Wednesday, March 31, 2010

In search of cappucino perfection

La Boulangerie, on Dublins Chatham Row, off Grafton street, in the heart of the city. The service is good - imprecise, but with such warmth and welcome that the occasional wrong table can be easily forgiven. This is a nice space to spend time in.

Not because of the decor - marbletop tables, bentwood chairs, a little too close to one another, in a relatively charmless room, but with a full glass door wall looking onto the street.

Not because of the music, commfortibgly and familiarly bad as all French Pop really should be. It's bad in entirely the right and gallicly perfect way.
But because of the sevice. Quiet, friendly, a place that feels genuinely pleased to have you in it.
To the coffee. The presentation made me smile. A really nice touch that. The coffee itself. It's that milky style of cappucino, with none of the balancing bitter notes excellent cappucino needs. I didn't need suger - I normally take one for good coffee, two for bad, and three and a serving of self loathing for the IFI stuff. This needed none. Just a long, milky bland dairy sweetness, with a hit of cocoa, but nothing oif he dark and beautiful bitter heart good cappucino needs.
I'll be coming back, but not for the coffee.

Friday, March 05, 2010

One Pico, lunch, March 3rd

One Pico have a lunch deal on at the mo - who doesn't.

Two courses for 19.95, three for 25.

Situated just off Molesworth street, the room, somewhat neutrally appointed with a too severe kind of.... greywash, curious, indifferent art pieces on the wall breaking up the decorative monotony. I don't get the paintjob, tipping the balance over to the oppressive side of banal.

The seating is comfortable, spacious enough, and the room seems to absorb sound - tables are quite close together, but at no stage did I feel as if anyone was party to my conversations, nor I to theirs.

Now to the meat, or, in the Luscious Bs case, the two veg.

The menu had some vegetarian options. Some, is, frankly not enough. Pico's sister restaurant, Bleu on Dawson street, has, on occasion, sported no veg main option on their lunch menu. Hardly a menu then, hunting and hungry for all available custom in a recession and urban setting.

One Pico had two starter veg options, and one main. On request, they offered a second main of vegetables in/on puff pastry ("we could do you some vegetables, I'll check if chef has puff pastry - this was the dish description), so nebulously described by our wrongfooted waiter as to be both unorderable and meaningless (I'll have the puff pastry wotsit, in no obvious sauce....).

My starter, a ham hock terrine, was insipid. Underseasoned, with none of the fatty, earthy big baconed herbiness I expected. No big taste - not even of ham. It felt like it was straight from the fridge too, The mouthfeel was....well, not gelatinous, moist fat, or melting. None of that rich and trottery smoothness. It was big, roughly cut chunks of fairly flavourless, and coarsely textured pink meat adhering to one another by guilt of association. Insipid. The attached sauces were well made, but, again, could well have been far more robust. Ham hock terrine. It should be rich, and delicious, melting into a layered and gelatinous mouth coating flavours, and soft, slow cooked meat texture. This was... Well. It matched the decor. It was designed to go unnoticed.

A main of rib eye steak, with one of those curious forts of chips, and a bearnaise was fine. Good texture and taste to the bearnaise, the meat, rested, and competently cooked, rare as requested, nicely maillarded, and moist, juicy, though with a string of gristle running right through it. One of my chips - I had four - was made from a spoiled spud, having that mealy texture and distinctly off taste.

The desert, an Amalfi Lemon tart, with raspberry sorbet, and three fresh raspberries was the most interesting. Curiously, raspberries, being an autumn fruit, I was not expecting too much. But the sorbet was packed with a massive raspberry flavour, just the right side of sour, and enough sweetness to give that really moreish taste that an excellent raspberry dessert can deliver. Really characterful, and well balanced, each aspect confidently delivered. One small quibble, a raspberry with, again, off flavours. Too overripe, and thinking about rotting....

The Amalfi tart. Good texture, though the pastry was a little bland. The tart was, however, too tame for my tastes. Maybe the chef was worried about having two distinctly tart and acidic components on one plate, but diluting the lemon aspect was...well. It's a lemon tart. Without the crisp and really fresh acidity, it's missing it's most distinctive and intrinsic characteristic.

Cracking sorbet though. Cracking.

Service was attentive, without being encroaching. We had everything we could want from the staff, and nothing we didn't. Perfect actually. And distinctly friendly and pleasant as we left too. By far (sorbet and company excepted), the most pleasant part of the experience.

Overall. Technically proficient food, in a comfortable room. Some underwhelming tastes, some competent and good components, and only one dish really worth revisiting for. I have no particular interest, on this form, of revisiting. That said, on reputation, and a history of good reviews, it deserves a revisit.

And on price, many of the cities eateries would deliver a lunch of far inferior quality and ambition.

One Pico
Tel: +353 1 6760300