1 to 6 Molesworth Place
Phone: 01 676 0300
Irish Daily Mail
5 December 2015
I can just about remember when Molesworth Place was home to The Soup Bowl, Peter Powrie’s restaurant that was patronised by the upwardly mobile towards the end of the 1960s; it was said to be like Nick Tinné’s Snaffles on Leeson Street, run by enthusiastic amateurs for their well-heeled young friends whose parents stuck with The Russell, the Lafayette at The Royal Hibernian and, while it was still there, Jammet’s.
It was the end of an era and the 1970s in Dublin was a barren desert as far as serious food was concerned. The “in” place was the ludicrous Mirabeau in Sandycove, run by the flamboyant tax dodger Sean Kinsella, a temple to the kind of conspicuous consumption that you get in an insecure provincial city. That’s what Dublin had become.
Things didn’t get a whole lot better for quite a while. I suppose it was in the 1980s when an old premises on Molesworth Place was converted from a car battery workshop to what passed in those days for a glamorous restaurant. Polo One, owned by a businessman with an accent that strove very hard to be posh, became the new “in” place for those who needed a rest from Guilbaud’s.
Well, we have come a long way. Dublin at this stage is a food destination, punching way above its population in terms of restaurants. The Mirabeau is now a private house and Polo One was transformed, quite a long time ago, into One Pico by Eamonn O’Reilly.
I ate here about six years ago with Richard Corrigan and found the whole thing – menu, décor, the works – quite pleasant but frankly a bit dated and tired. Well, there has been a transformation: One Pico is now firing on all cylinders and performing better than it ever did in the past.
To be honest, I didn’t intend reviewing. I just wanted to have a quiet business lunch with two associates and it seemed sensible to go somewhere central. In the end, I was hugely impressed.
The dining room is calm and quiet, decorated in subdued shades, the chairs well upholstered and exceptionally comfortable. The service, too, is comfortable, anticipating your needs, polished and discreet. All in all, there’s a sense of being looked after – undemonstratively but all the more effectively for that – and that One Pico is something of a refuge from the hurly burly outside.
The menu has a French accent and a classical grounding but with flourishes that come from very much the here and now. For example, a starter of cured organic salmon is generous, simply presented and accompanied by the richness of avocado, this whole deceptively simple dish enlivened and electrified by two forms of citrus: pleasantly bitter grapefuit and the acidic tang of calamansi (which is a relation of the kumquat).
Our other starter featured, as its star, the tart purity of St Tola goat’s cheese, as fresh as a newly emerged daisy, snow white and delicious. Tiny salt-baked beetroots and a properly concentrated beetroot jam, sweet but far from cloying, created a lovely foil while candied nuts delivered a little more sweetness and some earthy notes. Tiny pink beetroot meringues were a decadent touch.
Ignoring the fact that there’s nothing like an artichoke (of either form, Jerusalem or globe) to kill a wine stone dead, I insisted on having gnocchi with them. I say them, because I found some baby globe artichoke (the bottled kind that are, frankly, over-acidic) along with the advertised Jerusalem ones. But the stars of this dish was a cep foam, light, creamy and intensely mushroomy, and the lightly caramelised gnocchi. A softly poached egg completed a very pleasant picture.
Butter basted chicken was (a) proper chicken with real flavour and (b) thoroughly buttered. What more can one ask for? Well, the smoked bacon lardons and intense carrot purée made a fine coup de grace.
This is simple, elegant cooking without any redundant fripperies. There are no bells and whistles, no sense of the chef shouting “Look! No hands!” That sense of comfort you get on entering the dining room is present on the plates. But it’s not easy. This is a case of art concealing art.
We finished with a portion of Knockdrinna cheese, made from ewe’s milk in Co. Kilkenny, served with quince jelly (or membrillo) and chutney, and a pannacotta.
Not just any pannacotta, a suitably soft and floppy pannacotta served in a glass with a topping of blackberry and a sharp yoghurt sorbet.
We split the bill between the three of us and the price per head, including tip, a glass of white and a shared bottle of Cahors, came to €60.