Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thornton's, St Stephen's Green, Dublin

Thornton's restaurant has been on my wishlist for ... well, forever to be honest. But I never seemd to have the right combination of circumstances to visit. But I sorted that last Saturday when I booked a birthday lunch for himself (handily taking advantage of the 3-course lunch menu for E25).

First thing, you have to climb a lot of stairs to get to Thornton's. It's located on the second floor of the Fitzwilliam Hotel and I imagine a fair few of the heavier diners arrive a little out of breath. Open the heavy door and you enter a refined oasis of calm, with heavy carpets, dark oyster walls, white linen, silver and crystal.

We were showed to a table set for two located in the alcove to the rear of the restaurant. We did wonder why we could not have gotten a table located towards the front window, but later we were glad of the peace offered by the alcove when kids started running around.

The menu is short, two choices per course, so we went for one of everything, along with a side order of the pommes mousseline (basically mash). The lightly smoked John Dory with brunoise vegetables and gazpacho juice was simply stunning. A glass bowl arrived at the table filled with swirling smoke and capped with a glass cone of gazpacho. When the waiter lifted off the cone, the fragrant smoke escaped, leaving behind some pieces of tasty and light John Dory in a creamy sauce. This dish is clearly a showstopper and tastes divine. The other starter of slowly roasted beetroot with baby salad leaves and verjus grape dressing was a disappointment however. Slices of beetroot topped with diced beetroot were flavourless. The accompanying salad was the tastiest thing on the plate with tangy leaves and dressing.

The loin of rabbit with carrot puree, baby herbs and Valrhona salad was hit and miss. There was a smeared daube of carrot puree (if you watch professional masterchef you'll know what I mean) with several pieces of rabbit. Loin and confit of rabbit were meaty and tasty while two ribs constituted a tiny rack of rabbit. The Valrhona sauce was dark, intense and meatily flavoured. However, I didn't like the way the chocolate coated my mouth, sitting on the roof and covering the flavours to follow. A cold slice of rabbit terrine (made from legs etc) accompanied the dish but featured too much aspic and no real flavouring.

The fillet of black sole, parmesan crust, shellfish tortellini (surely they mean tortellino as there was only one?), lemon confit and parsley puree was beautifully executed and constructed. Perfect fish was elevated by the addition of the lemon confit and the dark green parsely sauce provided a strong, balancing flavour.

Lemon tart with cassis sorbet turned out to feature two very strong and biting flavours - possibly two strong to be together. An extremely tangy lemon tart with a lemon-curd like consistency was refreshing after the meal, but fought with the equally tangy cassis corbet for dominance on the plate. The other dessert, white opera chocolate mousse with new season raspberries turned out to be less white-chocolately than I feared. It was more like a pannacotta in consistency, bordering on ice-cream like in the middle. Absolutely delicious, and fresh raspberries stuffed with a creme patisserie substance were a lovely addition.

Delicious coffee finished the meal and we also had two large bottles of sparking water throughout. These additions were very much on the steep side - E3.50 for a coffee and E7 for a bottle of water (compared to approx E4 in most other restaurants). Total cost for our meal came to E78.

Overall, I loved the food at Thornton's especially the fish. Some dishes just weren't to my personal taste, but the level of skill and preparation at the restaurant is just amazing. Every dish featured many layers and tastes, all of which must take a serious amount of time to prepare. At E25 for lunch, Thornton's is within the reach of many, or makes for a nice lunchtime treat.

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