Tag Archives: bistro

Bloom Brasserie

Maybe the (richly deserved) success of Chapter One and Pearl Brasserie at this year’s Food & Wine Restaurant of the Year Awards will finally give the kick-arse to the absurd notion, common among Dubliners of a certain age and standing, that it’s uncool to eat in basements. I do hope so. There are some chefs, like Michel Bras or Juan Mari Arzak to name but two, for whose cooking I’d descend half way to Australia.

We didn’t need to go quite that far last Friday. The fair Bunting and I arranged to meet, at my suggestion, in The Waterloo which, years ago, when I was working around the corner on Herbert Place I found a convivial watering hole, a decent, old school traddy pub. Now, to my chagrin, I found the placed changed and changed bloody utterly. It’s now ‘a cafe bar’ for godssakes, with all the glib pretensions the term implies. We fled without stopping for a drink.

Bloom Brasserie, our dining destination, is located in a basement just across the road. The premises used to house one of the branches of Ouzo which now seems to be doing the biz in Dalkey. Was it a wine bar before that? Anyhow, no matter, the room has been really nicely tricked up, with muted colours and atmospheric lighting. There’s a small bar at the foot of the stairs and it’s here that we were greeted. Never ones to hang about when there’s food in the offing, Bunting and I elected to go straight away to table.

She’s been out on reviews with me before and knows the score – we choose different things, I get first pick, reserve the right to try some of whatever she’s eating and we do our damndest to consume 3 courses apiece. I’ll admit that sometimes we burst in the attempt and end up sharing a dessert. It’s my credo that Herald readers are entitled to a comprehensive review and I have no time for the picky salad-and-a-skinny latte dining companions that certain other reviewers seem to have as bosom buddies. Of my gustatory chums, Bunting is A-list. No sooner had we sat down than she was requisitioning the carpaccio of beef. I nobbled the foie gras. The carpaccio looked glorious on the white plate, a ring of beautifully-seasoned discs of Angus beef, crowned with a vibrant, crisp green salad. The only false note was struck by the heavily-truffle laced dressing; the beef was perfectly capable of speaking for itself and would have been better served by a simple anointment of good extra virgin. The foie gras, on its tranche of toast made from good bread, was pristine.

I clapped when I saw wing of ray on the menu. I can never understand why this excellent fish is not more popular; it’s delicate, succulent and easy to eat, once you get the hang of scraping the flesh off the cartilage, turning the fish over and repeating the operation. I would never pass ray up in favour of the omnipresent farmed sea bass, that’s for sure. The accompaniment, a fluffy scallion mash was perfect, although I did steal a few of Bunting’s potatoes which were fried in duck fat for an extra yum factor. The lady’s magret of duck was an absolute picture and tasted as good as it looked. I have to say, minor quibble, that my ray was slightly over-seasoned which always tells me that either the chef is young (‘season, taste and season again’ was the mantra at chef school a few years ago) or smoked sixty fags a day. I hoped it was the former and so it proved.

Our divergence when it came to mains led to some difficulty when it came to choosing a bottle of wine. After a conversation with the caring maitresse d’, an American girl who gave us samples from two bottles already opened for ‘by the glass’ diners, we picked a red that would stand up to the duck yet not overwhelm my ray. Despite what the message on my mobile says I have no problems drinking red wine with fish providing it’s not too bold or too dour. The Domaine Cros Minervois we chose from the fair-sized winelist, which contained a number of interesting off-piste offerings, was a compromise, but a pretty satisfactory one.

Next, we shared a cheese plate. The proximity of Bloom to cheese wholesaler Matthews, had provided an assortment of French cheeses, all in peak of condition, from which we chose a Morbier (me), an Epoisse (her) and (jointly) a soft goat cheese. Noting our keen interest they brought us two goat cheeses, one demure, the other full-frontal. These we followed with dessert, a chocolate fondant served with fresh raspberries, a raspberry coulis and an appropriately delicate milk sorbet. The fondant was outstanding. I hope other diners were not put off by our roars of applause. Picture-perfect espresso rounded things off nicely.

All-in-all a super evening and, at €123. 60 for all we had, fine value for money. Special plaudits to the caring staff and to chef Pól O’hEannraich,(ex-Dax) who took on board our trivial criticisms with aplomb.

The damage:  €123.60 for all the above

Rating ****

Verdict: Bloom could well prove to be the pick of Dublin’s ‘bistrocracy’ when the smoke of modish fashion clears.

Pichet

The juxtaposition of Hell’s Kitchen’s battered-but-still philosophical maitre d’ Nick Munier and ex-L’Ecrivain head chef Stephen Gibson was bound to produce something interesting and Pichet is exactly that. I’m not décor obsessed but I did like the cool grey walls and stylish, comfy royal blue seats – just sitting there felt like being aboard a rather smart train, waiting to be whisked somewhere more exotic than Dublin on another dull day.

The building has enjoyed several manifestations during the time I’ve been rattling around – a cheese shop, an Italian enoteca-style restaurant, a Cafe Leon and a weird place selling American candy bars spring to mind. Now there’s a cafe bar at the Trinity Street end, which is now where the entrance is located, with the restaurant behind it, flanked on the Andrews Lane side by a protected, heatable terrace which should delight smokers and fresh air freaks. It was here I chose to park myself while waiting for The Knocklyon Princess.

Amazingly Her Royal Highness swept in on the dot of 1.30. I met her immediate request for red wine by ordering a bottle of Torres Iberico, a reliable, if unspectacular Rioja.

Having carelessly left my false dreadlocks, monocle and chequered waistcoat behind, I was recognised by the management. Nick came over for a chat. I opined that he seemed to have made a bright start and he responded “Yes, thanks to some favourable reviews.” He cited Tom, Ross, Aingela and someone called Katie. “Well you won’t bloody need my approval then” I mock-snarled – since watching Sandra Bernhardt in ‘Dinner Rush’ for the fifth time I’ve aggroed-up my persona, I’m now practising ‘criticism with attitude’. Nick promptly retreated, leaving the menu and wine list.

For the moment at any rate, it’s all a la carte. Still, two people should be able to eat and drink for €100 unless they are me and The KP. Herself, who I’d figured as something of a chicksteaker surprised me by choosing the suckling pig belly pork for her main, leaving me the rump of lamb. I craved the Castletownbere crab as a starter. At the same time I hankered to try the crispy fried egg, fast gaining a reputation around town as a smart bit of trompe l’oeul cuisine. Luckily, the Princess spotted it too so I was able to scam some.

The crab had that ‘foreplay with a mermaid’ aroma that both means ‘fresh’ and heightens the anticipation – I’m always suspicious when crab, purportedly ‘fresh’, arrives smelling (and subsequently, tasting) of zilch or is doused in eye-watering vinagrette. The accompanying pot of mussel meat and chorizo, a good dip for the excellent bread they provided, was a sound detail. The crispy egg was, put simply, a tour de force. If I was to try to de-construct the dish I’d say it was par-poached, wrapped in Serrano ham, coated in breadcrumbs then flash-deep fried and served with the yolk still runny. Still, I could be wrong.

The belly of pork was a ‘how to do it’ demo. Certain other restaurants, like the one I reviewed a couple of weeks ago should pop along and see for themselves. My Connemara hill lamb came exactly as I’d ordered, “pinked, on the rare side of medium, rare”. A great piece of meat, tender, with burgeoning flavour. The chips were no great shakes though.

By this time we were into the second bottle of red. The aussie Shiraz Vignier I’d asked for was out of stock so we reverted to one of Nick’s original suggestions, a Côtes du Ventoux 2007, wine from a region where committed small-scale producers make interesting gear. It was hefty, rustic stuff. Nick did warn us that it threw a crust. He should also have warned his waiter not to dump three inches of sludge in my final glass, I was picking the grouts out of my teeth all that night.

To say that we shared a dessert was not quite true. The Knocklyon Princess doesn’t have a sweet tooth. I was therefore condemned to eat a whole portion of white chocolate cheesecake, topped with passion fruit jelly, and dotted with raspberries, a very lenient sentence. Afterwards I was almost shocked by the correctness of the espresso, so unusual.

Bright start” is right. This modern bistro cookery is springing up everywhere. Whether as a response to recession or simply a rejection of the fiddly-farty stuff practised by formal restaurants in the last ten years I’m not sure. Anyhow, the food at Pichet is at the very cutting edge of this trend. The staff are obliging if a trifle come-day, go-day. Nick’s own predilection for ‘hands on’ will keep them on their toes, good job, for a few details (like the pacing of the meal) need tidying. I was pleased to spot Caitriona, who served us so well at The Pig’s Ear a few months ago. Apparently, she’s Nick’s sister-in-law; nothing like keeping these ventures in the family, as the French know full well.

133.25 for 2 starters, 2 mains, dessert, 2 x bottle and a glass of wine

Verdict: Smart cooking, fab décor, willing service, good addition to the Dublin dining scene.

Rating: ****

Pichet 14-15 Trinity Street, Dublin 2 Tel: 01 677 1060