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21 November 2007

Restaurant Review: Bon Appetit, Malahide, Co Dublin

Oliver Dunne is making his mark in Malahide. Caroline Byrne has a thoroughly wonderful time.

Restaurant Bon Appetit is a totally different affair from its bistro style counterpart, Café Bon, downstairs. In its classic style, the manner of its front of house and most of all its food, Oliver Dunne demonstrates his deep understanding of what a fine dining experience is. To begin with we enjoyed a glass of wine in the bar, ascending to the dining room when we were ready. Our host was gracious and never attempted to hurry us in spite of the fact that we were running a little late. The room upstairs is elegant, combining classic and modern elements to create a stylish yet comfortable space. The only thing detracting from the ambiance was the choice of background music that seemed very out of place and bordered on being too loud. Once seated our drinks were returned to us, the menus were distributed along with the ample wine list and we were left to make our selections.

Looking through the repertoire of classical French dishes, there was plenty of the current season in evidence. Irish new season lamb, beetroot, a range of woodland mushrooms, roasted hazel nuts and a variety of game made for tempting options. We chose boudain of skate and braised pork belly with girole purée and crispy capers, and roast breast of quail and confit legs with red onion purée to start. After we'd chosen the mains I selected a bottle of Meursault Côtes de Beaune, Faiveley 1989 but then, on recommendation from the sommelier, I switched to the 1997 Moray, also Côtes de Beaune, for that extra bit of weight. This proved to be very good advice and there was no difference in price. After a palate cleanser of sparkling apple with elderflower foam we were treated to a little amuse bouche - a boudain of confit rabbit with beetroot puree and roast artichoke dressed with a balsamic reduction - a delicious morsel to whet our appetites for what was about to come.

The starters were perfect. Each plate was elegantly composed to place emphasis on the many combinations of flavours and textures that comprised each dish. The fatness of succulent pork belly and creamy girole purée was cut by the sharpness of the capers, and on the other side of the plate, meaty skate combined girole purée, or a bite of crisp, salty pork crackling created a completely different experience.

Our main courses, the slow cooked rack of new season lamb and braised shoulder with rosemary jus and creamed potato, and pan fried Dover sole in a red wine sauce with fondant potato, were equally good. This time the main ingredient of the dish took centre stage. Both the lamb and the fish were cooked to perfection and neither meal was overcomplicated, containing a perfect balance of flavour and well judged portions.

Once the empty plates had been cleared away we were offered an interesting pre-dessert of passion fruit purée and Szechuan pepper foam on top of white chocolate crème anglais, followed by the main desserts - coconut parfait and caramelized pineapple, accompanied by whiskey crème anglais and coffee ice cream served on the side, and 'apple assiette' which was accompanied by a glass of apple juice and elderflower foam. Whilst all was delicious we did feel that the 'sidecar' elements of this course were unnecessary and contributed little to their respective dishes.

We finished dinner with a selection of French cheeses with which I opted to have a glass of Sandeman 1977. This was a perfect end to a perfect evening - my only criticism is of the lack of Irish cheese included in their selection. It may be a French restaurant but that's no reason to ignore our own excellent products. The entire bill came to €274 which we felt was a fair price for a fantastic dining experience. This is an exceptional restaurant.