Archive for the ‘Food & Drink’ Category

Carluccio’s is reopening

There are plenty of places to eat in Dublin, but with restaurants closing down here and there, and more noticeably among some of the good/popular ones, one can’t help but wonder what is going on. Is the recession really hitting that much harder than we’ve expected, or are there troubles in managing expectations and balancing the books at the same time.

Carluccio's

Early in the week, Carluccio’s shut its door at the wake of failure to meet its rent commitment after unsuccessful renegotiation of rent with its landlord. However, last evening, a new deal was struck and they will reopen again next week. What a week, eh?

I remember reading, when they first opened on Dawson Street, the extraordinary amount of rent that they’ve agreed to per annum. But of course, that was at the height of waves just before everything came crashing down. The old agreement saw Carluccio’s paying a rent of €680,000 per year, which works out to just under €1,900 per day. Yup, you read that right, per day! I don’t know if this kind of rate is the norm for properties on Dawson Street, but by goodness, that’s more than my monthly housing rent. And to think, given the economic downturn and the landlords were initially resisting a reduction in rent payable, that’s simply absurd. I can’t imagine they’ll be able to find a new tenant that would pay that amount should Carluccio’s vacate the premises. No one in their right mind should! Premium properties at city centre location, sure. Unrealistic rent overhead, nooooo.

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On other eateries coming and going in the city (while I was cocooned with work craziness), the Bang Cafe on Merrion Row has shut down last month – this most probably explains the removal of Michelin’s Bib Gourmand recognition – with some major mismanagement hanging over the head of the owners, the Stokes brothers. And the bad news is, it’s not just mismanagement of the cafe but also of their private members’ club on St Stephen’s Green. It is such a shame, since they formerly also ran Clarendon Inn and between that and Bang Cafe, they have served some really delicious grubs over the years.

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Latest news on the news today – Patrick Guilbaud is stepping down as director of his namesake restaurant that currently holds two Michelin stars. Now, this is one restaurant that still posted profits in 2008 (not sure about 2009 yet), but I do wonder what’s the implication now that he’s stepping down from his directorship.

Dublin Michelin recognition 2010

Michelin Guide UK & Ireland 2010

The Michelin guide 2010 for UK and Ireland has been leaked by Amazon, causing another rushed release ahead of schedule. (It was also leaked ahead of the official release last year.)

Regarded by many as the ultimate best restaurants bible, you may or may not agree with their assessments. I’m lucky that I’ve dined in most of the Michelin-star adorned restaurants in Dublin, some out of interest in the early days before they even receive the recognitions, some out of generosity of my aunt who never hesitated in giving me a treat at these establishments.

Let’s see which eateries in Dublin made the cut for this edition.

2 Stars:
Patrick Guilbaud (Upper Merrion Street, D2)

1 Star:
Bon Apetit (Malahide)
Chapter One (Parnell Square North, D1)
L’Ecrivain (Upper Baggot Street, D2)
Thornton’s at Fitzwilliam Hotel (St Stephen’s Green, D2)

Bib Gourmand – New Additions:
La Maison (formerly La Maison des Gourmets, Castlemarket Street, D2)
Pichet (Trinity Street, D2)
The Pig’s Ear (Nassau Street, D2)

Mint Restaurant (Ranelagh, D6) has been stripped of their one star because, as some are aware of, it shut down last year just before the summer. In its place, Dillinger’s opened just last November, and it’s on my list of new places to try.

Additionally, Bang Café (Merrion Row, D2) and The Winding Stair (Ormond Quay, D1) lost their Bib Gourmand recognition. Just to clarify, Bib Gourmand refers to places that offer good food at moderate prices.

I was actually in Pichet and The Pig’s Ear just before Christmas, with photos taken but the review not yet written. Pichet is already doing very well, although I was thinking it’s somewhat pricey for the portion size (not a problem for Michelin’s assessment as they’re eyeing more at quality as opposed to quantity but definitely a consideration at times of recession for diners). The Pig’s Ear, I wondered, if was suffering from a less-than-ideal location despite being quite central. The last couple of times I was in there, it was very quiet and now that they’re being recognised for the quality food that they serve, I hope they’ll do better in terms of business volume but not changing the price structure majorly. That will make me quite sad…

Look like I’ll have to make a trip out to Malahide sometimes soon. That’s the only place on this list that I have not personally experienced.

What do you think? Do you have other favourite restaurants that you believe merit a Michelin recognition?

St Paddy or St Nick?

St Paddy or St Nick?

My (French) friends are adamant that this is St Nicholas since Christmas is coming along soon and all, but I still think this is St Patrick. So whose chocolate sculpture do you think this is?

And whoever this sculpture is has got to eat less sweet stuff – the teeth are falling out! :p

Go, go, go, Green 19!

It has been madness with work in the last few months that my social life is dwindling to near-nothingness, but a girl has still got to eat no matter how busy it gets.

Enter Green 19.

A friend mentioned this place in passing, and the inner foodie in me could not resist the urge to dine there pretty much the same day. Except they were booked out solidly when I rang, and I was told I can come in earlier to try and grab one of the tables that they’ve set aside for walk-in customers. I must have sound pretty crest-fallen when the lovely staff relented and gave me a table for the same evening. Hurrah!

Green 19

That was about 2 months ago, and since then I’ve been back several times with different friends. A cosy restaurant/cafe tucked neatly on Camden Street, I like the simplicity in terms of the decor and I definitely dig the paintings on the wall. It’s akin to dining in a small art gallery and I find myself charmed.

There’s nothing pretentious with the food that they serve in Green 19. Good, solid menu of hearty food and at a very reasonable price too, which has got to be a major plus at times when everyone’s tightening their belts. Nary a price tag beyond €12 and even those are for shared plates of either cured meats and sausages, or cheese, or pinchos. Otherwise, it’s a tenner or less.

Clockwise from top left : tomato soup, portobello mushroom on toasted foccacia, lamb chump tagine with orange-scented couscous, chicken Caesar salad

Having tried several of their dishes by now, I have not yet come across anything that I don’t enjoy. I do have a favourite though, which is the lamb chump tagine with orange-scented couscous. Another thing to note – it is quite a feat for anyone who can do a 3-course meal here. I’ve only managed 2 max, if one of the courses is a main course portion. Next time I ought to go for 2 starters and a dessert I think.

Speaking of desserts. There are only 3 choices but at great value of fiver each – rhubarb crumble with mojito ice cream, chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream, and cherry and bourbon sundae. All delicious treats I assure you. If only they would serve a bigger portion of the mojito ice cream… hmmmm…

As for the drinks, you may booze up as you wish as the price range is variable, and the cocktails come at €9 each if that’s what you fancy.

If only there are more places to dine out in Dublin that is as affordable as this, without the customers resorting to eating at ungodly time of 6pm in order to catch the early bird menu and the likes. This place has won my heart (and many of my friends), and here’s to many more happy meals at Green 19!

Green 19 Café
19 Camden St Lower, Dublin 2
01 – 478 9626 / Open daily
(Dublin Metblogs Restaurant GoogleMap)

Temple Bar Chocolate Festival

“The 12-step chocoholics program: NEVER BE MORE THAN 12 STEPS AWAY FROM CHOCOLATE!”

I am in agreement with Terry Moore. Anyone who knows me, knows of my love for chocolate. Mind, I’m not a choco-junkie per se, because even I am not living such decadent life to be eating them every single day.

But I have a deep appreciation for chocolate. I am willing to try new flavours and concoctions in a heartbeat (chocolate with chilli and peppercorn, anyone?). I have travelled just to attend chocolate fairs (EuroChocolate in Rome, Salon du Chocolat in Paris – twice!). I pay some crazy amount of money for small nuggets of chocolatey goody when I think it’s worth it (and I’m afraid it happens a tad too often).

Last year, a colleague who was out of idea what to get me for Kris Kindle ended up giving me – no prize for guessing correctly – voucher to Butlers Chocolate.

Chocolate (picture taken at Salon du Chocolat in Paris)

So I’m excited. I’m excited that Temple Bar Chocolate Festival is back. There are free demonstrations (but ticketed, so ring up to book your place), truffles making and chocolate tasting workshops, chocolate beauty treatment (also free and booking essential), and I could go on and on. Just have a look at the full programme here.

The Temple Bar Chocolate Festival runs from Friday 30th October to Sunday 1st November. In conjunction with the festivities, No Grant Gallery is presenting an exhibition entitled “Come with me and you’ll see a world of pure imagination”. It opens ahead of the festival, on Thursday 22nd October and will close on Tuesday 3rd November. The exhibition is free and no booking is required.

Ah, chocolate… yes, I’m eating some right now. Lindt Ecuador 75%. Smooth and delicately sweet for a dark chocolate. Nyom nyom.

Dine In Dublin is back!

My, has the weather turned nippy or what? It feels distinctly autumnal, to wake up to darker sky as the day shortens and as I look out the window, the leaves on the tree are turning into shades of red and orange and all the hues in between. Meanwhile, Is it raining in Dublin? has been telling me for days that no, it’s not raining, but it IS cloudy.

Dine In Dublin

An email from a friend though provided me with a little pick-me-up – the Dine In Dublin Restaurant Week is back on Monday week! So from Monday 12 October to Sunday 18 October, there’ll be much to be indulged on the gastronomy front. Wheee!

Similar to the concept of Dining by DART just a few weeks ago, a list of participating restaurants have set out 3-course menus with tea and coffee for either €25 or €30. All you need to do now is look for the place(s) that catch your fancy and book a table. (I do wonder if l’Gueuleton will take reservation seeing they normally don’t.)

Something new for Dine In Dublin this time round is participating hotels that gives 10% discount on the lowest quoted accommodation rates. That’s pretty sweet, especially if you have visitors coming to see you during the event period.

Now, where shall I go? I have eaten in a fair few of them, and would like to try something new. Is there any restaurants on the list that you’ll highly recommend?

Never Mind the Questions

Do you want to be part of Dublin’s biggest pub quiz, here is your chance. Concern Worldwide is organizing a series of pub quizzes around the city in the month of September and October. All proceeds go to support their work overseas (aid agencies around the world are struggling to keep their projects going in current recession). And their is also a grand prize – trip to Vegas to be won. Good Luck. Find your local pub in the map below.

Find your local pub

You can find the full details and how does it work? HERE.

Dining by DART Week 2009

Foodies of Dublin who use the DART – here is one promotional week that you must not miss! If you’re a foodie and you don’t normally use the DART, perhaps it’s time to hop on one of the suburban trains. ;-)

Between Wednesday 19 August and Wednesday 26 August, if you’ve been commuting by DART, bring along your DART ticket to a participating restaurant and you’ll find yourself sitting down to 3-course meal for either €25 or €30 (depending on where you go). That’s a bargain, considering these are probably usually the prices on offer at lunch and not during dinner hours.

Diningy by DART 2009

There are 43 participating restaurants, of which some of my favourites include One Pico, Fallon & Byrne, Koh and Saba. For more information of participating restaurants, please check this link.

For the undecided, between 4pm and 7pm, travel through the following stations : Connolly, Tara St and Pearse. There will be sample nibbles distributed to help nudge you along decision making. If you like it, then what are you waiting for? It’s time to check that restaurant out!

Luxurious bites of Ladurée

Macarons

It is rather unexpected that, at time of recession, a “luxury hall” has been established in Brown Thomas. Nonetheless, secretly, I am delighted because they’ve brought Ladurée from Paris to Dublin!

The name Ladurée is synonymous with delicious macarons, a type of French pastry made from egg white, ground almond and sugar, of which two macaron biscuits are sandwiched with creamy filings or ganache. The freshest and the best macarons are flavoursome, delicate and literally melt in your mouth.

There are some 20 flavours of macarons available in Brown Thomas when I dropped by a couple of days ago, including vanilla (it’s not boring and in fact is a must try), coffee, rose, orange blossom, lemon, red fruits, caramel of salted butter (my favourite!), chocolate, pistachio, raspberry and coconut. Every single one are equally drool-worthy, with a Paris-comparable price tag of €1.40 per piece. I was half-expecting BT to up the price so I was pleasantly surprised by this.

If you could resist buying these macarons for yourself, but have friends who are gourmet lovers, they make excellent gifts too. There are beautiful gift boxes available, to fill 6, 8, 18, 20 or 24 macarons. Gift boxes incur a small additional charge.

Apart from macarons, Ladurée at BT also sells a number of delicatessen items, including tea and preserves. Gift hampers can be assembled too, so really, this is a small piece of gourmet heaven in the city of Dublin. It’s bound to test my self-discipline but I must also remind myself, should I purchase them too often, they will cease to be special treats. Now, that is not something I wish for. ;-)

Reporting back : Kobe Burger

As I mentioned a few weeks back, I was going to take advantage of buy-1-get-1-free burger offer by the Gourmet Burger Company in Ranelagh and checked out the Kobe beef burger. Did I go? Of course! ;-)

Kobe beef burger

I was right, this particular item on the menu comes at a rather steep price tag. At normally nearly €40 a piece, it was really a good thing to have the promotional voucher that reduces the bill for my friend and I to €20 per person.

Served stacked high with slices of beef tomatoes, red chard and onion, with side garnish of cornichon and an amazing truffle wasabi dressing (with a hint of sesame oil in my opinion; and I liked it so much that I actually asked our waitress for a small serving to bring home which I had with some spinach salad and it was still so very delicious!), the Kobe burger was perfectly cooked to be just slightly pink in the center. The meat was tender and there definitely is a different to the texture of a typical burger patty. The effect of massaging the Kobe cattles in the first place, or good preparation and cooking, or both? I suspect it’s a combination of the two.

The previous voucher may have expired but there is now a new voucher on offer, with similar conditions as previous. Just print the Gourmet Burger Company’s 2 for 1 voucher and present it at time of order. The voucher is valid from 8th May to 8th September 2009, on Mondays/Tuesdays/Wednesdays (except Bank Holidays) from 12pm to 10pm. I think I’m going to head over there again soon, to try their other specialty burgers.

Go on. Give it a try. This is a also a good chance to explore a little of Ranelagh, which is a vibrant, small village that is less than 20 minutes walk from Grafton Street. Otherwise, Luas goes right through Ranelagh in just 3 stops from St Stephen’s Green. Bon appétit!

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