IN WHICH A PLUM CRUMBLE COLLIDES VIOLENTLY WITH A PORK CASSEROLE AND THE MORAL IS:
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Fallon & Byrne
11-17 Exchequer Street
Phone: 01 472 1010
Irish Daily Mail
14 October 2017
How do I love Fallon & Byrne? Let me count the ways.
There’s the outstanding butchery department with all provenance clearly stated and butchers who really know their stuff. And the cheese counter with staff who have educated me on obscure aspects of the art of dairy. And the wine selection, carefully chosen, quirky. The fruit and veg with some of the best tomatoes you can buy, and golden chanterelles if you can’t find your own.
There’s the vast wine bar/bistro in the basement with good, simple food and absolute bargains in vinous form.
And there are the prices. Fallon & Byrne could so easily be greedy. It’s not and this is something you will see if you browse in the pretenders to the F&B crown, especially the latest one. I never mind spending money here, because I know the quality will equal the value.
Oh, and I also love the dining room upstairs. In a city with many restaurants but relatively few impressive dining rooms, it’s lovely: high-ceilinged, capacious with smoky old mirrors that add a further dimension to the space.
I returned there after a long absence and was sure that the food would be consistent with the rest of the place. It wasn’t.
Now, it wasn’t actually bad, but it didn’t live up to rest of this temple of gastronomy.
Scallops on a slate. How very 1990s. There’s a reason plates were invented. Anyway, they were very thoroughly seared but not overdone. Nor over-generous. There were three of them. Crisped spinach, heavily salted, was an unusual addition and quite good. Together with discs of roast celeriac and a caper and raisin purée, this was the best dish of the night.
A three-way riff on onions that formed the basis of a good soup came within shouting distance of hitting the spot. Elegantly presented, the soup was poured over three dollops of cheese fondue. It came with crisp shallots and some smoked onion purée. So far so good but it lacked depth, the concentration you expect when one ingredient is being showcased. All it needed was good stock and more seasoning.
Wicklow venison was served appropriately rare but, if you closed your eyes, it could have been beef. Good beef, but with venison you expect a gamey, earthy dimension that was absent. It came with seasonal blackberries. The hedgerows are weighed down with them, but these were the huge flavourless cultivated ones that unadventurous urbanites buy in punnets.
The meat, sliced, lay on a deep bed of red cabbage, a classic accompaniment, but on this occasion undercooked. There are two ways to have red cabbage: raw, finely shredded or thoroughly and slowly cooked with tart apples to provide balance. This was tough and needed acidity. The menu mentioned “chocolate oil”. We didn’t notice any and wondered if the kitchen had been distracted by this “cool” ingredient from just getting the basics right.
Shoulder of pork from Pigs on the Green was, predictably, full of flavour and a reminder of how slow cooking is something to be cherished. The ubiquitous butternut squash made an appearance as a purée. As to where the intrusive and raw cumin flavour was coming from, I’m not sure. If the spice had been toasted first, it might have made sense. As it was, it seemed utterly random.
A kind of plum compote needed to be sharper, the crispy potatoes needed to be crispier and what the “amaretti crumb” was doing here, I have no idea. Oh for heaven’s sake!
It was as if a plum crumble had collided violently with a pork casserole. Wilted rocket – some kind of leaf, at any rate – was good but this wildly over-ambitious dish lacked coherence. The moral of this dish: keep it simple.
We shared a plate of cheeses to finish. Intense Mount Leinster, good Gubbeen, excellent Cashel Blue and a runny Camembert with grapes and a little membrillo.
With aperitifs, a bottle of red and a bottle of San Pellegrino mineral water but no coffees, the bill came to €145.