Friday, 22 February 2013

Review - Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud

It wasn't meant to be like this. As I handed over my credit card in Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud last week, it was with a heavy heart. I hadn't expected it to be cheap. That would have been foolish.  I had been prepared to pay and pay well to experience Ireland's only 2 star Michelin Restaurant, but had, in turn, expected it to be an exceptional experience. Sadly, that wasn't the case.

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.

We had decided, this being our first visit, to test the waters with the special menu of three courses, coffee and petit fours for €50 which we thought would be a very fair price at which to experience 2 Michelin food. Our orders taken outside, we were shown to our table at two on the button. Guilbaud's interior is modern and bright with floor to ceiling windows letting in an abundance of light, a really lovely environment in which to spend an afternoon. The restaurant is housed in the Merrion Hotel, though I overheard a waitress say they are entirely independent operations (I would later learn that they do, however, share the Merrion's basement toilet facilities which involves quite a substantial and unexpected trek.)

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.

Our starters - my Confit Chicken and Foie Gras Terrine, Piquillos Pepper, Iberian Ham, Fennel Salad(above) and his Celeriac and Fennel Soup with Tortellini - were both excellent and, we agreed, the easy highlight of the meal . The terrine was was tiny but gorgeous, fatty and salty with the red pepper topping and fennel breaking up the richness. I enjoyed every mouthful and hoped the standard had been set.

My Grilled Slip Sole, Macaroni 'Thermidor' Hazelnut and Monk's Beard, on the other hand, was just ok - inoffensive but pretty bland. The fish itself was perfectly cooked but the Macaroni 'Thermidor' tasted of absolutely nothing. Those are morels on top.

Dessert was, for me, where Guilbaud's really disappointed. This Rhubarb and Citrus Panna Cotta looked pretty but consisted mainly of a super-acrid citrus foam. I am a total dessert junkie but left most of this while himself had a slightly better stab at it. To be fair, that didn't go unnoticed by the eagle eyed and super charming Ma├«tre D who insisted on bringing us both something else.

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 Petit Fours were plentiful, fun and varied and we enjoyed most of them. They consisted of, clockwise from top left, a turkish delight-esque jelly square, strawberry and cream filled lolly, pistachio cake, chewy vanilla cake, orange and what I think was chilli macaroon and a little chocolate ganache tart.

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.


  1. 22 euro for a Bellini....don't care where you were...there is no way and individual drink should be more than 20 quid!!!!disappointing about the service, would feel let down :-(

  2. Did feel a bit deflated after it Jenny. Going over the 20e mark with the bellini was a shocker I must say!

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  5. Found your blog this morning and enjoyed reading your review... That was some wine list! Off to check out some other entries....

    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment Lainy. I really appreciate it. That wine list was pretty monstrous alright!