Heron & Grey
19A Main Street
Phone: 01 212 3676
Irish Daily Mail
13 February 2016
Dublin, as a place in which to eat out, gets better and better. We are a long way off the stage at which it becomes hard to lob a random brick without hitting a great little restaurant, but we have come a very long way and the rising tide of standards has raised even some unexpected vessels.
Adventurous eating has reached – just about – critical mass and a bunch of very talented, original and thoughtful people are serving the kind of food of which we didn’t even dream here a decade ago.
We can now add Heron & Grey, the tiny restaurant being run by Damien Grey and Andrew Heron in what was, until just a couple of months ago, the delightful Canteen in the Blackrock Market.
I’ve known Damien for years. Almost a decade ago he created a sensational meal for Johann and myself and our girls in Sydney, so news of his return to Dublin had me like a greyhound out of the trap.
And even though that news has been travelling quickly, we had the place to ourselves last Saturday for lunch. I suspect this is about to change.
Being the only lunchers brought certain fringe benefits to the €26 set lunch – and yes, you read that sum correctly. This has to be the best value in Ireland at the moment.
One of the benefits was an amuse bouche duck sabayon, as light as duckling down but profoundly, intensely, amazingly ducky, so to speak. And the coup de grace? Grated fresh truffle floating on top.
Then came what the menu baldly described as Beetroot – Honey – Rocket – Blood Orange. In fact, this work of abstract art on a plate was much more than the sum of its parts. The beetroot’s sweetness was brilliantly counterpointed with the bitterness of a dehydrated slice of blood orange, as crisp and as thin as a wafer. There were minute beetroot meringues dancing merrily with earthy rocket oil, and creamy, cheesy labneh doing the same with a kind of rocket purée. There was even a little leek ash. Yes I, too, was a sceptic, but I can confirm that it tastes of much more than burnt vegetable.
This was a starter of unimpeachable seasonality turned into a series of essences by a light, skilled, thoughtful hand.
Then came a further bonus, a palate cleanser of a kind of sour cherry foam with explosions of tart, fruitiness in the form of freeze-dried raspberries and crisp fragments of dehydrated milk (vaguely like very fine meringue).
The main course read Wild Venison – Parsley Root – Onion and, indeed, this is what turned up on the plate but the point of this dish was the synergy between the various elements and, for me, the lack of complication. It takes nerves of steel to cook as simply as this in a city where, despite our recent progress, too many people still believe that more is more.
The venison, aged for seven weeks had developed that deep mineral tang without any suggestion of decay. Cooked brilliantly rare – it was the colour of pomegranate juice – every mouthful was a detonation of layered, complex flavours.
The onion element was a very fine purée of sweet, white Roscoffs, smack in season and shamefully overlooked by most chefs. Its sweetness, combined with a savoury kick (plenty of sea salt, I’m guessing) was a very elegant balance to the earthiness of the parsley root (which I know and grow as Hamburg parsley, the parnsip’s much more sophisticated and urbane distant cousin). A further unusual touch was a little bouquet of black chickpea sprouts which at first I took to be sprigs of very tender thyme. Their spiciness turned the volume up on the earthiness and minerality of the rest of the dish to 11, á la Spinal Tap. But much more subtly than that implies.
Pudding was called Lemon – Olive Oil and it was a strange but lovely combination of an olive oil emulsion, slick and slightly peppery, with the bracing zing and zest of very adult x-rated lemon curd against a backdrop, if you like, of old fashioned sponge.
Then came – a bonus at lunch but part of the deal at dinner – a “post dessert” of chocolate: tiny spoonfuls of breathtakingly concentrated ganache, fabulously rich praline crunch and sweet caramel and chocolate mousse with a dusting of Cadbury’s Drinking Chocolate to evoke childhood memories. Fab.
With wine, mineral water and good coffee, the bill came to €120.