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Corinna Dunne

eGullet Society staff emeritus
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Everything posted by Corinna Dunne

  1. Dave, I'm really enjoying your blog, it captures French life so beautifully. And I love the picture of madam! You mention that old ways of life are fading, what traditions/practices are dying out and what is remaining steadfast?
  2. I agree, it’s a breath of fresh air in Dublin. Prices are similar to Town Bar. And yes, it cannot be compared to Mint, a completely different approach and standard, although they’re chasing the same spend so it potentially impacts on trade for Dylan McGrath. In terms of comparisons with London, the people we were with had been to Arbutus and Racine only a few weeks earlier and felt it compares well and there are quite a few similarities (the service was dire in Arbutus the night they were there), although an Arbutus style bouillabaisse would be welcome. It’s early days yet, Troy says that they’re trying to get a few of the bills paid off and still have a few things on their shopping list, eg a salamander and waterbath. Minichef, I look forward to hearing how you get on.
  3. Ian, I'm interested to hear a bit more about what you had. I really liked the langoustine and biscuit dish (although I see Tom Doorley in his review a few weeks back was unsure about it too). Paolo Tullio gave the place a huge thumbs up in Saturday's Indo, although he went for lunch (which struck me as being more similar to L'Gueuleton than the dinner menu). I agree on the service and yes the portions for the main course are huge, but I wouldn't say one note. In terms of price/quality ratio, I think they're bang on the money. Were you sitting upstairs or downstairs?
  4. If it isn't off topic, why is it called Balzac? I dont recall any Balzac novels set in Dublin. I suppose it's more imaginative than calling it Finnegan's or Bloom's. Is it simply to make it clear to punters what kind of food it serves? And that it has this intriguing French tasting French wine you mention? ← Good question sunbeam… I have no idea. Maybe it’s because it sounds a teeny bit like Balthazar Or perhaps this quote on their website provides hidden insight: This intriguinig wine I talk of… looks like I overstated my case! Caitriona, did your parents mention if the restaurant was full? It was when we were there, but for some reason, I sense that Balzac hasn't quite hit the radar. It just doesn't seem to be at the top of anyone's must visit list... and now with Locks open (brilliant btw), everyone's going to be hot footing it there.
  5. The Antrim coast is spectacular and the Giant’s Causeway is not to miss. Nearby you will find the Bushmills Inn (in Bushmills, where they make the whiskey) which serves good wholesome food and in Portrush, you will find the Ramore Restaurant and Wine Bar which has a number of dining options. If you head in to Belfast, the Mourne Seafood Bar is well worth checking out for very fresh fish from a wet counter in a casual atmosphere, Molly’s Yard has well-sourced produce cooked simply and well, and James Street South is a more elegant, fashionable spot. As far as I know, Restaurant Michael Deane (the only Michelin-starred restaurant up that direction) is now open again after being refurbished, so might be worth checking out. If you’re heading Fermanagh/Cavan direction at all, MacNean Restaurant and House which has been completely refurbished is well worth checking out for excellent cooking at a great price. Meticulously sourced produce too. You’ll find a bit more if you click on the following topics: Ireland’s Best Restaurants Belfast, where to eat Belfast
  6. Excellent news. I for one am quite happy to pay the retail price if it means they force their smoothies down the schoolkids throats. ← This is great. The price point does seem to be a bit of a barrier, they have run quite a few 2 for 1 offers and price promotions. I presume the quality will be the same and the economies of scale will allow for a lower price point.
  7. I agree. It sounds really dubious. I haven't tried it yet, but have little confidence based on Aya's pathetic effort in the city centre. I'm not sure that there's a market for good sushi in Dublin (unfortunately). As for the missed opportunity in the Shelbourne.... I'll start a new topic!
  8. I agree. Of course Innocent and McDonalds are quite different companies, but they are both targeting the mass market. You can stick your head in the sand and tut-tut McDonalds, or you can face the fact that millions of people go there, and getting tasty, healthy drinks on their food trays instead of sugar-laden soft drinks has to be a good thing. If Innocent makes money out of the venture, good for them. As it is, they donate 10% of their profit to support the countries where they source their fruit, so I’d imagine that these struggling economies will be more than delighted to increase their exports as well as the level of donation they receive. It will be interesting to see if McDonalds offers Innocent smoothies at the same price as the soft drink options (the product cost must be substantially higher for Innocent). Now that would be progress.
  9. Otto’s Creative Catering, the genuine organic experience in Dunworley, a remote spot near Butlerstown in Co Cork, will be closing at the end of the season. Otto Kunze and his wife Hilde will be retiring, (nobody is a chef at my age, he told me a few days ago), so if you’re in the area, this will be your last chance to experience the earthy goodness of outstanding subsistant farming.
  10. Welcome to eG Forums Sockster. It sounds like you have a great trip planned. Quimet i Quimet is well worth a visit for lunch. It is a small tapas bar, with just a few high tables and all of the tapas are made from preserved goods. This may sound unusual, but give it a go, it is extremely good quality and inexpensive, and the atmosphere is great.
  11. Balzac is the new La Stampa. It opened earlier in the year, and with no Novelli on the telly this time round, things have been a lot quieter. Paul Flynn, who was head chef at La Stampa in its early days after he returned from his position as head chef in Chez Nico in London, is back as executive chef but not on an everyday basis. During the launch period, he was at pains to point out that he’s not the resident chef (lessons learned from Novelli’s press mess, see older topics here and here). His primary restaurant is still The Tannery in Dungarvan, Waterford. This time round, Balzac is a brasserie through and through, a concept that makes complete sense of the beautiful room. The décor is more low key, even a bit stark but it looks and feels like an authentic Parisian brasserie. The menu, which is Flynn’s, is well-considered with a bit more than the usual suspects making an appearance and for the main part, it is reasonably priced, although not a cheap night out. Starters like his very tasty, signature crab crème brulée with pickled cucumber (€12.50) feature alongside bistro classics, some with a bit of an Irish bent; there are oysters, brandade of whiting and an assiette of charcuterie. There is an honourable attempt to extend the Irish palate on the fish front: the well-made fish soup with rouille (€8.50) is very good, but would be better paired with oven-dried baguettes instead of buttery croutons (nobody seems to get the simple accompaniments right and the grated Gruyere is always missing, I had the same complaint in Mackerel and Richard Corrigan’s Café La Serre) and the fondue of shellfish for two people looks the Parisian two-tiered part. There are plenty of meat options too. Beef comes slow cooked, as grilled steak, or as a medium cooked rib roast carved at the table (Lucinda O’Sullivan had a famous spat over this which resulted in the bill being waived and her being asked to leave); crubeens hold up the Irish end of things and bourride of chicken and quail pie provide further options. The grilled calf’s liver (which seems to be popular around town) comes with melting onions and potato sauce. It was good enough, but the night I was there, I found the potato a bit salty (and I like my food well-seasoned). I had a similar dish in Town Bar and Grill a few weeks later which was better and possibly a euro or two below Balzac’s €28 price. There was a duck boulangere for €18.50 which looked like an innocent, reasonably sized portion on the plate. But somehow the layers of potato, turnip and duck combined to make an extremely heavy dish and personally, I just didn’t think that the turnips worked in the dish at all. That said, I think it is clear that a lot of thinking has gone into the dishes here and I understand that Paul Flynn tweaks them regularly. Wine starts at €27 which is a bit hefty for a brasserie, but the Bordeaux we had for €34 was good and very French tasting (as opposed to Irish palate French). In their favour, there is no up-selling pressure, baskets of bread are quickly brought to the table and tap water is graciously offered. There is however a ‘discretionary’ 10% service charge added to the bill. With thanks… so they say. So, a pleasant place and even though I have criticisms of some of the dishes I have to say that I enjoyed the evening. As it happens, we had been in Thornton’s for a few canapés before we went and I had really expected this to be a bit of an anti-climax afterwards, which it wasn’t. It’s worth a visit, but wouldn’t be at the top of my list.
  12. Much of what is traditional in southern Ireland is also traditional in Northern Ireland. Look out for dulse (a type of seaweed) in cheese and crackers and also carrageen moss for making some traditional desserts. Potato farls are also a big thing in the north, but I don't know how well they'd travel. And of course there is Bushmills malt whiskey.
  13. Dylan McGrath is a highly-strung, totally focused chef. What he is doing now is his life and from what I can see, he doesn’t allow himself time to do much else. The kitchen is tiny and his output is unbelievable, I mean, he does about 7 types of bread not to mention the rest! Ten years ago, a chef of this calibre would never have considered returning to Ireland. Simon, I think you’re absolutely right. There is quite a bit of underground and overt snide comment going around and I think some of it is because he has upped the culinary ante considerably and in Lucinda’s case, it strikes me as irresponsible. I sense that McGrath is a bit of an outsider on the Dublin chef scene, because he is mostly a Belfast boy and only really knows Troy Maguire from his days at The Commons. But you can bet that his restaurant has had more chefs dining than any other in the country. I am all for fair comment in restaurant reviews and obviously a reviewer’s experience is going to be highly personal (ljr, I agree with you on Tom Doorley’s sensitivity to salt). But there has to be a sense of responsibility too. Dissing the lazy Italian excuses for food in just about every suburb is fine by me because these places should be trashed to the point that tired, stressed locals realise that it’s just not acceptable that they are treated so badly and that they’re entitled to a decent night out for their hard-earned. And established restaurants that are not really delivering the goods for the prices they charge are fine fodder too. But going after the ‘tortured artist’ type chef who is working every hour of the day and focusing primarily on his obsession (no surprises that McGrath is worried about food critics) and not his food is simply bad culinary criticism. And for someone with this personality type (which everyone knows about), it is plain irresponsible. It worries me and it brings The Perfectionist to mind. When Thornton (another ‘tortured artist’ type, although not nearly as extreme) lost his second star, the media really rowed behind him and that was good to see. Dylan McGrath needs to be supported in the same way, otherwise, he’ll just pack up and we’ll lose that additional dimension to food. There should be enough room for everyone in the city. Of course, my other worry is that Michelin's newly found 'fresh, local and seasonal' focus that reflects the indigenous culinary landscape (as opposed to the traditional French one) may work against his style of food. But hopefully they will not be that shortsighted and he will get his much deserved star next year.
  14. It seems that Dylan McGrath is coming in for a bit of stick these days. Lucinda O'Sullivan of the Sunday Independent complained that she got special treatment because she is a food critic, seemed to think this was a huge misjudgement on his part, although from what I remember, she quite liked the food and mentioned that it is reasonably priced top-end food, a point which got completely lost in her upset about him referring to her by her name!!! Am I missing something? Troy Maguire also took a swipe at him in his interview with Trevor White in The Dubliner. He said that eating at Mint is like taking an exam. Unnecessarily disbaraging IMO, I would have thought that Troy would have more confidence in his own cooking and not feel the need to rubbish the competition. Dylan's the best chef in town, whether he likes it or not.
  15. My ratio is probably more in the 3:1 area, I just do it by eye and tasting. I always start by gently crushing a clove of garlic into Maldon salt. I add the vinegar first so that it disolves the salt (it won't disolve in oil), if I'm using mustard, I add it in at this point, followed by the oil, a grind of black pepper and shake to make an emulsion. I take the clove of garlic out of it before I use it. Maybe the garlic adds an extra kick and that's why the balance seems fine. I make an exception to the oil:acid ratio when I make fattoush a Lebanerse parsley salad. My ratio of oil to lemon juice would be about 1.5:1. But with a lower content of oil, I find a dressed salad wilts more quickly.
  16. Yes, I use a skillet too. If you have the space, it's a good idea to have a few skillets going so that you can get quite a few of them done at the one time.
  17. I agree on the venue and the set-up, it didn't work nearly as well as last year. I found it odd, because I understood that the reason for moving to Iveagh Gardens was because it is a larger location, and somehow, it felt more cramped, more "tenty" and less cultural. As for the VIP tent, if you were there, you might as well be at the races, it was so far removed from the bustle of the festival. We decided it was more fun to get drenched and just popped in to get our glass of shampoo at the end. But as you say, it wasn't too crowded on Thursday or Friday afternoon, so not too much of a problem. I know some people who were there in the evening and they found it way too crowded. Regardless, I don't think the VIP ticket is worth it, the 45 euro ticket is the best option. Thanks for all the additional detail on the demos etc. I'd love to have seen Angela Hartnett in action. She's been getting some pretty good press in advance of the new Ramsay restaurant in Enniskerry. Did she mention when it's opening?
  18. And another closure... Fayruz, the brilliant little Lebanese shawarma restaurant on Middle Abbey Street has closed and the Algerian owner is now running a Chinese buffet-style restaurant. No... I didn't try it. I asked him why he had changed direction and he said that he was refused permission to trade late, and with kebabs, you need to be open in the early hours of the morning to make your money. Gutted.
  19. I went to the Taste of Dublin yesterday afternoon… it was more like a taste of Irish weather! And by all accounts, Thursday night had been even worse with “Bang” nearly being washed out completely. So no photographs this year. But it was incredible fun. After days of searing sunshine, the unfairness of this ignorant outburst of weather had everyone buying into the siege mentality, and the atmosphere was brilliant. Kevin Thornton was in top form, chatting good naturedly to a woman about the “chips” incident (really, they should just have had a recorded message at the counter on this: For Kevin’s views on chips and noisy diners, please press here) and he had some interesting dishes on offer. His scallops, seared and served with a truffle sauce (a sauce so deep and savoury that he really should have omitted the 2,4 dithiapentane) was the one that had everyone talking (at least three strangers recommended it to me in passing at other stands). Given the cost of scallops, it certainly gets the award for most generous dish at €7 or €8. His savoury 99 ice cream cone looked cute (featured on the Taste coverage on Wed night’s news), was obviously easy enough to serve but was a bit whistles and bells and not that exciting IMO. A light creamy goat’s cheese mixture was piped into a standard cone on top of sun-dried tomatoes (which I think had some interesting crunchy bits), the parmesan stick (nice too) was the 99 bit. The cone let it down as it was nearly as soft as the day. Mini versions with homemade savoury wafers would be very good, but for €6 or €7 I shouldn’t complain. Chapter One had the same lamb main course as last year, which is a lovely dish, but I expected something different, so that was a bit disappointing and Bang had their wonderful coriander spiked crab cakes. Gary Rhodes was all smiles at the Rhodes D7 stand, Poulots had some interesting work intensive dishes and still from the dylan hotel (oh yes, it’s all lowercase) had a presence too (actually, they’ve recently launched a 7-8pm pre-theatre menu for €39.99 which sounds interesting) and the heady aromas from Jaipur wafted through the damp air. The Port House had a selection of reasonably priced tapas (€2 and €3, mostly pinxos on bread) and their aubergine and goat’s cheese fritter was a winner, particularly on a cold wet day. Derry Clarke was cooking only in the corporate tent, so there was no L’Ecrivain stand which was a pity as he had some great dishes last year. Also obvious by their absence were Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud and Mint. Neven Maguire of MacNean Restaurant was busy giving a demo in the chef’s theatre charming everyone around him in his disarmingly warm way (yes, I’m a big fan, he’s such a pet) and Novelli (obviously not a bit bothered about the La Stampa gastro gaff last year) had been there the night before and featured on the news slot. AWT, Corrigan and plenty more were scheduled on different days. All of the wine stands were pouring samples like it was going out of fashion, so no one was dipping into their currency to pay for a glass. Niall Tubriddy of Tubriddy Wines was not happy until we had sampled every bottle he had and it was great to meet a smiling ljr (see post upthread) and put a face to three initials as he poured us some Australian Reisling.
  20. Great report Bapi. The egg dish sounds amazing, was the yolk runny? I didn’t see the cooking in Paris segment of the Great British menu. I don’t remember Corrigan including vanilla in his dish at the earlier stages. Do you know if he tweaked it for the final or if this was a Sat Bains additional element? The vanilla was a sauce I presume? Also, do you remember how much it was for wine flight?
  21. Sacha - Great to see that you've set yourself the task of checking out some of the exciting restaurants around and Le Gavroche is a great place to start. It pains me to think how long ago it was when I was last there (it was a 3* under Albert!), so I'm really looking forward to hearing your report. Click here for the Le Gavroche topic.
  22. In many ways, I think this sums up elBulli, and it is a point that is often missed. Getting a booking and focusing on technique will always be a bigger story and the one that gets media attention. But the warm, unintimidating dedication of the people who run the place and work there is quite unexpected and incredible.
  23. Welcome to eG Forums shuren, and great first post! I'm so glad you enjoyed 5 Sentits, and I agree, the foie gras is really good. Do you remember what the cost of the tasting menu is now, and did you opt for a wine pairing?
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