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23 March 2009

Tapas at Mint, Dublin

Dylan McGrath is offering great value with his early evening tapas menus at Mint, in Ranelagh, Dublin 6.
Leslie Williams seeks out the spirit of the age.

The budget early evening Tapas at Mint (Tues., Wed., Thur. 5.30pm - 7.00pm) costs €55 per person including 2 glasses of wine to match your menu. There are two menu options so this is a perfect couples night out that will allow for lots of food passing back and forth across the table. Portions are perfectly formed and there is lots of high quality bread for mopping up sauces so there is no possibility of leaving without feeling stuffed. I advise sticking with the plain breads as the others (olive, red pepper etc.) had a little too much oil in them for my taste.

The meal began with a red pepper jelly with avocado mousse and cod brandade; and a foie gras mousse served with potato puree. C's red pepper jelly was sweet and intensely flavoured, and my foie mousse was delicate and the potato flavours mingled better than you would think possible.

Next were a rich pumpkin soup and Parmesan cassonade for herself, and a perfect langoustine cassonade with apple and celeriac elements adding sweet and savoury flavours for contrast.

Scallop with celeriac and truffle puree and a (light as duck down) duck consomme with smoked bacon - as delicious as it sounds but made more so by the fact that as with the earlier courses the sauce flavours seemed like essences more than flavours. John Dory with blood orange, poached grapes and carmelised chicory was an interesting combination - the john dory a little over-cooked but the flavours zinging out and wrapping themselves around the mouth. Dotted around this dish we found tiny emeralds of coriander caviar - sequin sized globules of essence of coriander so intense in themselves that they almost blotted from my mind which course they came with - what reminded me was how well they worked against the blood orange.

A white Douro (Carm) and Sauvignon de Touraine were both in harmony with these early courses - great to see a delicious Portuguese white wine given a chance to shine with such quality food.

Lamb with courgette, bell pepper and Parmesan - tasting more subtle than it sounds, the little I was given to taste lingered long. A glass of Irancy (Burgundy) matched well - mostly because it was a delicious wine. My braised pigs cheeks, deep fried whisper-delicate bits of deep fried ear, pumpkin gnocci and bits of turnip were a delight. The Morgon served with it was a little sweet (as that wine should be), but there was enough going on with the pig bits to compensate.

A €15 supplement for a fine selection of cheeses to share - spanking fresh St. Maure de Touraine, creamy Bleu de Gex, nutty Comte, all in good condition and served with top quality preserves. A decadent glass of muscat Rivesaltes (for €11) and an intense Coonawarra cab from Balnaves - a little sweet and over extracted but still delicious - €14.

Dessert of coconut brulee, roasted pinapple, pineapple sorbet was about as pineapply as you could get with a nice contrast for the coconut. Raspberries with almond milk (subtle delicate almond milky flavour) was also very fine. Magnificent canapes as always - more than generous and well worth the 13 euro supplement - especially as we were given some extra home made apple and space dust lollypops to take home to the 8 year old - who generously gifted one to his teacher the next day (far more welcome than a mere apple).

A bill of €189 including service charge was excellent value for a meal of this quality and invention. Staff were charming and playful (e.g. making me guess my wine - of course I got it wrong!) and I wanted to go back the next day.

Mint Restaurat, 47 Ranelagh village, Dublin 6. ph: 01-497 86 55.