4 The Crescent
Co. Dublin
Phone: 01 284 4286

Irish Daily Mail
10 February 2018

When we first lived in Monkstown it was, by Irish standards in the 1980s, pretty multicultural. Most of the big old houses were in flats and in those flats lived poets, artists, retired hippies, nascent rock bands, distressed gentlefolk, relics of aul’ decency, students, struggling writers…

By the time we emigrated to Co Cork (but kept a bolthole in the area) Monkstown had changed. The cars were more expensive, electrically operated gates crept in and the big houses now had solicitors and accountants as the former denizens drifted away.

It’s odd, then, that it didn’t get any really outstanding restaurant. All this newly minted money sloshing about and no great cooking in the village.

Anyway, that has now changed. The cooking is by Temple Garner (of San Lorenzo’s, formerly of Dillinger’s and, way back, Town Bar & Grill), the management is under the baton of Conor Kavanagh (late of The Old Spot) and the décor is great. A touch of the grand nineteenth century bistros of Paris, a hint of art deco cocktail bar, a sense of space.

The menu has a strong French accent, but it’s not doctrinaire.

Take, for example, a dish of sage and squash gnocchi – and before you say they’re Italian, I’d remind you that some of the best are to be found in France, particularly down south. These gnocchi were as small as it’s practicable to make them and they were gossamer light. It was the rich fricassée of rabbit, super savoury, that seemed to confine them to terra firma. This was a stylish take on rabbit stew, one of the best things you can eat when done as properly as this.

Pièds de cochon, crubeens, trotters are always a good sign on a menu. These were deconstructed in the sense that the flesh was finely chopped and incorporated into little potato cakes and served with braised cabbage in the form of choucroute and a kind of Scotch egg made with boudin noir. It was a lovely dish but perhaps not earthy enough for the savage that I am. When I think of pig’s feet I visualise them boned and topped with mustardy breadcrumbs and grilled. But I have  feeling this may be too visceral for Monkstown.

One of the most effective ways of ensuring that monkfish is overcooked is to wrap it in ham, both in restaurants and at home. At Bresson, however, an impeccably trimmed piece of monkfish was lovingly wrapped in the sweetest Bayonne ham and cooked to the nanosecond of milky white, moist perfection. With crisp cubes of duck fat potatoes, this was bistro cooking as simple as it was perfectly executed.

And on to another classic, coquilles Saint Jacques: scallops in their half-shells with piped potato and a sauce that spoke of cheese and cream and, oh I don’t know, maybe a dash of Noilly Prat. The suggestion of brown shrimp and smoked haddock was inspired.

A perfect thin disc of tarte tatin was all about buttery pastry and sweet, caramelised apple, elegantly assembled and just as it should be. A scoop – strictly speaking a quenelle – of crème fraiche ice cream was a lovely counterpoint: creamy, silky, nicely tart beneath the veneer of vanilla sweetness.

And then a trifle of Armagnac-soaked prunes, classic combination of flavours (and one which Temple has retrieved from his gastronomic memory, I’m told). The crème Anglaise was spot on, just the right consistency, there was just enough whipped cream on top, no fancy pants presentation. And the cake and prune element was let down only by an over-cautious hand with the Armagnac. It needed more moisture and more kick. But it was no hardship to eat. I mention this as someone who makes his own trifle with a combination of Pedro Ximenez sherry and a ridiculously over-proof Jamaican rum. I advise guests not to drive for at least twelve hours afterwards. Or smoke, for that matter.

The bill, with mineral water and a bottle of South African Chenin Blanc, came to €147.