This Week's Critic Reviews
A very good weekend for Sprezzatura, who have two critics singing their pasta praises. In the Irish Times Catherine Cleary says they're serving food made from scratch "well and cheerfully", while "making it look easy". Their sustainability stance with no paper, drinks on tap and the option of off-setting your travel there by buying a tree was always going to be right up her street, but the gnocchi with tomato sauce, pine nuts and ricotta were "delicious, light and airy", tagliatelle with wild mushrooms "as woodsy as risotto" with "silky homemade pasta", and a "Jenga block" of duck and ham hock croquette was "excellent". The pappardelle with fennel sausage was "comforting" if "a little too chewy in the pasta and muddy in the sauce", and desserts of popcorn panna cotta and chocolate mousse were "fine". She gives Sprezzatura 8/10 saying they're serving "simple comforting staples well executed for a world in a hurry". Read her review here.
More love from Leslie Williams in the Irish Examiner, who says Sprezzatura are "doing something genuinely different and exciting". He says their sustainability efforts are the best he's seen, and describes their small plates as "brilliant". Mortadella was "sweet and meaty", a "perfect" aubergine caponata made his Italian companion say "wow", and a duck and ham croquette was so good he wished they'd ordered a second. Non-traditional rigatoni carbonara "worked surprisingly well" with "nicely textured pasta", tagliatelle with wild mushrooms was "flavourful" with fine quality mushrooms, and the two desserts "rounded off the meal well". He describes it as "a bustling, great value, fresh pasta focused restaurant with supremely tasty food and a buzzy atmosphere", giving it 9/10 for food and 9.5/10 for value. (Review not currently online but should be soon here - in the meantime you can read our Sprezzatura once over here.)
You'd definitely know it was pay day last week as Tom Doorley was in The Butcher Grill in Ranelagh eating €100 steak and drinking an €85 bottle of Bordeaux - but he wasn't paying, a very generous friend was (note: must find one of those). He says he didn't intend to review it but it was so good he felt he had to spread the word. Cocktails were "perfect", oysters "suitably saline" and served with proper shallot vinaigrette, and cauliflower and jalapeño croquettes were "crunchy" and "creamy" with a "tart heat". The aforementioned Tomahawk steak came rare and was "magnificent", with "very correct ... buttery tarragony Béarnaise sauce", and some of the best mashed potato he's had in ages. They had to take some meat home, passing on dessert, and he says the remaining steak was scoffed for breakfast. (Review not currently online)
In the Business Post Gillian Nelis goes where critics rarely go, to one of the true enigmas of the Irish dining scene - Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud. Never before has a restaurant so highly rated by Michelin (it was Ireland's only two-star restaurant until last October when The Greenhouse was finally upgraded) been so ignored by almost every best restaurant/top 100/essential restaurants list - except the Business Post's 101 Best Restaurants. Uber peculiar. Gillian, clearly an RPG fan, thought her €168 lunch for two (three courses and a glass of wine each) is the "best-value" way to experience the "grand dame of Irish dining", calling her pheasant pithivier "beautifully rich", and cured salmon with tomato molasses and six different peppers "elegantly simple looking" but "involved so much time and effort".
Both her and her friend went for veal cheeks for their main (reviewers really need to get more assertive with their dining mates) calling them "beautifully tender", with the veal jus the work of a "genius", and her dessert of îles flottantes had "a light-as-air" meringue, and flavours of wildflower honey and black pepper that she says she would be "a long time getting bored of". Tomás Clancy calls the wine list "the finest in the country", and you can read the full thing here.
More free-wheeling with the expense accounts in the Irish Independent, where Katy McGuinness took herself off to The Greenhouse for a €370 lunch for two (matching wines included) which was "money well spent". She loved the "cheery, relaxed, unsnooty" atmosphere, as well as the "glorious canapés", including a Chantenay carrot sphere flecked with gold leaf and filled with grapefruit and smoked pike roe, and a beignet of 36-month aged Comté. A procession of dishes followed, each sounding better than the last, including the "signature" foie gras royale, steamed turbot "heady" with roasted yeast tapioca, maitake mushrooms and shaved winter truffle, and aged Anjou pigeon with kombu, bergamot, beetroot, cassis, radicchio and cherry blossom vinegar - "a winter stunner of a dish". Cheese was "magnificent", desserts the "prettiest", and she says she hasn't seen finer pastry work anywhere. She gives them 10/10 for food, ambience and value, calling it "world class food without faff or pretension". Read her review here.
In the Sunday Times Niall Toner was in Variety Jones, almost a year to the day when his predecessor Ernie Whalley reviewed it - wonder if he checked the archives before booking that one in. At least the reviews are very different. While Whalley skulked out unimpressed, Toner thought it was brilliant, giving it what we think is his first ever 4.5 out of 5. Read his review here.
Finally in the Sunday Independent Lucinda O'Sullivan has picked her "20 best romantic spots" for "wining, dining and popping the question" on Valentine's Day dining. Ten are in Dublin - Dax, The Dylan, Gigi in Ranelagh, Le Perroquet, Osteria Lucio, Sole, Suesey Street, The Legal Eagle, Volpe Nera and The Westbury Hotel, and if that all sounds a bit too nauseating find our anti-Valentine's day list here). (Not currently online)
More next week.