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!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Mulberry Garden, Donnybrook, Dublin 4

There's no doubt that Ireland is deep in the grips of bad times. Friday evening drinks in the pub after work appear to have taken a severe beating and on a recent visit to Cork, I was literally gobsmacked at the empty state of some previously packed bars. I think that the goverment and CSO should forget about unemployment statistics and mortgage default rates. A truer measure of Irish consumer confidence would be to look at pub visits. The Irishman has always had a natural affinity with establishments that serve alcoholic beverages, so anything that perturbs that relationship must indeed be catastrophic. How about the Pub Punter Index?

(By the way, I am not being facetious with my previous comment. For all the bad news on the television, the deep impact on Irish pockets has been most apparent to me when visting my local.)

Conversely, certain restaurants seem to be booming. You can't swing a cat in Ranelagh village with the amount of people packed into restaurants and a recent visit to Chapter One on a Wednesday evening showed that there was no shortage of punters willing to part with their cash for food. Granted, consumers are looking for good value and restaurants are listening. All that said, it's a brave venture to open a new, high-end restaurant, especially one such as Mulberry Garden which operates a limited choice, €40 set menu only. This is compounded by the fact that Mulberry Garden is open only Thursday - Saturday evenings. Brave indeed.

Charmingly located on Mulberry Lane, near Kiely's of Donnybrook, the restaurant is centred on a little garden. The space is elegant with the mulberry theme running throughout the interior colour palette. Tables are set with crystal, silver and linen and everything is very gently lit. As we are shown to our table, we pass tables packed with besuited business men and couples. Looking around, we appear to be the youngest couple in the room.

As mentioned above, the menu is extremely short with just two options presented for each of the three courses. Given that one of the dessert choices is actually a cheeseboard, this leave only one true dessert choice, which may not be to everyone's liking. On the other hand, the menu changes on a weekly basis, with a strong focus on fresh seasonal ingredients. As we were dining as a couple, we simply ordered one of each item allowing us to taste the full menu. 

In contrast to the short menu on a little piece of paper, the wine menu comes attached to what appears to be a wooden plank. After selecting a New Zealand Malborough Sauvignon Blanc (€30), I am left with a dilemma as to where to put the damn thing. In the end I lean it against the table leg. A selection of fresh breads appears along with a pat of smoked butter. I initially found the smoked butter intriguing, but after a few bites I wanted rid of it. The taste was overpowering and I would even have settled for that other horrid form of butter - unsalted. The breads were fine.

Due to the low-lit nature of the dining room, most of the photos I took didn't do justice to the food served. Therefore I'm only publishing two of the pictures. 

Stitch and Bear - Hereford ox tongue starter at Mulberry Garden
Hereford ox tongue starter at Mulberry Garden
  • Poached free range hens egg with natural smoked haddock, sweetcorn, grilled spring onion and bacon crumb. I must admit that I found this dish a bit too salty, but the sweetcorn kernels dotted around the side added little pops of sweetness.
  • Hereford ox tongue with organic beetroot, corned beef hash, horseradish, shaved celeriac and watercress. This was very prettily presented, but the tongue just didn't stand out at all for me. The little croquette of corned beef hash was a winner.
Main Courses
  • Rump of Connemara Hill lamb with braised lamb shoulder, tomato tart fine, dried black olive, pine nuts and crushed aubergine. The lamb was cooked beautifully pink but the tart fine was the star of this plate with fantastic tomato sweetness. The dried black olive was wonderfully intense, but it overpowered the other flavours, particularly the delicate aubergine.
  • Lightly salted Atlantic cod with cauliflower, summer cabbage, caper brown butter, roast & pickled carrots and gratin potato. A very well cooked piece of meaty cod with a delicious butter.
Stitch and Bear - Lightly salted Atlantic cod at Mulberry Garden
Lightly salted Atlantic cod at Mulberry Garden
Main Courses
  • Vanilla panna cotta with coffee & truffle ice-cream, hazelnut biscotti and espresso jelly. When I ordered this, the waitress did ask if I would be OK with the taste of truffle in my dessert. Apparently a lot of people don't find the combination palatable. The dessert came presented in a spherical tumbler with layers of panna cotta and espresso jelly, topped with the (in)famous coffee & truffle ice-cream. I absolutely loved this flavour combination, mixing together coffee, sweetness and the oiliness of the truffle. A really unique dish.
  • Special dessert of chocolate cake with coconut sorbet. This dessert wasn't listed on the menu, but was suggested separately by our waitress. Given that the other option was a cheese plate, himself took the opportunity to have some chocolate. He receive a dense, moist slice of chocolate with a surprisingly creamy coconut sorbet.
Our total bill, including wine and some sparkling water came to €113.95. When booking, I had been skeptical about paying €40 for 3 courses. It seemed a bit too pricey particularly given the limited choice. Now that I've eaten there, I'm a little more convinced. This is a restaurant with the intimate atmosphere of a supper club. There is some really good cooking with excellent Irish ingredients, but many dishes had one touch too many and could benefit from a tiny bit of simplification. Ultimately though, the limited choice remains an issue. Go there on a day when the cards do not fall your way with dish selection and you could well feel cheated. 

Mulberry Garden, Mulberry Lane, Dublin 4
Tel: 353 (0)1 269 3300


WiseMóna said...

I loe the 'Pub Punter Index' idea and agree wholeheartedly with you.
Restaurants (despite outrageous prices) are all doing very well in Galway too. I think that people are drinking less at the pub, spending more money going out to eat good quality food and drinking more at home. I know all too well what you mean by feeling cheated at the till. Hate that feeling.

Stef said...

That truffle dessert sounds really interesting, pity it'll be gone before I get a chance to try it! From the presentation of the cod dish I'd say the chef has been to Gregans, if the food is half as good I'll be in for a treat.

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