Sunday, 13 March 2016

Dining in Malahide: Bon Appetit

We heard a buzz about Bon Appetit a while back, and with Oliver Dunne's stance on effectively handing back his Michelin star, we were curious as to why someone would do this?! Was it the necessity to cater for it's Northside Dublin clientele?  Was the pressure too hard? Or was Dunne not fussed about the hype that surrounds a star and his philosophy was to cook just good food? But the reviews after it's handing back continued to be positive and so we were eager to try it out.

Bon Appetit is located in trendy Malahide, its a multiple storey restaurant that features a tapas bar, a brasserie- they also do Brunch, Lunch, Afternoon Tea and cooking lessons.

Maybe we chose the wrong option on the menu. I don't know. We went for the option titled 'Surprise Tasting menu'- and all we knew was that it was six courses long. As a fan of tasting menu's, I expect good cooking, exciting tastes and a flowing rhythm throughout the courses. The Amuse Bouche was lovely- foie gras in a cone with caramelised onions- the bar was set. Bravo. But it all headed South from there. Up next, was the goats cheese and beetroot starter. I'm a huge fan of goats cheese. I love it, but this was very mild- almost as if there was very little cheese within the panna cotta purée.  And it was served on a slate plate. Slate plates do not actually annoy me as much as they do some people, but because the dish was quite purée based, aside from the chunky bits of beetroot, it made it almost impossible to get everything on to a fork. Up next was the black pudding, on a bed of mushy peas topped with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce. I have poached eggs at least three times a week. Poached eggs should never be hard. Ever. I was so disappointed because it meant my food was either sitting to be serviced for ages, even though it wasn't busy at all. Or the chef didn't care. Ugh. Next was a surf and turf served with mashed potatoes, a red wine jus and a stem of broccolini. The meat was actually very good. I just would't normally pair a strong red wine jus with prawns. There were two desserts- a deconstructed vanilla cheesecake- which was ok, but again served on slate mean't the biscuit base crumbs went flying of the plate every time I took a spoonful. The cheesecake itself was quite bland. No punch or tartiness from the fruit purée. The final dessert- a coconut brownie served with coconut ice-cream topped with white chocolate wasn't surpirsing either and was quite large compared to the last dish and just didn't seem to flow from the last few dishes. I even left some which is saying something because I never EVER leave food on my plate. I really wasn't wowed. 

Value for money was fine- it was €50 for the menu- but they really couldn't charge any more then that anyway because it wasn't up to scratch with other tasting menus in Ireland. I had a glass of red wine that I asked to be paired with my food, and the waiter failed to introduce what it was. It's little things like this that usually add to a service. I've chosen to eat out instead of eat at home and I expect my meal to be of a certain standard. Our espresso's were good. Overall, it could be so much more. It was very quiet for a Saturday night- max 5 tables in use at 7.45pm, but the tapas bar above was busy. Was that what we should have opted for? The menu itself looked decent with the a la carte options- our table next to us shared a lovely beef cut that smelled divine. There meal came out exactly as I cut into my hard poached egg and I couldn't help but feel cheated...

Did we choose the wrong option? Was it just a miss that day?! I would love to hear about your experience there!

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Galway; The G Hotel, Loam and Aniar

As my partner Ev is away most of the time, we decided that when he came home, we would book a few days away to Galway. We have heard amazing things about the food scene in the West- whether it's their open access to the sea's or their choice of organic rich produce, we couldn't wait to try out two raved about Michelin starred restaurants; Loam and Aniar. We also chose to stay at the G Hotel, another raved about location. So I decided to do a wee review on our experience. We will be back to Galway, but only for two of these three places....

The G Hotel

I heard amazing reviews about the G, and so when Galway became our next adventure- I couldn't wait to try it. Designed by Philip Treacy, the hotel itself inside is beautiful. The tea-rooms and bar lounge play on amazing colour schemes and the bedrooms are bright and roomy. Our room was huge- with lots of rich velvets, an amazing acrylic + glass mixed table (that I wanted to rob!) and a beautiful full stone bathroom- with his and hers sinks and showers. It's supposed to be a five star, but I feel like it lacked the extra attention top hotels give. We stayed two nights including bed and breakfast for €590. So at nearly €300 a night, I expect a certain service that would be normally provided in lets say the Marker in Dublin. The G lacks that oooh la la, and personally I feel they are kept busy, because it's trendy to go for an afternoon tea and no one likes to complain.

My gripes; little or no service from checking in and out- we weren't asked one bit if we needed a hand with our luggage, if we needed a hand with reservations, if this was our first time in Galway?! Turn down service was at such an unrealistic time of 6pm. Surely every guest in the hotel is getting ready at that time for a dinner reservation or a party- ok, this idea of someone opening your bed covers for you for when you come back to your room at night does scream sheer laziness, but it's an expectation. I spent 7 days in Hotel Éclat in Beijing in August, and I was un-intrusively spoilt rotten. Breakfast each morning was chaotic. Not the breakfast itself but the sitting down process. On our first morning we waited 15 minutes to be seated. The breakfast room is too small for the size of the hotel and tables were then flowing out into the bar area. Breakfast itself was actually fine. There was the usual buffet section and also an option to order from the menu. My Eggs Benedict was actually very good. But another gripe would be the fruit section- half green watermelon?! If it's not ripe/nor in season why serve it? That's attention to detail. And my last gripe would be guests that are residents having to pay a fee just to use the pool and spa area. That's a first. In any hotel I have every stayed in. Fiercely disappointed. 

2.5/5- Huge room for improvement and I would rather take my hard-earned money elsewhere. 

Loam ( / Tweet @ Galway Loam)

We visited Loam on Friday. We were a bit skeptical when we first walked in- we chose an early seating for 6.30pm and the place only had a few full tables, but because the layout of the restaurant is super open and bare- it felt empty.  This was my only negative thought for the night. What followed was a tasting menu so unusual yet so entertaining- we were actually surprised at how reasonable the cost was. I chose the wine paring at €105 and Evan went for just the menu €70- add in extra drinks on top of that, the bill was under €200. Very good value for what was presented on our plate.

Our meal was seven courses long + Amuse bouche; (1) Oyster, Kohlrabi & yoghurt. (2) Monkfish liver, shiitake and seaweed. (3) Duck heart, chicory & buttermilk- I would drive three hours again just to have the duck heart. It was incredible. It melted in your mouth. I'm currently drooling. (4) Monkfish, salsify & radish. (5) Pork neck, artichoke and malt. (6) Rhubarb, horseradish and (7) Hazelnut, toasted hay- Can this ice-cream be made mainstream and put into our local store please?! No ice-cream will ever beat it. Not even Gelato on a cobbled street in Rome. Please sir could I have some more?!

Loam have gone for a raw, earthy meets industrial feel for the decor. So it won't be for everyone. But having been to few michelin eateries in Dublin and abroad, myself and Ev actually preferred this stripped down version. Gone away was the snobbery. And as we are often one of the youngest customers to step in establishments like this, we actually felt far more comfortable. So what seemed like a negative on our first few footsteps turned out to be a relaxed experience.

4/5- incredible value for money- and those duck hearts!!! 

Aniar ( / Tweet @ Aniar Galway)

We visted Aniar on Saturday night. Ev had actually done a lot of research on where to eat in Galway and was very interested in JP McMahon's work and what he represents and we arrived with very empty bellies. And was prepared to be entertained. Aniar is super quaint. No more then 12 tables- it reminded me of a little deli that would fit right in the Mediterranean somewhere. Aniar actually has a choice on how many courses you want for your tasting experience; 6, 8, 10 or 12. We chose 10, and just like Loam, I went with the wine pairing and Ev explored the craft beer menu. 10 course tasting menu was €150 with wine pairing, and €100 without. My friends often shudder at spending that much on a meal. And especially on wine. But each glass is specifically paired with specific tastes and textures on that plate. And your not just getting a cheap glass. There were organic and biodynamic wines too. I had the most beautiful fruity glass of a Mâcon Chardonnay.

My 10 course meal + Amuse bouche- Ev chose some other options for his; (1)mussel, scurvy grass, roe. (2)apple, leek and cucumber.(3)dexter, oyster and gooseberry- I have never had dexter before and it was served as a tartare (I think!) and the taste was incredible. (4)scallop, artichoke and rye. (5)pork belly, swede and egg. (6) venison, cabbage and damson.(7)tea sorbet- so beautiful on the palate. (8)cod, celeriac and cavolo nero- I'm a huge fan of celeriac and this was my favourite savoury plate of the night. (9)seabuckthorn, treacle and nori and (10)cheese, chutney and rye crisp. The presentation of the desserts were outstanding- they were almost too pretty to eat. I say almost..because let's be honest here, no one is getting in the way of my sweet tooth.

A special mention to the waiting staff that night. They complemented the night so well. Not over the top at all, super natural and explained everything really well and made valuable suggestions- especially an Austrian gentleman whose name I unfortunately did not catch.  Kudos.

4/5- fantastic service, creative pairings; seabuckthorn, treacle and nori anyone?! beautiful wine.

Have you been to Galway? What have you enjoyed? Any gems if we were to return?