pastry". She suggests that her "lacklustre meal" could be down to the restaurant having "a bad day", but says that that the way things are are the moment restaurants just can't afford them. She gives them a somewhat puzzling 8/10 for food despite the many complaints, and 7/10 for value and ambience, making it five critics who loved it and two who didn't. Read her review here. Read our far more complimentary Mister S once over here.
In the Irish Daily Mail Tom Doorley describes the dumplings at new opening "Little Dumpling" as "the real deal", "generous" and "in the broad Chinese style". Chicken satay dumplings were "good" with fresh lime leaf, spicy prawn and fish egg were "lively", and beetroot dumplings stuffed with prawn were "restrained" and "cleverly textured". He loved the xiao long bao (soup dumplings), with the prawn and pork ones "packed with flavour" and the roast duck and hoisin sauce "the dumpling of the night ... sensationally good". Spinach and wild mushrooms came in second, while carrot and kimchi were the least successful, and he concurs with everyone else that there should be a law against serving those nutella dumplings, but thankfully there isn't so that we can enjoy the "crunchy exterior" and "melting chocolate nuttiness". (Review not currently online but you can read our Little Dumpling once over here)
In the Sunday Times Niall Toner gives us a very brief review of Krewe on Capel Street, compromising of just two mains and a salad, which definitely breaks a cardinal rule of reviewing - three courses each or don't start writing (unless there are more than two of you). They went to Boco around the corner while they waited for a table, ordering some snacks and presumably ruining their appetites in the process. Naughty naughty. Read that here.
In the Business Post Gillian Nelis says chef Conor Halpenny at The Square in Dundalk is one of "a coterie of exciting young chefs who are making their mark in their own restaurants". "Juicy and tender" buttermilk fried chicken came with "great" green curry mayonnaise, hake with braised baby gem and a sherry cream was "really well cooked", and perfect duck breast came with a "gorgeous" blood orange jus (God knows we love a bit of blood orange). The standout sounds like a side of hispi cabbage with garlicky breadcrumbs and nduja ("an umami score of 11 out of 10"), but a dud dish came in the form "tiny and tough" mussels in an "overly salty" sauce. A rhubarb and custard choux bun took her right back to her Granny's table eating rhubarb tart, and she says "if Halpenny can work this kind of magic on cabbage and choux in his mid-20s, he is most definitely one to watch". Read her review here.
In the Irish Examiner Joe McNamee was at "beloved local Leeside institution" Liberty Grill in Cork, bemoaning the fact that the "frenzied dining public's ceaseless pursuit of the latest 'new thing'" has caused it to "slip under the radar, generally for no better reason than it had lasted longer than a wet weekend." Sounds like it might be a bit more than that considering the nutburger was "lacking a little punch", the crab and white fish burger had "anaemic" seasoning, and the tomato and dressed leaves on the side of an "accomplished" tempeh and quinoa 'San Fran salad' were "lacklustre out of season imports". Best of all was the burger - "deeply flavoured beef ... one of the very best burgers around" - and the fries - "ever addictive", and he calls it "rock solid grub in a lovely location", scoring it 7.5/10 for food. (Review not currently online but should be soon here)
Finally in the Sunday Independent Lucinda O'Sullivan was on a "mini-tour" of the west, reviewing not one, not two, but three very fancy restaurants. First up was a South African wine dinner at Ashford Castle where "superb" food was cooked to match the wines, then onto Renvyle House in Connemara for their annual French wine weekend, including a "French Connection" banquet. Then it was onto The Galmont Hotel in Galway for dinner overlooking Lough Atalia, with a "good value" 'Wild Atlantic Way platter' and "superb" service. We got the press releases for the first two events and noted that for two people to attend both with accommodation would have cost €1000, then chuck in another €200+ for the Galmont, and by anyone's standards that's a pretty spenny weekend. Are the Indo's budgets larger than we thought? They did announce this week that they're introducing a paywall on the website. Maybe it's to pay for all the gallivanting. (Review not currently online)
More next week.