Monday, 19 May 2014

Review: An Bhialann, Ranelagh Village

Restaurants come and go in the village all the time and we try to sample them all asap for fear we'd miss out on something really special.With the exception of the excellent tapas restaurant La Bodega, we haven't, but still the search goes on.  An Bhialinn has been on the our list now for a few weeks and we decided to give it a go on a particularly hungry Monday evening when neither of us could face cooking.

Located on the old site of Eatery 120, the new owners don't seem to have changed much in terms of the restaurant's interior. Trying out the early bird menu is always a good way to test a new place without breaking the bank and that is what we decided to do.  And, as early birds go it was good, offering a choice of 4 starters , 4 mains and a couple of desserts. It was also, thankfully, free of the supplements which too often blight such 'value' menus. This menu is actually available all evening Monday - Thursday and all day Sunday.  with two courses costing €24 and 3 €27.50

To start, we each chose the selection of three deep fried cheeses - blue goat and brie - which came with tomato relish and a good amount of dressed rocket  on the side. It was nice to have a bit of variation besides just brie and we both enjoyed this very much. 

The striploin steaks we both went for were also good, (albiet that mine happened to be juicier and tastier than K’s but such is often the way with steak). We received one side to share included in the price (chips) and also ordered a side of mash (€4).  The chips were decent, well browned and cooked in what I would guess was oil not beef/duck/goose fat (you can get spoiled with that!) . However the mash did however have a slight reheated tang off it. (I’m not sure how some restaurants manage to avoid this-I'd love to know myself.) Another plus about this place was their generosity with side salad on the starter and the main, much more than the customary garnish you often get in restaurants. Our request to substitute the peppercorn sauce on offer with béarnaise was also accommodated without a blink. (though this turned out to be just ok and lacking a bit of the the characteristic tarragon/vinegar bite.)

All was fine, and then...we tried to get the bill. We had been the sole diners when we first arrived but at this stage there were three more tables occupied. (and 2 people on the floor). When we did manage to request it, it took a further 15 minutes to arrive at which point I had seriously considered just leaving what we owed there on the table and walking out. When it was all weighed up, we had eaten a good but not great meal and the lack of service at the end would probably help dissuade me from returning again. That might sound harsh but the food just wasn’t good enough for that to be overlooked. There's just too many other places out there to try. 

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Edelwise Swiss 'Raclette and Fondue' Restaurant, Ranelagh

If it’s true that nine in ten new restaurants close in their first year of opening, the site of the newly opened Edelwise in Ranelagh village really seems to be a case in point. There was a noodle place here for what seemed like just a couple of months and the café before that didn’t seem to last much longer. Edelwise was a first for me, a Swiss "Raclette and Fondue” Restaurant. I think it might also be a first for Dublin?

There was just one other table occupied when we arrived on a Wednesday evening just after 7pm. It’s all about cheese here, with several cheese heavy starters on offer as well as, raclettes (I would later learn what these were), a few main courses such as Chicken Cordon Bleu and fondues. 

The front of house was run by a solitary gentleman who I presumed to be Swiss with the 'new' interior pretty much as I remembered it to be in its former incarnation as the Door 51 Café.  It still gives out much more of a casual dining vibe than that of a fully priced restaurant with the most obvious change I could see the placement of a big vase of fresh tulips on each table.  


I'd honestly never even heard of a raclette before but, since it was a house speciality, we decided to order 2 starter sized ones and see what arrived. (We knew from the menu that it involved cheese but that was all)The maitre d/waiter seemed surprised that we wanted to follow them with fondue deeming this to be “unusual”. I guessed by now that this is because of their similarity. Anyway, lots of cheese was on its way and all was good with the world. 

I went on to learn that a raclette is basically a bowl of hot melted cheese served with with some bits and bobs to dip in it. Ours came with some really lovely bresola, a few tiny pickled onions, gherkins and a bowl of baby potatoes. It was nice and I ate it all, but it really wasn’t something I’d order again. It just wasn't very exciting. 

The fondues struck me as being quite expensive initially,  priced around the 17 – 24e mark (per person) with a 2e supplement added for single portions. Variations included mushroom and tomato with the different flavours accompanied by different things to dip,  including different vegetables, bread and pickles. We went for one portion of the 7 cheese fondue which was just served with bread so we also ordered some gherkins to break things up a bit.One portion turned out to be loads for 2, however.

I hate to say it but it was pretty disappointing. It looked great, a big pot of molten cheese served with lots of cubes of very nice bread but the expected cheesiness....there was none!

I was aware that authentic fondue involved the inclusion of Kirsch (cherry brandy) but Oh my God we could hardly taste the cheese! It wasn't inedible but I kept thinking of those seven lovely cheeses obliterated by too heavy a hand with the old booze. My instinct that this wasn’t how it was meant to be was confirmed I think by the fact that we could hear our host loudly coaching the  chef through the procedure of making each dish step by step, from the little cubby/kitchen. That was pretty off-putting. 

Despite the fact that we didn’t leave a lot of the fondue behind, we were also bemused to get a little lecture before we left on the quality of the 7 cheeses and the restaurants reasoning for charging so much!  I'll admit I was a coward, and didn't tell him that we could hardly taste these cheese partially because I wasn't totally sure if that was how it was ‘meant to be’ .

I did like some elements of this restaurant and will probably give it another whirl in a few months when the new owners have 'settled in' a bit more. 

Monday, 10 March 2014

The Chophouse, Dublin 4

The steak chips and bernáise sauce taster I had from The Chophouse at last year's Taste of Dublin event in the Iveagh Gardens was the best thing I tried on that pretty underwhelming day.  For me, it was perfect, big handcut chips cooked in what tasted like beef fat, a fantastic little piece of fillet and probably the nicest bernáise sauce I had ever eaten.  
I immediately vowed to visit the restaurant but didn't get around to it until Christmas when, though I enjoyed my lunch, the (ribeye) steak I was served was overcooked and a world apart from the beaut above. However, I put that down to the Christmas rush/ lower lunchtime prices and vowed to return for the full evening experience as soon as I could.
My birthday last month seemed the ideal opportunity and so we made our way into the bowels of leafy Dublin 4 once again with our hopes still high.  It was a Sunday evening when we visited and the restaurant was very quiet with just a few tables occupied. (We had been warned that it actually closes at 8pm on Sundays and so decided to book for 6pm). My fishcake (above) was a little on the bland side but was crammed with fish (mainly salmon I think).

We both went for the special of the evening, a fillet served with a pulled pork topping. This was brought to the table with the pronouncement that we should get ready to enjoy the best steak of our life or words to that effect. Even if it had turned out to be the case, I found this attitude quite offputting; given that it didn't, it was even more so.

The dish wasn't a disaster or anything like it. The pulled pork was absolutely gorgeous and the celeriac puree super rich and moreish. However, the plate was cold and, more importantly, the steak wasn't great . It was soft to cut and cooked as I asked (medium) but if I had closed my eyes I would have sworn I was eating liver, so strong and metallic was the taste.

I happen to quite like liver so I could at least eat mine but K loathes it and abandoned his after a couple of bites declaring it 'disgusting'. I have purchased fillet steaks before that had a similar liverish quality but never as strong as this. I don't even know how this can possibly be detected before cooking but, overall, on the strength of my two visits here, this place is absolutely not serving the best steak in Dublin.

The chips too were poor relations of the ones in the top photo. They were much thinner and, I woud guess, cooked in oil not animal fat, lacking that lovely savoury flavour.We left before dessert, pretty disappointed.

On the strength of what I ate last summer, The Chophouse is or at least has been capable of great things.But it's not maintaining those standards.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

The Unicorn, Merrion Row

I was so sad when Il Segreto on Merrion Row closed. It had been my 'go to' bistro style restaurant with excellent food, a relaxed atmosphere and super charming service. But I have good news, it's back in all but name on the site of the famous Unicorn just a few doors up. I had visited the Unicorn a couple of times in the past, never by choice though and only when someone else was paying and had found the food pretty uninspiring and eye-wateringly expensive. The old Il Segreto website now directs visitors to the Unicorn and it does seem that they have taken most of their staff and a lot of their menu up the road, along with much better value.

The Unicorn looks a lot smarter since the Stokes brothers took over, more polished( a bit more like them really!) For lunch there this week, I chose from their 2 course set menu (€20) starting with a lovely goats cheese, pear and hazelnut salad. I wasn't so keen on the truffle-laced honey they had drizzled on top but that was my fault for choosing something with truffles when I know I don't really like them!I suppose I was hoping it would be a less pronounced flavour. I still ate the lot though.

My main of cod fillet with a shrimp and caper sauce was excellent, a big chunk of perfectly cooked fish on some gorgeous mash and some lightly cooked broccoli for good measure. (cancelled out all the butter in the sauce don't you know?!)

This is a picture of the bread which I can't comment on as I didn't taste it but it looked to be the same served in Il Segreto which was very nice indeed.

It is great to see the Unicorn now offering very good value and serving good decent bistro classics right in the heart of the city (though I did feel the supplement of €7 on the steak was a tad excessive for lunch. )I will be back!

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Peperina Garden Bistro, Dunville Avenue, Ranelagh

I've said on here before that Ranelagh really doesn't deserve its status as a culinary mecca. I like the place a lot, having lived here for 7 years but I really think there are a lot of restaurants in the area charging bloated prices whilst offering a sub-standard experience.

We actually gave up eating around the village for a while as we were sick of feeling ripped off but a Menupages offer for the fairly newly opened Peperina Garden Bistro was good enough to tempt us out into the rain last night. For the modest sum of €35 we were promised a 3 course meal for 2 with a glass of wine thrown in, a very tempting prospect, especially when a middle of the road sandwich with some chips on the side and a couple of soft drinks in most of the local eateries seems to cost that or more these days.

Peperina is very cute to look at, looking like more of a cafe really with lots of little wooden tables and pretty bits and bobs(kitsch storage tins etc) dotted about, many of them available for purchase.We were warmly welcomed and advised that we were restricted to ordering from the Early Bird Menu which, though not a problem, wasn't mentioned at the time of booking.

Strangely enough the deal I purchased was only available from Thursday - Saturday. Since restaurants usually seem to use these kind of deals to bring in customers on quieter nights, I thought that was a bit unusal. When we arrived, the place was about half full (including several pretty vocal children) but I guess that's what you get for going out to eat at 6.30pm.

From the list of 5 starters, I chose the chicken wings which came with the usual accompaniments of a blue cheese dip and a couple of stalks of celery. These were great, the skin nicely crisped and doused in a really nice, hot spicy sauce. There were about 6 decent sized wings and I would have eaten more but that is unsurprisingly chicken wings and pizza are the 2 foods my tummy(embarrassingly) seems to have no 'off' switch for, especially if they're as nice as these.

My rib eye steak carried a €5 supplement and came with a herby chimichurri sauce on the side, some strangely bland chips and a little pile of balsamic-dressed salad. It was small, but good and cooked perfectly medium as requested. I enjoyed it but left a lot of the chips as they tasted of absolutely nothing, even when extra salt was added.

My lemon posset was much more set than others I've had, more like a panna cotta in consistency really. but it was still light, creamy and really enjoyable, served with a scoop of raspberry sorbet, some biscotti and an obligatory drizzle of coulis.

I liked this place a lot and am looking forward to trying their brunch menu which seems to be exceptionally reasonably priced. And, though the waiting staff were all pleasant, the (I think Italian) waitress on duty last night (8 February) was as lovely, professional and helpful as you could hope for. Give that girl a raise!

Monday, 27 January 2014

Something fishy (or is it?)

K and I generally love to eat the same things - takeaway pepperoni pizzas the size of tractor wheels when we've had a few (and sometimes when we haven't), a good fillet steak cooked perfectly medium, a doorstep of a burger with all the bells and whistles. We also both like to fool ourselves that the teaming bowls of risotto we put away on a regular basis are 'healthy' because they contain a bunch of asparagus each (perhaps even a few peas for good measure) therefore balancing out the mounds of cheese and butter they inevitably also contain.

I know which is which ok?
But all is not always harmonious in our culinary world. I adore mushrooms and would eat them three times a week given the chance; he thinks they are the spawn of the devil. Same for avocados. And salmon. With the big three-0 now firmly behind me, I keep recalling that this magic fish is rumoured to do wonders for your face if eaten regularly (ie more than the twice a year when I find myself home alone and free to cook exactly what I want).

Some olive oil, lemon and a spoon of most of the jars in top picture  
I often remind K that he thought he hated cheese until he met me 8 years ago (and had no option but to get used to it). And so, this weekend I bought some- four big fillets of it. With no option B readily available in the fridge and the wind howling outside I decided to see if he really hated it or was hanging onto the idea that he did.

I decided to help him out though and threw together a quick spicy marinade to negate the full on fishiness. (I think the paste contained 1tsp each of of dried mixed herbs, paprika, chilli flakes, all-purpose seasoning, and about a half of crushed black pepper, dried onion powder and garlic powder together with the juice of a lemon and some olive oil )

Before it went in the oven
And he ate it! (You might say it was no wonder; (who could taste the salmon under that lot?!) but you still really could). We had it with some sweet potato cubes, red onion and asparagus tossed in some olive oil, salt and pepper and a blob of greek yogurt on the side.

Meanwhile, he is insisting he ate it simply because it 'wasn't a very fishy piece of salmon'.(I think he had a point - salmon does seem to vary widely on this score and I'm not sure it's only down to the width of the white fat lines?......any enlightenment welcome.)

 Still, we've broken the salmon drought in no 2, yay!
Roast sweet potato, red onion and asparagus

Friday, 17 January 2014

Another wedding cake and a couple of late resolutions

I have been a very bad blogger(but I resolve to do better). Mine has been a winter filled with a few too many hearty dinners and so I am looking forward to the challenge of making some healthier choices for Spring (and documenting them on here). 

I made this wedding cake for my very good friend Anne for her New Years Eve wedding to the lovely Mike. I had planned on going to town and making something really big (5 or so tiers) but the practicalities of not having a car of my own at the moment and relying on the kindness of others for transport put that idea to bed. 

From the Top - Carrot Cake with White Chocolate Buttercream, Fruit Cake (made by Anne's mam Joan) and Chocolate Cake with Chocolate/Hazelnut Buttercream.

I generally don't make New Years resolutions but this year I have two , to blog here at least weekly and to pass my driving test by the end of the Summer. There, I've put it on here now I have to do it! 

It's on! :)