A flourishing concept
Paolo Tullio reviews Paris Bakery, 18 Moore Street, Dublin 1
A couple of months ago I stayed in Dublin with Marian the Blonde after the opening night of the newly refurbished Morrison Hotel.
The next day we took the opportunity to visit the market in Moore Street, a great experience that we haven't enjoyed for a while.
Apart from the fruit and vegetable traders, Moore Street now seems to be populated by two kinds of shops -- mobile phone shops and hair extension shops. Some retail outlets even manage to combine these two things.
Anyway, nestled between the phone shops is an interesting venture, Paris Bakery. Just as its name suggests, it's the brainchild of a French baker called Yannick Forel, who thought it was about time that the Irish learned that those twice-baked things we call baguettes that you can buy just about anywhere are a long way from what the French call baguettes. In fact, you could argue that they're nothing like the French original.
But as you walk into the bakery, it becomes very clear that it's not just about bread. There's a very fine counter of great French cheeses and all manner of French deli foods, and there are counters overflowing with extraordinary patisserie, the sort of cakes that you just know your liver is going to complain about should you stuff as many into your mouth as you'd be tempted to.
It's a good idea to walk quickly past these displays.
Anyway, on that trip I had nothing more than a good cappuccino, but I liked the look of the menu and thought I'd go back again to try a lunch. This week was my return trip and I was accompanied by Alex Kenny, a man who enjoys good food.
The premises is deceptively large, as there's now a section even bigger than what you first see as you walk in, down the back. In fact, the newly opened area runs right to the lane behind Moore Street. There was live music as we arrived, a native American of the Apache Nation was playing guitar and singing the sort of songs that I know -- Neil Young, Cat Stevens and others of years past. His name was Jesus Rodriguez, rather more Spanish than Apache, but as he said to me, "Just call me Jess".
So while Jesus sang, Alex and I read the menu. On my last visit I'd spotted eggs Benedict on the menu, but just as I was getting excited about having them, I learned that they were only available for breakfast.
Still, there were plenty of other tempting-looking dishes to pick from, and Alex decided on the deep-fried Brie while I went retro and ordered the prawn cocktail salad. For mains, Alex chose the salmon en croute and I decided that the gourmet beef burger was for me. For drinks Alex had a glass of Cotes de Provence red and I decided to stick to sparkling water.
Our starters arrived and both of them looked good. They were presented rather differently from what you might have expected: instead of one piece of Brie served with Cumberland sauce, Alex had four small parcels of deep-fried Brie looking like small samosas. These surrounded a very nicely dressed salad of small leaves, peppered with roasted cherry tomatoes. Alex gave me a taste and I was struck by the taste of the Brie -- perfectly ripe.
My dish of prawn cocktail salad came not in a glass, but as a salad on a plate. Ten large tiger prawns surrounded a small leaf salad and the whole was drizzled with Marie-Rose sauce. I liked the dish and ate every prawn, but in a perfect world I'd prefer cold-water prawns to warm-water tiger prawns -- what were once called Dublin Bay prawns or langoustines.
Alex had ordered salmon en croute because it was something he hadn't had before. What he got was a good example of the dish, nicely presented and well cooked. The salmon parcel had been cut in half and between the halves was a duo of sauces, one yellow and one brown. Try as we might, we couldn't deconstruct the flavours of either, simply deciding that they tasted good.
Now, I know that our friends in health and safety have very clear ideas about burgers, demanding that no one should ever eat a burger that hasn't been thoroughly cooked through. But there's a difference between cooked through and cremated.
According to the menu, my burger started life at eight ounces, but the tiny, dessicated pattie that came to me between a bap couldn't have weighed more than three ounces. It had been cooked for so long that not a molecule of moisture remained in it. There may have been no risk of any pathogen lurking in it, but it was not pleasurable to eat.
There may be an explanation for the burger. Between our starters and getting our main courses, a party of about 30 school children arrived, and I'd guess our main courses got caught waiting while their orders were taken. These things happen in a busy restaurant, so possibly on another day the burger might have been a good choice.
Alex was happy to end his lunch after his salmon and neither of us wanted a dessert, so I finished up with a decent espresso, which is to say it was made with good ground coffee. It was lacking in crema, but that's standard in Dublin.
We got a bill for €46, which I thought was good value, given that we also got live entertainment.