Halfway through the dinner, our friendly, knowledgeable sommelier was changed. No longer were we introduced to the wine, the region, the year, the reason it was paired – instead, were poured a very small glass of what could have been anything for the rest of our 120 EUR wine-pairing extra. This pissed me off. I decided that I’d test his knowledge, so when our elegantly-plated squab arrived, I asked, “Why did you pick this wine out of interest?”.
“Uhmm, uhhh…..because it goes well with the meat?”
Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud is well-renowned as one of the most consistent, exciting, and expensive restaurants in the Republic of Ireland and is the only place in the country with 2 Michelin Stars; a status that the restaurant has held since 1996. It is set in a stunning, 18th century townhouse in a beautiful hall with spectacular lighting. We visited midweek and the room was packed with a very mature, business-like crowd with the odd spattering of overseas tourists. There was a lively buzz in the air and it’s clear the restaurant is doing very, very well.
Upon arrival, the wife and I were greeted like family and led to a cosy bar whilst the staff got our table ready. We were asked about our food choices and we both chose the degustation menu with wine-pairing. We then selected a couple of glasses of Pierre Moncuit Rose – a bit of a budget (I say budget – at 25 EUR a glass you’d beg to differ, but you can pick up a bottle for the same price in stores), unknown-to-us Champagne that was actually very palatable; not too fizzy, with an underlying sweetness that made us sink it way quicker than we should have.
After we finished our glasses, we were kind-of stuck in limbo for 20 minutes. I must admit – I’m a bit of a twat when it comes to dining at Michelin-starred restaurants, in the sense of, I won’t ever ask the staff for a drinks-refill as I expect them to have awareness of my existence and needs (especially paying the prices RPG charge!), but after so much waiting I collared a member of staff who flusteredly went through the wine menu for a few drinks options for dinner – a little odd when we’d already selected the wine pairing! We politely explained this and he apologetically left – AND STILL DIDN’T OFFER US A DRINK WHILE WE WAITING! D’oh.
Finally, we were let to the table where we admired the jaw-dropping setting before sitting down. The wife is a restaurant designer so is my go-to when it comes to getting the lowdown on the layouts and design aspects – despite being able to hear the boisterous businessmen/businesswomen on the table next to us, we felt like we had plenty of space and were able to enjoy conversation at a normal volume – always something that helps with the dining experience.
One of the waiters came over with a swagger and asked us, “have you dined with us before?”, I responded, “no….but as the only 2 Michelin-starred restaurant in Ireland, I’m looking forward to something special!”, with all the confidence in the world he replied, “don’t worry – it will be special!” and glided off. “We’ll see sunshine, we’ll see!”, I thought.
In our wait in the bar, I joked with the wife, “What if the courses were a “cup a soup”, a sandwich and potted jelly”, so when our first course arrived – a small mug – filled with soup – we kind of looked at each other with some trepidation. It wasn’t particular amazing either, a thin-but-creamy-and-mildly-foamy cauliflower soup that if I was blindfolded, and told it was Batchelor’s, I wouldn’t have questioned it.
The first course was the “Red King Crab and Cucumber Maki, Lemon Croquant, Bombay Sapphire and Mint, Vanilla Oil” and it was tasty! All the elements worked nicely together, the crab tasted fresh and the roll looked very pretty on the plate. I didn’t really pick up the gin element in all honesty, but it didn’t take away from any of the enjoyment.
Second up was a course I just didn’t get: “Wye Valley Asparagus, Walnut Custard, Green Peppercorn and a Parmesan Croquant”. Again, it was plated prettily but I just didn’t get those pops of flavour that you’d expect from a relatively simple dish in a degustation. The coating on the asparagus was devoid of flavour and the only positive was the croquant – but a parmesan crisp with a sprig of asparagus just didn’t excite us.
The third course landed and my heart sank. I have three real dislikes when it comes to food; olives, dried fruit and warm pineapple and this dish was a plump foie gras sat on a podium of pineapple cubes. Fera (Claridges, London) managed to convince me that artichoke wasn’t as horrendous as I thought when I had a recent degustation there, so I tackled the dish with an open mind. Unfortunately, I still just don’t like it. I mean, I get that this type of liver is obscenely rich and you need something acidic to cut through it (which the wine did well), but us was too powerful and totally took away the taste from the outstanding piece of duck foie gras, I’d go as far as to say it was the best I’ve ever had as well – truly stunning.
The starters finished and we moved onto the first of the mains – a succulent piece of lobster, swimming in a rich, creamy, sweet/sour sauce. This is the level of food we were expecting all night and we demolished it alongside the wine. Everything sang on the plate and I unashamedly mopped up the remaining sauce with my fingertips to the amusement of the waiters.
You may have noticed a bit of ambiguity creeping in when it comes to the descriptions of the dishes – usually (or at least from all my previous experiences), you’ll get a menu – either before or after, explaining all the dishes you ate and the wine pairings. Sadly, at the end of the night they told me they didn’t provide this but would email me the details, but after following up twice, it doesn’t look like I’m going to get it – which is a shame as some of the dishes I can’t seem to find on their online menus.
The second main was arguably even better – “Roast Anjou Pigeon, Griotte Cherry, Almond Milk and Pointed Cabbage”. If there’s one thing that the restaurant has perfected, it’s plating. The dish was presented under a cloche and unveiled as if a piece of rare art – we couldn’t wait to tuck in. We were served a red wine that had extremely high levels of tannin, which led to the exchange in my first paragraph – to be fair, he was right – it did go well with the meat, but a little bit more love and passion wouldn’t go amiss. The pigeon was cooked medium-rare and the sauce was divine – for the second dish in a row, I had to forgo general etiquette and took great pleasure in scooping the delectable remains with my finger.
Being an Englishman, I’m used to cheese being the finale of a dinner, so it was a little unusual to be served the cheese course next – not that I was complaining, any time is a good time for cheese in my opinion. This part of the night was one of our favourites as well, selecting from an eclectic mix of mouth-watering cheeses and receiving a wine/port to go with each of our choices. I picked the stilton, the comte and one that actually looked like a piece of salmon (I forgot the name of it – sorry!). All three had their merits, the comte gorgeously nutty and sharp, the stilton characteristically intense and the salmon-one salty and rich with the wine-pairings complimenting each one perfectly.
Next up, dessert: “Green Apple Parfait, Fennel, Lemon, Velvet Cloud Yoghurt”. I’m not a huge fennel fan as it’s very easy to overpower a dish with it but thankfully, it was used cleverly in the dish. The parfait had a lovely tang that you’d expect from green apple and the velvet cloud yoghurt looked and tasted fantastic, the subtle tones of the fennel came through subtly and gave the dish an interesting other dimension, definitely a dish that got the taste buds tingling.
The final dish was the “Contemporary Dark Chocolate Tart with Bourbon Vanilla Ice Cream”. One of the staff mentioned it to us when telling us about the menu choices and it seems as if it’s somewhat of a signature dish – especially from the way the staff-member spoke so passionately about it. Now, I do love me some chocolate, but holy-hell it was rich – too rich. The ice-cream was deliciously creamy and the crisp over the chocolate added some texture, but it just was unfinishable. Maybe some raspberry coulis or another sharp fruit could have saved it, but neither of us could eat more than half.
By the time we left, we were the last ones in the hall but it was nice to not feel like they wanted to get rid of us which sometimes happens. We got the astronomical bill and were give a final sweet as a leaving gift and the same warm exit as we were given upon entry.
Overall, we did have an enjoyable night and devoured at times some fantastic food, but a few dishes didn’t quite work for us and a couple of service issues tarnished the experience somewhat.
FOOD: 10/15 – some highlights, but too many unenjoyable dishes for the price.
SERVICE: 11/15 – left us waiting for drinks in the bar and had a questionable sommelier for the second half of the meal but overall, the food came out at a fantastic pace and most of the staff were polite, efficient and knowledgeable.
DRINKS SELECTION: 5/5 – a wine menu like a phone book and some unusual champagne options.
AMBIANCE: 4/5 – went midweek and the restaurant was full with a mature crowd.
DESIGN: 4/5 – minimal design touches as the dramatic hall is more than enough to impress.
VALUE: 1/5 – 700+ EUR (including 10% tip) for a meal for 2 with one glass of champagne and small glasses of wine for the pairings. Need I say more?
CONCLUSION: I have eaten at a fair few fine-dining restaurants across the likes of London, Sydney, Melbourne, Dubai over the years, and when a restaurant takes the accolade of being “the most expensive place I’ve ever eaten at” then I expect perfection. Unfortunately, too many dishes didn’t hit the mark and the service just wasn’t up to scratch compared to some of the other places I have visited.