. Restaurants .

Posted: Thursday, November 18, 2010 at 9:00 PM
Location: Pearl Brasserie, Upper Merrion Street
Dining companions: My man

The Dubliner 100 Best Restaurants 2011 is out, and guess who won the Chef’s Chef award? Sebastian Massey of Pearl Brasserie .  Excellent news for me as I already happened to already have my table booked, woo hoo.

First up I should mention though that the process of booking the table did almost put me off going.  When I rang up and tried to reserve a table for any Thursday night over the next month, the only tables I was offered were 7pm tables that were required back for a 9pm sitting, or 9pm tables.  I suppose we were coming into the festive season so that might have been a factor, but the attitude did put me off a bit.  Personally, I think 7pm too early and 9pm too late, however I was lucky enough to have a €100 voucher so in reality I was going whatever the case.  7pm it was.

I do like the location of Pearl Brasserie, tucked down under Merion Street; with so much hustle and bustle above, it’s like a small haven.  I also like the layout and feel of the place – there’s a fab bar, and two main dining rooms.  The front dining room seems livelier and appears to seat larger groups.  The rear dining room is sedate and dimly lit but chances are you will find yourself talking in hushed tones so as not to disturb the peace.  There are also these little cubbies off the main entrance corridor in which you can dine – not sure I fancy one of those so much myself, everyone (myself included!) gawping in at you every time they walk past and they looked cold.  That might not be the case, but I know I’d be concerned in that drafty corridor.

We entered on the cold winter’s night, coats were promptly taken and we were ushered to the bar.  As it was a bit of a celebration I had a Bramble, and my man a tasty G&T.  They have a generous bar with a good cocktail list and a broad range of spirits – I think my man was given a choice of four different gins.  We were left next to the open fire to enjoy the cocktails, and browse the menu, although they were fairly keen to keep us moving along and wanted our orders in fairly soon.

I must mention that the service we received throughout the meal was good.  Staff were attentive, we had decent length breaks between courses and our glasses were kept nicely topped up.  On the wine, there is a broad range available and it was great to see that the Sommelier’s choice had a range of prices suitable for all.
We were given an amuse bouche of duck terrine but unfortunately the waitress couldn’t tell us what was on top of it and we just couldn’t figure it out!  It looked like an apple puree, but it didn’t taste like it.  Overall, it tasted fine.

I then had a crab and salmon ravioli to start with a salmon tartare, braised celery and a foam.  The whole plate was adequate, no star performers but I ate it all so it certainly wasn’t bad.

My man had the Tempura Dublin Bay Prawns.  The first one he had was lovely and crisp, but the others just weren’t.  The batter was too heavy and thick, more like what you would expect from the chipper!  They came with a beansprout salad which served as a wonderfully fresh accompaniment.

For mains we had scallops with coriander gnocci, and Pigeon two-ways.  Interestingly we couldn’t agree on which ‘way’ we preferred the pigeon – one was a breast, the other pigeon meat made into a ball, with a coating, deep fried and a bone sticking out of it.  The presentation of the ball was fabulous, but for me the breast really hit the spot.  The pigeon was served with pan fried foie gras which was silky and rich, and mousseline potatoes with black truffle which were stunning - I actually couldn’t get enough of these and was left wanting more, more, more.

The scallops were served with salsify and a prawn and saffron emulsion.  The scallops were different sizes, and I’m not sure that was taken into account in the cooking time as the smaller ones were over cooked, however the larger ones were very juicy and tasty.

When it comes to desserts for me at the moment, in fact when it comes to anything for me at the moment, it seems to be lemons all the way.  As such a lemon tart, jelly, meringue and sorbet had my name all over it. The bitter lemon taste made my taste buds smile - if only there had been more meringue it could have topped the tables for the night.

My man on the other hand is a chocaholic, something that is likely to become a recurring theme, but sure we all love chocolate don’t we so I figure that’s ok!  He had a white and dark chocolate marques and raspberry sorbet.  For us, this was actually the star of the meal – it was basically a chocolate mousse, but a seriously good chocolate mousse!
So, a couple of pre-dinner drinks, a bottle of wine, a dessert wine, a coffee and three courses each. €185. The quality is generally very good, but there really wasn’t anything outstanding enough in this meal for me to understand the Chef’s Chef award.  I remember going to Thornton’s and being blown away by some of the courses that arrived, the food really provoking discussion and thought – for example I ate there over a year ago and still vividly remember the sea urchin we ate.  I’m not sure I’ll remember any of this meal in a year’s time. 

Interestingly when we left at 9.15pm there were two empty tables, and ours making a third. At no stage during dinner had we felt rushed, and I think it was shame that they had made such a point of the staged bookings.  Unfortunately it has still left a bad taste in my mouth, but maybe I am just a little bit fickle.