Welcome to a new and slightly condensed version of the critics' reviews. Our last one was back in March, before the world as we knew it was turned on its head, and within days there was nothing to review as everywhere had shut. The reopening has been slow and, for many, painful, and the critics haven't been entirely sure how to deal with criticising an industry repeatedly said to be on its knees, but this weekend they're all back.
What we can tell you is that we're unlikely to see an ounce of criticism (in the negative sense) for the foreseeable future, making the whole category that bit less interesting, and you potentially won't get the full story on a meal, as none of our newspapers give their critics enough time, or budget, to visit multiple restaurants if the first wasn't all that interesting - although if somewhere was really bad you can be sure it will be put on ice and you're not going to hear about it, not until there's a vaccine. There's also the not-so-small issue of another potential lockdown on the cards if the reproductive rate keeps rising, so who knows how long this version of normal will even last. So with all of those qualifications in places, here's who went where this week...
In the Irish Times it's new restaurant critic Corina Hardgrave's third week on the job. There's been much mumbling about the fact that the IT didn't take this opportunity to make their critic anonymous, and make the whole thing a bit more interesting (is anyone ever going to do it?), but if you've spent the last few years complaining about Catherine Cleary reviewing wine bars and not uttering a word about the wine, you'll be glad to know that it's likely is feature strongly from here on in.
This week she was at Andy Noonan's Baste, which she says is serving "the best barbecue in the country", singling out the sugar-pit-cured shorthorn beef rib - "incredibly good" - and the tangy Alabama white barbecue sauce - "so good" with the pork and chicken. She gives them 8/10 calling it "seriously skilled cooking", and if you're a regular IT restaurant review reader, you'll be thrilled to hear that the verdict on the music has been substantially upgraded from "nice" to actually telling us what it was - in this case "really good 70's funk". Read her review here.
In the Irish Examiner Leslie Williams is back with his first post-lockdown review, and it's one of the more informative and entertaining reads this week. He chose Monty's of Temple Bar (including the disclaimer that they go back quite a while), and anyone anxious about eating out will be soothed by the extensive post-Covid measures put in place here. Along with an overview of what Nepalese cuisine actually is and the couple behind Monty's, he calls the Poleko squid "simply joyous", the Nepali dumplings (momos) the food of the Gods, and the garlic and coriander naan "probably ... the best in the country". The Examiner have decided to do away with the scoring system for the time being, but he says they left "sated and fully restored". Read it here.
There's clearly nowhere else to eat in the city right now except Canteen at The Marlin, as both Niall Toner and Lucinda O'Sullivan review it this week, following Corina Hardgrave and Gillian Nelis in the past few weeks. In the Sunday Times Niall Toner liked the food more than the "trendy Instagrammable tropes" all around the hotel. All the adjectives are out to describe what they ate, including "beautifully constructed" amuse bouches, and "unctuous" lobster canneloni, and he says it was delicious, fun and they loved it. Read his review here.
In the Sunday Independent Lucinda O'Sullivan broke with tradition by arriving in on Canteen's first night open. Luckily for them the food was "sublime", "perfect", "classic", "divine" and even "luscious works of art", and she calls the pre-theatre menu at €29 or €34 "the steal of the year". Read her glowing review here.
In the Irish Independent Katy McGuinness had the perfect Sunday at Aimsir's new lounge, after declaring she doesn't like "boring" brunch, traditional Sunday lunch ("better at home") and afternoon tea ("too much sugary stuff and not enough wine"). Highlights from the no choice, €45 menu included, deep-fried Dexter beef tenders, meaty ray wings with wild garlic, ramson capers and foaming brown butter hollandaise, and a whole Ballylisk Triple Rose cheese between two (if you've had it you know), grilled and served with lavender and honey. She calls it "unpretentious and chilled ... perfect for us Sunday curmudgeons." Read her review here.
In the Irish Daily Mail Tom Doorley reckons he's found somewhere decent to eat in Killarney (which is kind of a big deal - waits for the backlash from Kerry people). He ate at the Celtic Whiskey Bar & Larder, which as well as spirits had an "absolutely brilliant wine list", and he thought their foie gras on toast topped with poached eggs and buttery hollandaise (€11) was "one of Killarney's great bargains". A local charcuterie platter was "outstandingly good", a complicated sounding tarte tatin was "a sweet, toffee-ish treat", and he had much praise for the great value wine and sherries. (Review not currently online).
Finally in the Sunday Business Post Gillian Nelis was on her holidays at the Tannery in Dungarvan, where she was impressed at the covid-related measures including visor-wearing staff and ample hand sanitiser. She was equally impressed with the food, including a Young Buck panna cotta, a baked artichoke filled with niçoise salad, and confit pork with a gooseberry confit and choucroute. She says the service was "delightful", the food "a joy", and that it's good to see the "twenty-something year old star of the Irish restaurant scene shining as brightly as ever". Read that here.
More next week (hopefully).