Have you ever wanted the chance to critique a Michelin-starred chef and actually have him listen to you? Over the course of two weeks in October, Bon Appetit offered diners the chance to enjoy 6 courses for just €40. In return for this exceptional value, chef Oliver Dunne and his team sought feedback from the diners which they could use to refine and improve their new winter menu. Bon Appetit has a strong reputation, so this open invitation to would-be critics was hardly going to cause any consternation in the kitchen, but it was still a brave move on their part. You could also argue that the request for feedback represents how sophisticated Irish diners have become.
Well, I think all my readers know that I like a bargain, just as much as I like to eat good food, so I duely put my money where my mouth is. An early arrival into Malahide meant that we could spend a few relaxing moments looking at the boats in the marina. Wistful dreaming complete, we headed up the steps into Bon Appetit for an aperitif at their very fabulous and well-priced tapas & wine bar, Le Bon Vin. As I was driving, I decided to order a Kir Royale, which would be my sole alcholic treat for the evening. Dining at a Michelin restaurant is always a special occasion, hence the glass of bubbles.
We were escorted upstairs to the dining room which is a very calming and elegant space with the tables set well apart. The ever watchful staff even provided a little footstool on which to rest my handbag. (Heaven forbid that it would have to rough it on the floor.) The beauty of a tasting menu is that you don't have to choose your courses, which means that you can sit right back, relax and wait for the chef to perform his magic.
As a little appetiser, we received two warm simple choux puffs fragrant with Gruyère. We were also offered a selction of fantastically light and crusty homemade breads, which were easily the best that I've enjoyed in any restaurant. Our 6 course tasting menu consisted of the following dishes (no photos are available due to the low light levels).
- Amuse Bouche of white onion & thyme veloute - beautifully smooth with a lovely sweetness coming from the onion.
- Pan-fried foie gras, confit rhubarb, hazelnut snow, wild rice crispies, rhubarb puree and parsnip custard - The rhubarb confit caught the eye due to its vivid pink colour, but I found the foie gras to be a little underseasoned. The little drifts and clumps of hazelnut snow had a beautiful nutty flavour which complemented the butteriness of the liver.
- Pan-roasted brill, cauliflower 3 ways (roasted, pickled & puree), couscous & cheese macaroni - A perfectly cooked piece of firm fish, served on plump, juicy couscous. The accompanying mac'n'cheese had been made with goat's cheese whose tanginess overpowered the delicate fish.
- Rump of lamb, sweetbread with herb praline, Madeira reduction, creamed leeks and glazed baby carrot - I simply loved the sweetbread served alongside the lamb. It reminded me of the foie gras served earlier, but it was the glazed carrot that I will remember the most. I never thought a carrot could taste that good.
- Fig & Hibiscus purée, star anise foam with carmelised nuts - Served in a pretty little shot glass, this fruity liquid tasted of Christmas and spicy winter warmth.
- Peanut parfait, chocolate & chocolate tuille, pear sorbet & poached pear- This came to the table looking like a fabulous Philip Tracey creation. A large circle of tuille was perched atop a little square of parfait, with a quenelle of sorbet sitting in the loop. I simply loved the combination of peanuts and chocolate and the pear sorbet added a cool refreshment. However, when I tried to cut the poached pear with my spoon, it damn near rocketed off the plate and across the table.
We finished off our meal with coffee and homemade choclates. I loved the colourful elegant Wedgewood coffee cups, and while the chocolates were delicious, I would have liked something a little lighter (perhaps a macaron?) to finish the meal.
The only serious critique of our meal would be in relation to time it took to serve our food. Other couples who came in later in the evening caught up with us over the course of dinner. A well-paced service is to be expected when indulging in some fine dining, but this was a bit too lengthy. However, we occupied ourselves in the intervals between courses by imaging what the other diners were doing. Older men and younger women are always good for speculation.
Our total bill for the evening came to over €150. Food totalled €80, drinks and sparkling water , coffee and petit fours were €5.95 per head, while the remainder was due to a 12.5% service charge. Sometimes I forget how much drinks and extras can add to a bill. However, in return for that hard-earned money, we received excellent food, smooth (albeit a little slow) service and a very relaxed evening. On our drive home, we debated the relative merits of Bon Appetit and Chapter One, which was our favourite restaurant to date. The jury is still out on that decision, but one thing is clear. You won't go wrong at Bon Appetit.
Bon Appetit, James's Terrace, Malahide, Co. Dublin
Tel: +353 (0)1 845 01314