Lucinda is the critic the chefs love to hate

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - FRONT PAGE - Mar­cel’s Restau­rant, No 1 St Mary’s Rd, Dublin 4. Tel: (01) 660-2367

It’s funny how some new eater­ies man­age to hit the ground run­ning, while oth­ers make ex­cuses for their failings for weeks. Lo­cated in what was the for­mer Ex­presso Bar on St Mary’s Road in D4, fac­ing the Dy­lan Ho­tel, the new Mar­cel’s Restau­rant ex­udes just the per­fect mea­sure of con­fi­dent chic, with­out be­ing in any way over­bear­ing.

“You pre­sented me with sec­ond prize at Taste of Dublin this year — it’s the only prize we’ve ever re­ceived,” said the young man who greeted us on ar­rival. He turned out to be Omar Bux who, with Paul Rooney, op­er­ates the pop­u­lar Green Hen on Ex­che­quer Street. He was re­fer­ring to the Green Hen Tast­ing Plate, which won sec­ond place in this year’s ‘Best in Taste’. Phew, at least I was in good odour here, as I’d hes­i­tated, won­der­ing what he was go­ing to say…

We loved the am­biance at Mar­cel’s — the hints of Morocco in the decor, and much use of my favourite colour, Hermes or­ange, in the su­perb leather din­ing chairs and ban­quettes. Moroc­can ter­ra­cotta-coloured ‘tiled’ wall­pa­per, a brown-leather counter, wood floors, and chic Moroc­can hang­ing lights, were off­set by white napery, pretty blue-and-white Churchill plates, and Paul Costel­loe white-and-sil­ver china cof­fee cups. It has the feel of a neigh­bour­hood spot in Saint-Ger­main-des-Pres.

The menu ap­pealed, too. Starters (€6-€12) in­cluded rolled leg of guinea fowl with cocoa-bean puree, black­ened scal­lions, girolles and foie-gras mousse; while seared scal­lops were served with cauliflower puree, mushroom vinai­grette and crispy ba­con. Mains (€19-€28) prof­fered a 6oz beef fil­let with slow-cooked rib, pars­ley mous­se­line, glazed mi­cro veg­eta­bles and horseradish jus; monk­fish was served with chorizo, oc­to­pus, Parisi­enne pota­toes, an­chovy frit­ters, and a ca­per-and-al­mond-spiced honey but­ter. Rump of lamb came with sweet­breads, and duck breast had breaded foie gras fon­dants, Tus­can kale and five-spice jus.

All of them sounded great, and I will re­turn soon, but I had ear­lier seen a good Early Bird, which runs from 5-7pm, Sun­day to Thurs­day, with two cour­ses at €20 and three cour­ses at €25.

My friend Paul’s starter was a ma­hogany-brown, moist, rich, melt-in-the­mouth, glazed pork cheek. It sat on a con­trast­ing cool, fresh pil­low of wa­ter­melon, with wa­ter­melon cubes, al­monds and rocket sprin­kled around. I had a cool, clear pre­sen­ta­tion of cured salmon, off­set with cu­cum­ber rib­bons, lines of av­o­cado puree, with a lime and ca­per dress­ing. Per­fect.

Mains in­cluded pan-fried cod with cocoa beans, brown shrimp, mixed herb and mus­sel veloute; while the veg­e­tar­ian dish was cele­riac can­nel­loni, veg­etable Brunoise, wild-rice crispies and Wal­dorf salad. We could happily have had ei­ther of th­ese dishes, but Paul had slow-cooked rib of beef, again dark, rich and suc­cu­lent, sit­ting on a vi­brant green pars­ley mous­se­line, tweaked with glazed mi­cro veg­eta­bles and a horseradish jus. I had roast breast of chicken, which was cut in half length­ways and up­ended into sculp­tural peaks. It nes­tled on golden, aro­matic Parme­san and truf­fle po­lenta and was scat­tered with smoked lar­dons, baby onions and baby leeks. Side or­ders were also avail­able at €3.50.

To fol­low, we shared a fan­tas­tic, moist choco­late pave with black­cur­rant sor­bet and can­died pop­corn; and poached peaches with Cham­pagne sor­bet, peach soup and bis­cotti, both of which were laid out on rec­tan­gu­lar plates that high­lighted the ele­ments of each dish. With a bot­tle of Mount Au­riol Viog­nier 2011 (€28) bot­tled wa­ter (€8) and two cof­fees (€4.40) our bill with op­tional ser­vice came to €96.40.

Fin­ish­ing our wine and wa­ter out front on the hedged-in ter­race, we cog­i­tated on the cook­ing and in­ten­sity of flavours here, which were so good. If they keep it up, they might steal first prize next year.­cin­dao­sul­li­

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