IN WHICH I FINALLY MAKE IT TO THE DUBLIN RESTAURANT
THAT EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT…
by Andy McFadden
128 St Stephen’s Green
Phone: 01 244 0733
Irish Daily Mail
16 June 2018
To be brutally honest, I was rather hoping to hate Glover’s Alley. Not because of the chef, because Andy McFadden is a good bloke. Not because of the money spent on trying to turn an uninspiring dining room into… er… a less uninspiring dining room.
No, it’s because we restaurant critics, if we are brutally honest, love to shoot down something that has been flying high in pre-launch mode, to confound expectations and maybe, just maybe, to suggest that we are so world-weary, sophisticated and brilliantly perceptive that we can see through the glitter and cut to the quick.
Logically, then, my brilliant lunch at Glover’s Alley should have been a terrible disappointment but, of course, it wasn’t. It was, as expected, quite expensive but not outlandishly so. I’m always amused at how many people who know nothing about the sharp end of restaurants think you can put on a performance like this at a budget price.
It was also an opportunity to understand what Mr McFadden’s cooking is all about. To put it crudely, a key characteristic seems to be having small explosions of startlingly pure and assertive flavours forming a kind of minefield of delight with all of the other elements on the plate.
The first amuse bouche was a jewel-like vegetable tartlet piled with tiny peas, broad beans, watchmakerly cut dice of radish, surgically sliced baby scallion and… who knows? A taste of a tiny sample was sharp, salty; taken as a mouthful it sang a vegetable harmony.
Whipped foie gras sandwiched between little sheets of impossibly thin and crisp pastry was pure, tongue-coating savouriness while gossamer light pearls of creamed feta gave a sharp saline kick to the fatty crispness of chicken skin.
Frankly, I could eat this kind of thing all day long.
We had the €80 three course menu and the €35 two course one. A starter described as white asparagus “tagliatelle”, button mushroom, aged Parmesan was a thing of blonde beauty. Beneath a small shroud of thin, silky pasta lay stacked shavings of asparagus, microtome-thin and still crisp. On top, an emulsion of the cheese with a clever, smart, subtle accent of nutmeg.
Asparagus appeared again on the dearer menu, green this time, with button mushroom, once again, very thinly shaved for texture and a little flavour, mustard and aged Belper Knolle, the Swiss cheese, shaved like truffle. The bringing together of the relatively subtle asparagus, the intensity of the cheese, the mild nuttiness of the mushroom and the tang of the mustard would, in theory, seem like a fool’s errand. But of course it worked.
Suckling pig, a piece of crisp belly and a confit version, came with thin, crisp slices of baby turnip, a kind of essence of chorizo and the sharp, slightly sweet tang of Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar, and once again, of course the disparate elements became something much more than the sum of its elements.
On the cheaper menu our main was cod, asparagus, hollandaise, watercress and, again, the disparate elements came together and created a consummate whole. The hollandaise tasted on its own was assertive to the point of bossiness but it was the unifying element with a certain green minerality coming from the watercress.
A pre-dessert was an exquisite little granita of raspberry and pomegranate (think of a celestial ice pop that has been blitzed to tiny shards of pure taste) came with crème fraiche and little fragments of dehydrated yoghurt. So, once again, something not to be attempted at home. And then a dessert of ethereal lightness and geometric perfection, a citrus (varied, including yuzu) soufflé on top of which a spirit level would have indicated completely plumb lines in every dimension.
This combination of citrus and egg white, so light that it almost floated away, supported a small rugby ball of Manjari chocolate ganache, as savoury as the soufflé was tartly sweet. I think I broke with the habits of a lifetime and actually said “wow!” aloud in a restaurant.
I’ll let you imagine the petits fours as they were in the same vein. With four glasses of perfectly matched wine, mineral water and coffee, the bill came to €185, service not included. With gratuity, I paid just a little over €200.
Worth it? For me, yes.