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Balzac, Dublin


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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.

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Balzac is the new La Stampa.

.

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?

I imagine the local wits will be calling it Balls Ache before long, if I know Dubliners at all (at all)

S

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My parents were there last week for their wedding anniversary, they had good things to say about the fish soup. Apparently the scallop main was very good - with an enormous number of good scallops. Bill for 2 (starters, mains, a shared pud and - if I know them - a glass each of what they said was a good wine) for something in the region of €120.

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Balzac is the new La Stampa.

.

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 :biggrin:

Or perhaps this quote on their website provides hidden insight:

’The food here doesn't just celebrate quality ingredients but weaves them into a magical culinary story of ancient and modern styles.'

The Sunday Business Post

April 2007

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.

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Or perhaps this quote on their website provides hidden insight:
’The food here doesn't just celebrate quality ingredients but weaves them into a magical culinary story of ancient and modern styles.'

The Sunday Business Post

April 2007

T

'weaves them into a magical culinary story of ancient and modern styles' heh that kind of writing would even get one sacked from londonlight and God knows they aren't fussy!

S

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  • 6 months later...

Ok, I'm a bit late to this thread but I just ate here on Thursday.

I began with Crab crème bruelee, pickled cucumber (€12.50) which was interesting but, even in a small pot, too rich to be a starter IMHO. Vicky had Caramelized onion & beetroot soup (€6.50) which she declared the "best soup ever." Following that her main was always going to have trouble living up to expectations and indeed she ended up abandoning her Herb gnocci with field mushrooms & Beaujolais dressing (€18.50) partway. I tried it and thought it tasty but again, too cloyingly heavy for me. My main course, Pot au feu of pork €22.50 was perfectly rendered and completely consumed. I'd eat it again right now if I could. Initially I was served the wrong desert so I got to eat a spoonful of fluffy savarin before I noticed. I should have stuck to the wrong dish as Lemon berry meringue fool (€8.50) was no more interesting than any home cook could knock up. Judging by the three deserts I tried (Vicky's was pear poached in muscat de beaumes de venise) Flynn isn't much interested in puddings and would be advised to get in a pastry chef sharpish if he want's to prosper on my business ; )

Service was sub voce (Vicky asked me if she'd gone deaf) but attentive enough.

Overall, with two disappointing courses each you'd expect that I wouldn't be back to Balzac but the combination of the stunning room, well-priced wine list, and the excellent soup and pork mean that it'll probably get a second chance.

Read about what I've been eating at http://theeatingwell.blogspot.com/

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