I have a daydream that one day I will own one of the fine Dublin Georgian townhouses for which our city is famous. In my daydream, the townhouse is currently occupied by dismal office suites, but I convert it back to a home. In my head, I am happy imaging how my kitchen, sitting room and home gym (yes!) will be arranged to make best use of the wonderful building.
Even as I walk through town, I am often looking upwards, ignoring the shops and businesses at ground level, but instead imaging the great living spaces that could be made available on the upper floors. I think it's a great shame that there is so much unused real estate in our city centre.
We recently dined at Saison, located in the Kildare Street basement that was the former home of Town Bar & Grill. After heading down the stairs, complete with a cute little outdoor seat, you enter directly into the bar space which leads through into the dining area. I immediately loved the deep sea blue colour used as an accent, as well as the mismatched (and probably vintage) glass lampshades and chandeliers. As I sat waiting, complete with a deliciously refreshing G&T, my inner home designer went to work, reimagining the basement as a home.
Graeme Dodrill is the man in charge of the kitchen, bringing experience from One Pico and La Mère Zou, assisted by a very smooth front of house team. In fact, there's a very definite whiff of Michelin and fine dining in the air. We started with a rather large amuse bouche of crab and tempura courgette flower. I'd have been happy with just the crab meat, it was the absolute essence of the sea.
|Crab and tempura courgette flower amuse bouche|
The menu at Saison is a joy to read and I had to evaluate each and every dish as part of my selection process. Uncharacteristically for me, I passed over the foie gras starter option in favor of a grilled octopus and clam dish, with succulent chunks of brioche that had soaked up the lemon, chervil and caper juices (€12). But foie gras did come to the table anyway in a meat-lovers dish, accompanied by roast scallop, truffle and duck heart (€16).
|Foie gras, scallop and duck heart|
|Grilled octopus and clams|
My main course of roast scallops and fall apart slow-cooked Iberico pork cheek was coloured by a green riot of peas and broad beans, mingled with a rich jus (€30). A tasting plate of Wicklow spring lamb, including fried sweetbreads, came with charred courgette and a creamy, fresh quenelle of ricotta and peas (€34).
|Scallops and Iberico pork cheek|
Our wine of choice was a La Cote Flamenc Picpoul de Pinet (€36) which displayed a stronger than usual minerality. For us the real star of the show was a roast almond panna cotta, with fresh raspberries, nutty toasted rice and almond milk (€8). It was a superbly confident dessert, drawing on the natural sweetness of the ingredients. We paired it a glass of the recommended Chateau Haut Montlong 2011 Montbazillac (€9), which was possibly a touch too sweet against the panna cotta.
|Almond panna cotta|
We were dining on a voucher (which I'd thoroughly recommend picking up should Saison ever run the offer again), but there are set menus available for lunch and dinner. In fact, I've already promised myself a lunchtime date. Right now, Saison are offering a lobster-themed menu through to the end of July which simply makes my mouth water. I was informed by a waiter that there will be a menu change shortly, which gives me another very good reason to return.
Saison is simply superb, with excellent fine food and service. The dining room feels spacious with plenty of room for private chats and intimate meals. It's still somewhat early days for this restaurant, but I've got a feeling that it will be around for quite a while.
Tel: +353 (0)1 662 4800