I was a bit surprised when I received my invitation to join a small group of food writers for a “Gourmet Tour” of Dublin and its environs because when I think of Irish food, the old joke came to mind:
Q: What’s an Irish seven-course meal?
A: A potato and a six pack
Plus, after years of living in an Irish neighborhood in NYC, I was never a fan of the green beer and boiled-to-death corn beef & cabbage served at the local bars every St. Patty’s day. This certainly did not sound like the makings of a very promising culinary tour. However, the laugh was on me when I read the itinerary and saw that we would be dining one night at the highly touted Kevin Thornton’s, the country’s only native two-star Michelin chef, and the following evening at Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, Ireland’s only Michelin two-star dining establishment. Now we’re talking…a Celtic culinary throw-down!
Delectable Dublin in Two Days
The restaurant is sitting pretty on the top floor of the hip Fitzwilliam Hotel, overlooking the magnificent St. Stephen’s Green. After a recent remodel, the stark, stylish sepia-toned dining room now provides the perfect backdrop for showcasing gorgeous images from Thornton’s abstract food photography book, “Food For Life”. (A talented photographer, writer, teacher and chef…doesn’t this man ever sleep?) He is clearly a perfectionist, demanding the best ingredients to trigger his creative genius resulting in picture-perfect works of culinary art. Everything is prepared in house-starting with a fragrant basket of freshly baked breads including rustic pistachio, olive, sun-dried tomato rolls, sourdough baguettes, etc.
Five, eight and fourteen course seasonal tasting menus are offered or, if you don’t want to take out a bank loan, you can dine ala carte. My starter of Sautéed Prawns with prawn bisque, topped by a generously flavored Truffle Sabayon, had me thanking my lucky stars that I had selected a plain piece of sourdough since I shamelessly used it to wipe my plate clean. Obviously the Chef shared my penchant for truffles, so for my entrée I chose the Sea Bass with White Truffle Potato Puree, anointed with champagne sauce. The unique flavor combinations shone through with a freshness and purity that was never muddled, leaving me happily satisfied yet eagerly anticipating my dessert, a warm Prune and Armagnac Souffle with Pear Sorbet which provided just a whisper of sweetness.
Our consensus: Genuinely exceptional food featuring farm-fresh local ingredients prepared by a dedicated and extremely talented young chef that is well worth a splurge. The €45 lunch is an exceptional value in case you need time to save up for the 14 courses at €185.
Tip: If you are more of a DIY (Do it yourself-er) type then you’ll be happy to know that Kevin just can’t leave well enough alone and due to popular demand, will be holding Master classes at Thorton’s beginning February, 2009. Designed for couples, the class will begin with a morning in the kitchen preparing the 3 course menu with Kevin and his team, learning what goes into preparing Michelin starred cuisine. You’ll lunch on the fruit of your labors, paired with specially selected wines, finishing with coffee and petits fours and recipes to take home.
The cost per couple, (including lunch and wines) is €500.
(The above photo is Chef Kevin with his favorite pig.)