Early indications had been great. Arriving 20 minutes ahead of our 2pm booking we were greeted warmly by Mr Gilbaud himself and, as the waiting area was full, shown to the outdoor terrace. Guilbaud's has not been off the Michelin List since 1990 and has been awarded two stars every single year since 2001. To put that in context further, only eight Irish restaurants were recognised by Michelin at all for 2012-2013. How could our expectations be anything but high?
No cocktail list was offered when I enquired about pre-lunch drinks with the waiter instead listing a few different options. This being a special birthday celebration, I went for a bellini whilst my other half had a beer. We then tried to get to make some sense of the (truly massive) wine list.
Breads were standard (white, multigrain, walnut and raisin) but pleasant, hot, and,served, thankfully, with lovely soft butter. (I can never work out why so many places insist on serving it fridge-cold and unspreadable.) However, one disc proved to be lean pickings for two (admittedly small) bread rolls each.
A little Amuse Bouche of pomme puree with vanilla was welcome and tasty.
That something was Rum Baba Exotic Pineapple which, though rum would not be a favourite flavour of mine, was a well balanced dessert. Keith, however, did enjoy this strong alcohol- soaked cake, with pineapple, mango puree and sorbets and the gesture and attentiveness here was much appreciated. I ate it too, though mainly because I was hungry.
However, the mini fiasco with the dessert seemed to throw the service out of sync and, whilst these lovely petit fours arrived swiftly, we had to try to get a waiter's attention for an uncomfortable few minutes to ask him to bring the coffees we had ordered. This was just not something I expected to have to do here, having eaten in some of Dublin's 1 star establishments and received absolutely flawless service. When we did manage to flag down a waiter he did bring two fairly decent coffees.
The bill, including a €45 bottle of wine, 2 large bottles of still water and what I learned had been a €22 bellini came to €185 before service. And this was the budget lunch option. The a la carte menu was priced €85 for 2 courses, €105 for 3 and €130 for 4. Other options on the day were the four-course tasting menu at €90 a head and the eight-course at €165.
I enjoyed some elements of the meal but genuinely fail to see where Guilbaud's surpasses (or in some areas matches), some of its 1 starred Dublin contemporaries. A decent meal just isn't good enough when you are paying for greatness.