It’s Suesey when you know how... and my old pal Healy is still sizzling
THERE was a time when people somewhat frowned upon restaurants in basements, considering them dark, poky, perhaps a little louche, maybe even downright dodgy.
How times have changed. The stellar and superbly civilised Chapter One is in a basement on Parnell Square. The gloriously revivified Dax (now with added Graham Neville, late of The Residence) lies below street level on Pembroke Street. And, of course, Suesey Street, an ambitious establishment, occupies a location a little further away from Stephen’s Green on Fitzwilliam Place, an area in which consultant doctors used to see their private patients, plying them with dog-eared copies of Country Life and Yachting Today in high-ceilinged, draughty waiting rooms.
The doctors have all moved to places like Blackrock and Lucan and their rooms are now occupied by accountants, solicitors and various other men – mainly men – in suits. It’s these customers who explain the lunchtime menu at Suesey Street which cleverly delivers just the right stuff to those who want to be in and out in 20 minutes (my advice would be to take a lunch box, but there you are), while also catering for those who believe that there’s an art to eating in the middle of the day and that it cannot be rushed.
Suesey Street seemed a bit contradictory when it opened first. The name suggested a nightclub while the crisp linen table cloths and sparkling stemware promised something really rather classical with a bit of Gallic style thrown. The food was exceptional.
In the meantime, it has had its ups and downs but with the advent of John Healy, he of the The Restaurant fame, Ireland’s best-known maitre d’, that has changed. The lunchtime menu became more flexible, the crisp linen went (it costs a mint to maintain) and, best of all, in came a new chef, Richard Stearn, late of Dax.
John is a master of calm leadership, as anyone will know who saw him coping with the ludicrous demands of Jackie Lavin on The Restaurant.
When she complained that her prawns didn’t sound right on delivery to the customers he arrived at the critics’ table and announced ‘Sizzle. Sizzle.’ To our bemusement. He had no need to add any sound effects to the seafood at Suesey Street.
I’ll miss John now that I have decided to leave the show. As I explained a few weeks ago in the Irish Mail on Sunday, it has changed too much and the sensible thing to do is to stand back and let it complete its transformation into the Marco Pierre White Show.
Anyway, on to what Suesey Street is like now, under the Healy baton and with a fine new chef in the kitchen.
A fine little starter, for both of us, of two plump scallops was perfect. The scallops are caramelised on the outside and just cooked within. Their deeply flavoured, nicely acidulated jus with emerald green baby broad beans offer the right kind of foil.
We decide to keep it simple and go for mains both from the lobster menu which promises and, indeed delivers, decadence combined with very good pasta.
Linguine has been cooked al dente and combined with nuggets of lobster meat, the whole thing pulled together by a tomato element that balances both the sweetness and the richness of the crustacean.
My own main is more elaborate, combining even more generous quantities of lobster meat and crab meat wrapped in silky sheets of pasta to create, in effect, a big, open ravioli. The unifying element here is a deeply flavoured and deeply terracotta coloured sauce made, no doubt, from an awful lot of shells.
We finished with a selection of cheese, all in excellent condition, and a glass of Rioja after our South African Chardonnay that had served as a fine accompaniment to the mains. With coffees, our bill came to just over €180.
Suesey Street is not cheap. It can’t be, because they do things properly. And we had explored the more luxurious end of the menu which proved, frankly, pleasantly worthwhile.