Thursday, November 05, 2009

Lunch for two at L'Ecrivain, set lunch menu, €25pp


3 course lunch for two
1 glass of Prova Regia white wine (fresh, fruity, good length, good balance of acidity)
1 glass of house Prosecco
1 coffee
12% optional service charge included.

Pro’s: Everything. Service, price, atmosphere, food.
Cons: Slight oversalting, to my palate (on the veloute, pithivier, and chicken).
Is cucumber jelly a one taste pony?
Uninspiring risotto option on the vegetarian menu, suffers by comparison with the overall quality
Summary: Bargain. Absolute bargain. Wonderful service. Relaxed ambience. Michelin quality food. At a cheap, cheap, cheap price. Ditch Carluccios, Avoca, and go for this. It’s the best quality to price ratio I’ve found so far.

Having recently swelled the ranks of the unemployed, the Luscious B invited me out for a celebratory/commiserating nosh up at the famed L’Ecrivain, hoping that poking my gob into a Michelin starred nosebag would cheer me up somewhat, popping my Michelin cherry incidentally as we went.

As we gigglingly tried to penetrate the Frenchly untranslateable aspects of the menu (I’ve never had a Pithivier before – the Luscious B’s mushroom one looked delicious, her reaction confirmed this), and wondered whether we should ask for spoons with our coffee cups of (complimentary) pumpkin veloute, the first sip of subtly spiced soup brought home exactly how much of a bargain this was going to be....

The dining room is spacious, subtle, and well decorated, the space feels welcoming, neutral, and unthreateningly adorned. The space between tables is generous-spirited, and ample, in stark contrast to the hemmed in cattle-pen type troughery on offer in other parts of the city. It’s a pleasant space to spend time in.

Unthreatening is a curious choice of words, but I’ve never managed to entirely shake off that Blackpitts born sense of unhomeliness in places where the waiter helps you out of your coat, and your bags are slickly and unknowingly stowed for you. Places where the waiters are better dressed than I am.

The service, from greeting to goodbye put me entirely at ease. A sparkly eyed Eastern European waitress obviously happy in her work, enthusiastic about the food, and our appreciation of it, and knowledgeable about the plates on offer sealing the sense of entitlement that settled me comfortably into the role of high rolling customer. It helped that some people were dressed quite informally, and that the room was in no way dominated by the pin stripe suit brigade. With those weirdly elongated narrowed not quite pointed patent shoes so popular with the cheaper suited variety.

As we struggled gamely with the more arcane aspects of the menus (the Luscious B is a vegetarian, and was able to order from the vegetarian menu, and mix with the main menu, with no issue), and ordered, the complimentary veloute arrived, in white coffee cups, caparisoned with a coconut milk froth. The veloute was mildly and carefully spiced, and designed to complement the froth perfectly, the serving cup ensuring that a morsel of cappuccino like froth was ingested with every delicate slurp. Delicate, careful, and fastidious, it was a perfect introduction to the rest of the meal, and marked out the dining experience as one entirely other to the standard mill of adequate afternoon eateries busy city dwellers abide with. Somebody had though carefully about this this, and loved it enough to make us do the same.

For starters, I order the citrus cured salmon, wrapped in dill, and served with a cucumber jelly, an avocado mousse and melon. Delicious. The cucumber jelly an entirely unexpected and surpising taste, emerald on the slate plate, and served alongside a slivered jewel of fresh cucumber, the salmon wonderfully textured, soft, still slightly meaty....

The main course, served with a side of braised cabbage, and boiled potatoes (how can boiled potatoes be quite that vibrant, quivering little cushions of carbohydrate light, amazing things, alive with taste, meltingly angelic spud of a thing) was chicken, so succulent and soft it may have been sous vide, with a beef jus, mushroom veloute, and trompette mushrooms, served with a light horseradish aioli. The combination of tastes was intelligent, horseradish and beef as classic combinations, the beef jus bring out the umami of the mushroom veloute, and the trompettes atop singing clearly that baritone mushroom flavour that was the rhythm of the dish, and concentrated my palate on savouring the combinations.

The chicken, juicy, beautifully cooked, the skin soft, salted, and echoing the umami flaours that unified the dish. I stopped talking. I looked into space. I may have shed a tear for what I thought chicken had been. I was gloriously depressed at my own efforts in the kitchen. I thought about every bite I ate. Carefully. It was emotional. Even the memory of it is making me dewy eyed, and nostalgic. It was “A Moment”.

Dessert was Cherry Financier. A finger of warmed sponge inset with three dollops of chocolate, with a quenelle of chocolate mousse, and a yoghurt sorbet. Engrossing. Grunt inducing. Light, luscious, beautifully textured. It spoke to me. Made me feel like a kid with his hand in a tin of Cadburys fingers that no one else knows about. Mucky, greedy, and utterly grubby with cocoa......

It’s a must. At €25 a pop, it’s Michelin starred madness. If you love food, love the recession. Because with deals like this, you’ll eat better than you ever have. Well. An afternoon at Carluccios’ will set you back the same, and you’ll walk out with the same feeling that the people preparing your food put into it - lethargic, uninspired, and slightly exploited. For the quality, the deal is fantastic. Go now. It’s the most quality packed €25 you‘re likely to spend this decade.


+353 1 6611919

109a Lower Baggot St., Dublin 2 (courtyard just off lwr Baggot street, beside number 109 - Google Maps has the wrong location)


Felix said...

Ah Luscious B; the purveyor of marvellous, gastronomic temptations...

I am almost tempted to travel back to Dublin just to eat in this marvellous palace of dreams which you describe so evocatively here.

And 'the hemmed in cattle-pen type troughery' description of the floorplan/layout in lesser eateries amused me greatly.

There is nothing worse than feeling like you are being elbowed all over by furniture when you are trying to eat a nice meal, and yet so many places impart this sensation through their terrible arrangement of chairs and tables.

Your meal sounds wonderful; I am now off to try and understand what a veloute is...

Keith said...

Yeah. I had to pick up my A to z of cooking thingy to catch up on what it was I had eaten.

Planning another Michelin budget munch next month too.....