111 South Circular Road
Phone: 01 473 7409
Irish Daily Mail
30 January 2016
Let’s kick off with a bit of a caveat. I like Bastible very much indeed. In fact, if I didn’t live, most of the time, on a remote hillside where Cork and Waterford are aligned in an uneasy truce, you couldn’t keep me out of the place.
That’s not the caveat. It’s this. I don’t want people running away with the idea that one of Dublin’s most interesting and exciting restaurants is all about crisp linen and sparkling crystal and obsequious service.
I blame it on whoever invented the loathsome phrase “fine dining”; when used by an actual restaurant to describe itself, I run a mile.
If a restaurant is comfortable and the staff are nice you can concentrate on the food. And Bastible checks out very well on this score. The tables are bare, the fit-out is minimal, some might say spartan, the glassware is sensible and elegant, the crockery doesn’t distract from what goes on to it.
In other words, Bastible is a very confident restaurant, a very modern restaurant that eschews the vanities and fripperies of an earlier generation. So, you’ve been warned. Not a square inch of chintz, or carpet; Hyacinth Bucket would hate it.
A little amuse bouche of devilled chicken skin was fine, but might have been better just slow-roasted; another, of Crozier Blue and broccoli was better but the oil in which both had been cooked was a bit tired.
However, the menu proper was a revelation.
Sea trout tartare with pickled radish and seaweed crackers didn’t set my senses on fire. At least not at first. But thinking about it afterwards (and how often do we do that, eh?) I realised that I had simply expected something less subtle. This dish was, on reflection, a brilliant framing of sea trout with gentle enhancements (the crunch of the radish, the tang of its brine) rather than contrasts.
So, in fact, it was brilliant.
The other starter, centred on a veal sweetbread and very umami-ish onion and creamy deliciousness was so good that my impression of this dish is hazy. My companion snaffled most of it before I could clock it.
Roast monkfish was cooked to nanosecond of perfection, the temperature of the plate judged with equal precision, the choice of broccoli stem (crisp, juicy, fresh) delightfully unexpected (at least in Dublin) and the bisque-like sauce so intense yet perfectly suited to the context.
I have no idea how Barry FitzGerald makes milk curd dumplings but I’d like to. They were rich, silky, buttery and an inspired partner for salt-baked baby beetroots. The earthiness of the root vegetables (and a touch of smoke, I think) was further enhanced by a walnut... affair? Let’s say the presence of essential walnuttiness on the plate. This was one of the best and most unexpected dishes that I’ve eaten in ages.
I fear now that my descriptions of our puddings will simply not convey the element of magic in them. Yes, of course, poached rhubarb is a lovely thing but it was lovelier for being forced rhubarb and therefore candy pink and sweeter than the normal sort. Putting it with buttermilk pudding was clever, in terms of textures and flavours, adding ginger was the final touch.
No, that still doesn’t do it justice.
Nor will this. Imagine two discs of walnut biscuit, a kind of walnut brandy snap? Between these came very rich vanilla ice cream and, on the side, elegant little segments of blood orange. Sounds good, I know. But, in fact it was sublime.
I was going to add, rather tritely, that we eat as much with our eyes as we do with our molars and tongue. And yes, seeing the food at Bastible is a big part of the pleasure. But there’s more to it than that.
There’s a magic, a kind of alchemy, in how the flavours, textures, colours, everything that appears on the plate work together to create something much greater than the sum of its parts. That’s Barry FitzGerald’s genius.
I had come to this conclusion before he came over for a chat at the end of the meal. I’m glad I had said it to my guest too, because it turns out that Barry’s grandmother was Joan Barnes, my mother’s first cousin and one of her dearest friends. Dublin is a very small place.
With plenty of white and red wine, our bill came to €127.10. Bastible doesn’t just do seriously memorable and original food, it does value too.