A DEARLY LOVED SOUTH DUBLIN
INSTITUTION IS IN SAFE HANDS:
MY SEAFOOD SOLO
57 Deerpark Road
Phone: 089 423 5616
Irish Daily Mail
5 August 2017
It’s always worrying when a much loved establishment changes hands and Michael’s, as much part of south Dublin as the West Pier and crazy house prices, is just that. As I said in a review of its first incarnation, I suspect that Ross O’Carroll-Kelly’s mum lunches here. I can imagine her saying that people come there from as far away as Carrickmines and Blackrock.
So, despite reassuring noises from my south city culinary moles, it was with a degree of trepidation that I went back on a warm Summer evening, alone for once as (a) I’d forgotten to ask anyone to accompany me and (b) I had a good book on the go. There’s something very refreshing about gazing at a page that is not actually on a digital device, especially when dining solo.
Michael’s used to be all about a broad interpretation of Italian food with some ace baking thrown in, plus a cracking selection of wines which could be bought for consumption on or off the premises. The whole operation was suffused with the inimitable character of Michael Lowe.
When the business was sold it transferred to the company behind the excellent Kinara restaurants and the style changed. With the appointment of Gareth “Gaz” Smith as head chef last year, the emphasis has switched to seafood and steak. His background involves stints at Chapter One, The Chart House in Dingle and London’s The Ledbury so it’s no surprise that he cooks with confidence and panache.
So, how did I fare? Well, I came away thinking that Michael’s is just as brilliant as it always was, albeit in a completely different way. It’s not brilliant in the way that, say, Chapter One or Dax is. There are more ways than one of being a brilliant restaurant. This way involves being unafraid of simplicity, straightforwardness. It involves insistence on the best of fresh produce. Oddly enough, there are people who don’t get that, who have to have all the bells and whistles, the gold leaf garnish, the tortured, tweezered presentation that they think means serious food.
Michael’s is the kind of place where I will glance at the menu with interest but end up asking “what’s really good tonight?” That’s a dangerous question in certain establishments in that it presents an opportunity to off-load stuff that’s been hanging around a bit. Michael’s isn’t like that.
And so, I asked and found myself presented with a dish of lobster ravioli (someone had picked the “elbow” meat for this, something that must have taken the better part of a day). They came with a Dublin Bay prawn, further nuggets of lobster meat, some clams and the tiny fragments of deliciousness that are spider crab claws. And a buttery broth.
This was followed by the king of the sea, black sole or Dover sole as they call it across the water, cooked to the nanosecond of perfection. This is where the flesh is just done to point where it parts from the bones with ease but where the blood vessels that follow the skeleton (sorry about this!) remain red. It’s a devilishly difficult thing to do.
With a beurre blanc – butter is, happily, a theme here – and new potatoes with a herby garnish, this was as lovely as it was simple and unpretentious.
Being blessed with a small appetite, I reluctantly abandoned a quarter of the sole in order to be capable of tackling a dessert that I had seen arriving at a nearby table: a little lemon tart, crisp-shelled, sharp and tangy, with a raspberry compote and a sphere of rich vanilla ice cream. Perfect.
I’m ashamed to say that I subsequently lost the receipt for this splendid solo repast thanks to an overzealous clear-out of the non-monetary contents of my wallet. But a la carte prices are under €10 for starters and seafood or steak mains tend to be in the twenties.
Michael’s is not just a neighbourhood restaurant. It makes travelling worthwhile.