On my first day of play school, an event of such cringe-worthy shame fell upon me that I can recall it as if it were yesterday. I had arrived late in The Tiny Tots Class of ’86 and all the usual pre-school cliques had formed with resounding permanence, leaving me feeling a little wobbly-of-lip on my arrival. I was sat next to a boy called Gareth Mitchel – a snot-nosed little rotter he was too – and I joined in on the morning’s activity of drawing a carrot.“Bloody hell,” I whispered under my breath, my four year old brain reeling. For all the My Little Ponies in the world, I could not remember the shape of a carrot. I knew it was orange but…I took a gamble and drew a rectangular orange glob with bits of green coming out the top.
“Haha! That’s not a carrot! Hey, look, everyone! The new girl doesn’t know what a carrot looks like! Hahhah!” *cue blurry and probably inaccurate memory montage of children pointing and laughing*
And so, you can see that I intrinsically understand the acute embarrassment of mixing up one’s legumes. So when the waitress at The Greenhouse restaurant mistakenly identified my exquisitely fried slithers of cauliflower as broccoli, do you think I rubbed her nose in it? No, I did not, Gareth Mitchell. And not only because of my sensitive nature but because when food is so perfectly prepared as it is at The Greenhouse, it doesn’t really matter what you call it.
Myself and my pal Chelsea were out for a ladies lunch on a Friday afternoon at the Dawson Street establishment, formerly known as Bleu. Behind The Greenhouse is One Pico proprietor Eamon O’Reilly. Its star is Finnish chef Mickael Viljanen, formerly of Gregan’s Castle, the award-winning luxury hotel in The Burren. We had arrived a little after noon and saw the place fill up to the brim by the time we left an hour and then some later, wafting back out onto Dawson Street in a happy food-induced daze.
I had started with the Clare Island salmon which sat next to an egg yolk confit and came dotted with pickled cucumber, micro greens and a few other perfectly placed blobs of concentrated flavour with a final dusting of horseradish snow to finish it off. Chelsea’s guinea fowl and foie gras tortellini arrived solo in a stunning slate bowl while its accompanying girolle mushroom velouté was administered by one of our waiters.
Her main course of glazed cod with mussels, peas, broad beans and bacon was only improved by its malted truffle butter which brought this sublime fish dish to extreme heights of loveliness. My slow roasted chicken was more juicy and flavoursome than any other roasted chicken I’ve experienced, with the aforementioned cauliflower, spiced brown butter, capers and raisins adding a glorious sweetness to this super fabulous dish. We shared the utterly exquisite dessert of bitter sweet chocolate tart with apricot purée, caramel sorbet, jasmine foam and milk crisps.
The food here is, well, kind of perfect. It’s delicate in its design yet powerful in its delivery. A culinary artist – certainly a much better one than I – sits at the helm of the kitchen, creating dishes that makes the ordinary quite extraordinary.
I found the ethereal quality of the food at an odds with what I saw as the bland modernity of the room. I would love to be served this food in a more rustic, natural environment, so as to let the exquisite food shine without distraction. The service, although perfectly professional, seemed fussy in comparison to the attentive precision of the food. I closed my mind and day-dreamed of a less fastidious setting for our lunch, coming up with a room which is what I imagine Denmark’s Noma looks like. Unpretentious and unobtrusive to the foraged food that is now so famous around the world.
The lunch menu is, in my opinion, spot on price-wise with two courses for €25 and three courses for €30. There are only two options per course, but there is a third blowout option of a five course surprise menu for €55 with matching wines for an additional €35. Our bill, which included a perfect glass of Ciu Ciu Pecorino (€6.50) and a luscious Malbec (€7.50), came to €69.00.
And don’t let my nit-picking of the venue put you off this gem of a restaurant. The food is the real centre of attention here and the way it’s served will most certainly take a back seat once the first morsel meets your mouth.