For anyone wondering if the critics were ever going to step outside Dublin again, you'll be glad to see a particularly wide spread around the country this week, but as always we start with the capital...
In the Sunday Times Niall Toner was at Junior's in Beggar's Bush, but spends the first half of the article reviewing a dubious sounding book about how we eat, which appears to offer nothing new (unless you count 'salt might not be as bad as we think' and 'processed yoghurts are bad' as brand new information.) He was drawn into Junior's by Instagram pictures of chef Fiachra Kenny's (ex-The Old Spot) new dishes, including the pork chop and pickled cherries, but didn't order it! They were on a small plates only diet, which included a "brilliant combination" of grilled peach, parma ham, walnut pesto, rocket, basil and bufala mozzarella, "generous ... unctuous" hispi cabbage with blue-cheese dressing, and mussels cooked in cider, which he thinks beats white wine. He says the food is well-thought out and skillfully executed, and you can read the whole review here.
In the Business Post Gillian Nelis was at newly madeover Jaipur in Dalkey, unfondly remembering the days when Indian food in Ireland was "stuff to wolf down" with "grim and gassy" beer. The almost 20 year old restaurant has a new interior and new menu, and she thought their tandoori jumbo prawns were "elevated" by the addition of salted lime, pickled gooseberries and avocado raita, the Malabar fish wrapped in a banana leaf was "moreish", and the Wicklow lamb 'moore ghosht' was ideal for anyone who likes their Indian food "spicy and creamy at the same time". A pineapple upside down cake was "exciting", and she says after 20 years they're still looking well. Read her review here.
There must be something about Cashel at the moment, as Katy McGuinness in the Irish Independent makes it two weeks in a row for Mikey Ryan's to bag a review. Like Tom Doorley last week, the food doesn't sound particularly groundbreaking, with vegetable soup, sriracha chicken wings (free-range though) and a burger with bacon and Cashel Blue cheese on the menu - although she calls it "a magnificent, juicy humdinger". Chips impressed too and they got extra points for homemade mayo, but a lemon dill sauce that came with hake was over-salted. She gives them 8/10 for food and says its "as sophisticated a gastro-pub as you'll find in Ireland." Read her review here.
In the Irish Examiner, despite the food team coming to the consensus that they wouldn't stick ratings on restaurant reviews for the foreseeable future, Joe McNamee can't resist saying new opening 51 Cornmarket in Cork city centre might be deserving of "a perfect ten". Eggs Royale with Goatsbridge rainbow trout was "a triumph", brisket with pickled onion and celeriac remoulade on toasted ciabatta was "a sublime example of doing simple things perfectly", and a Ballycotton fish pie was one of the best he's had "in many a moon". A sample tasting (off menu presumably) of sticky toffee pudding with bourbon was "extraordinarily exquisite", and he reckons if he was scoring there would be 9's in abundance - if not that perfect ten. Read his review here.
In the Irish Times Corinna Hardgrave was in Galway at Loam, finding all is well at the Michelin-starred restaurant off Eyre Square. High points from the seven-course tasting menu included new season tomatoes in a cold tomato broth, with a small oyster, horseradish cream and fermented gooseberries; squid cut into noodles with a slow-cooked egg yolk and shiitake broth; and a beef sirloin tartare with "ethereal squiggles" of smoked bone marrow butter and dehydrated onion for texture. Pointed cabbage came with "redundant" scallop, but lamb loin with turnip purée, broad beans and mint sauce was "clever cooking that catches a moment in time". The wine pairing sounds worth the €41, and she gives it 9/10, calling it "delicious, precise cooking using exemplary produce". Read her review here.
In the Daily Mail Tom Doorley was at Cistin Eile in Wexford town having an "excellent lunch", but thinking it could be even better if the food was stripped back a bit. Owner/chef Warren Gillen's CV includes L'Ecrivain, and starters of vine tomato and oregano soup, and a salad of black and white pudding with pickled, mustardy cabbage and apple both got the thumbs up, but Kilmore hake was slightly over-complicated, with paprika, green beans, hazelnuts, and orange and rosemary beurre blanc - exhausted just reading that. Plaice came with choucroute, green beans and homemade tartare sauce, and a "delicate, delicious" beetroot panna cotta came with rose hips, vanilla and spicy honeycomb. He calls Cistin Eile "very good", but with the chef's "outstanding skills", less might be more. (Review not currently online)
In the Sunday Independent, not even Covid can stop Lucinda's round ups - this week it's gastropubs. Making her top 20 in Dublin are Davy Byrne's, Ryan's of Parkgate Street, The Church, The Legal Eagle and The Old Spot, and this week all of them are open, which is good. Read that here.
More next week.