The Great Britain & Ireland Michelin Guide 2012 was recently released to some anticipation. Judging by the conversations on Twitter, several Irish establishments were keenly looking forward to the announcement. In the end, it was a bit of a non-event, as there were no changes in the 1-star and 2-star establishments on the island. There was a little more movement in terms of Bib Gourmands with the Box Tree in Stepaside and Fontana in Holywood both gaining a Bib Gourmand. Unfortunately, Cafe Hans in Cashel, La Maison in Dublin and Rosso in Dundalk all lost their Bib Gourmand. Thus Irish dining lost more than it gained.
The recent good news for The Box Tree, which has been open for just under one year, did prompt me to pick up the phone and make a lunch reservation. Eamonn O'Reilly (One Pico & Bleu Bistro) is the force behind this restaurant in the lovely suburban village of Stepaside where it shares a building with a sister gastropub, The Wild Boar. A two course lunch is available for the attractive price of €17.95.
|The classic interior of the Box Tree|
The Box Tree is a relatively spacious restaurant, capable of seating 100 people, but despite this, the tables are nicely spaced. The decor is muted and relaxing, painted in that famous French grey-green colour whose name I do not know, although I must admit that I took a dislike to the fabric used on the upholstery. The menu offers 5 choices for starter and main, and we quickly homed in on several dishes which we were both keen to try.
|Castletownbere crab salad|
Theavocado crème fraiche, avocado puree and red pepper dressing came as a pretty little tiane of crab with lovely layers of white crème fraiche and green avocado. Although visually stunning, the red pepper dressing didn't seem to add much to the crab, which managed to be both rich and light all at once.
|Old Spot ham hock terrine|
|Wicklow lamb, shallot & cumin pie|
The daily special was a pie of Wicklow lamb, shallot and cumin served with buttered peas and mash. This arrived rather intriguingly as a set of components on the now ubquituous wooden board. A single, rather lonely-looking quenelle of mash sat in the middle of a plate, awaiting the contents of the pie. I could take umbrage with the definition of "pie" given that it consisted of a small tureen of rich, gelatinous filling with a golden puff pastry lid set on top, but it's hard to be finicky when something tastes this good.
|Roast cherry tomato & goat's cheese risotto|
My main of roast cherry tomato and goat's cheese risotto with rocket and goat's cheese beignet was beautifully cooked with a nutty kernel remaining in the rice and a rich sauce with strands of cheese visible when lifted away. A good risotto is a soul-satisfying experience, and I quietly worked my way through most of the dish with satisfaction. The sharp tang of the little beignets offered some taste contrast, but I thought they were perhaps a little too "chip-shop" for the dish.
I chose a glass of Domaine Jourdan Picpoul de Pinet 2010 (€7.25) which was full-flavoured with touches of citrus. With a large bottle of sparkling water and two coffees, our bill comes to a total of €52.15.
A holder of a Michelin Bib Gourmand is deemed to be a venue that offers good food at moderate prices. The publicity that comes with the awarding of such an accolade can boost the profile of a restaurant, and the Box Tree is a deserving recipient. O'Reilly has continued to do what he is famous for, namely offering good local food at prices that customers will appreciate. Such honest endeavour deserves to be rewarded.
The Box Tree, Stepaside Vilage, Dublin 18
Tel: +353 (0)1 205 2025