It seems that even mid-pandemic the critics can't resist a new opening, with three out of seven reviews this weekend of places brand new to the social distancing scene. In the Irish Times Corinna Hardgrave is first in the door of Kerala Kitchen's second outpost in Stoneybatter. She thought the pani puri were "a load of fun to eat", lamb seekh kebab had good depth of flavour, and a vegan chana saag could "recruit hardened carnivores" to their cause. A traditional fish curry (meen manga) was the dish of the night, and she says leaving without having the kulfi for dessert would be a mistake. She calls it "great Indian food", very reasonably priced and in a relaxed setting. Read her review here.
In the Sunday Times Niall Toner was at another new opening, The Pier House in Howth. He says he went in hopeful that the opening of Mamó across the way ("a seismic event") would "rise all boats", and he left very happy after beautifully fresh Achill oysters, joy-inducing charred aubergine with romesco, hazelnut and kale, and the charred ray wing with brown butter, cauliflower and cockles. Read his review here.
In the Irish Examiner Leslie Williams took a dive into the deep by going all the way to Skerries to eat at Potager (turns out it only took an hour from the southside and wasn't the scary experience he'd envisioned). No surprise that he left just as impressed as everyone before him (including us), praising the "lovely attention to detail in the cooking ... from the bread to the dessert". He loved the "succulent and flavourful" Ring Farm chicken with Alsace bacon and swede, the creamy yet delicate red mullet with cauliflower and a brown butter caper and raisin dressing, and the Chocolate Marquise with Velvet Cloud Sheep’s Yoghurt Sorbet, cocoa crumbs and sour cherries - "tasty, layered and beautifully constructed". He calls the kitchen's cooking skills "legendary", saying he intends making the epic journey back soon to try it again. Read his review here.
In the Irish Independent Katy McGuinness is the first critic back at Sage in Middleton since they moved from fine dining to something a bit more casual. She doesn't think it's done them any harm, with Ballinrostig cheese and Gubbeen croquettes "nicely oozing", ale-brined chicken skewers with fermented cabbage "one of the tastiest things that I've eaten in a long time", and IPA salt and vinegar onion rings in a "perfect, crunchy batter that dissolves to nothing as you bite into it." Lasagne was a bit dry, but it's the only complaint for "food that feels right, for right now." She calls it a "reinvention without compromise", giving it 9/10 for food, atmosphere and value, and the outside dining area sounds particularly appealing in the current circumstances. Read her review here.
In the Irish Daily Mail Tom Doorley was at Cashel gastropub Mikey Ryan's, eating chicken wings, burgers and chips. Although it might not be breaking the mold on the food front he says it has "great charm", and it's easy to see why locals and travellers flock there. Sriracha chicken wings were "moreish", hake with green beans and salsa verde was "well cooked", and the burger was "pleasant if a little dry". Thankfully the chips were "first-rate", and a pear and frangipane tart was "exquisitely buttery" with a moist, rich almond filling. He calls it "good to know about" if you want to break up a motorway journey or have a family meal. (Review not currently online)
In the Business Post it's another new opening for Gillian Nelis - Blue in Wicklow town (where The Lighthouse used to be). It's from the ex-head chef and general manager of Marlfield House, so early signs were good, and she was suitably impressed with "masterfully cooked" scallops and turbot, a salmon tartare and gravadlax cut nicely by a lime crème fraîche, and John Dory with pappardelle - her dish of the night. A baked Alaska with coconut ice-cream and passion fruit purée was "gorgeous" and she says the team have "hit the ground running". Read her review here.
Finally in the Sunday Independent Lucinda O'Sullivan says we've all been dreaming of "sucking our fingers after a big, buttery lobster", which is the precursor to her "where to eat seafood" round up. Only four in Dublin make the top 20, two of which are currently closed (The Seafood Café and Cliff Townhouse) so that's helpful, but there's still Aqua and Michael's (below) to get your fingers greasy. Read her round up here.
More next week.