Tuesday 28 February 2017

Paolo Tullio: Food that puts you in a spin

Paolo Tullio

Paolo Tullio

Restaurants are always looking for a new angle. Perhaps they're not happy just to create a beautiful room and fill it with tables where excellent food arrives, brought by competent waiting staff.

I remember eating in a restaurant in Rome many years ago called Il Fungo, where you dined at the top of a tall tower, giving you a 360-degree view of the city. The food was okay, but the view was wonderful. It turned out to be my first of many high meals.

Height is always a winner -- there's a restaurant that I ate in on the 78th floor of the Raffles Tower in Singapore, which has spectacular views and is my highest meal to date, apart from aeroplanes.

But that's almost commonplace; many very tall buildings offer a similar experience. Now the world is slowly filling up with revolving restaurants where the whole thing moves. So how about the rather rarer underwater restaurants? There's one in Orlando Florida, the Maldives and Malaysia. Here you can dine while watching sharks swim lazily over your head. The effect is like having a meal in an aquarium, which wouldn't be my first choice as a place to dine.

Still, there's always a call for novelty, and listening to the radio one afternoon I heard an advertisement for the Leopardstown Inn. The ad said it had a revolving bar. Okay, that's not a revolving restaurant, but it sounded interesting. I was thinking it might be fun to review when the ad continued, "Words can't describe it", so there was a challenge.

I hadn't seen my daughter for months -- she's been living in Italy, outside Florence, in a beautiful Tuscan hill-top town. So Isabella and I set out for Leopardstown with Isabella driving, which made a pleasant change for me. We had no booking, but I figured a mid-week night would be no problem if we went early.

The first surprise was how big this place is. It's a very large building surrounded by car parking. Downstairs there's the pub, which is comprised of a normal lounge, except that it's very big, and a smaller annexe which houses the revolving bar. It turns slowly, and it takes a few minutes to complete a revolution, but if you leave your seat to go to the loo or to go out for a quick puff, your seat won't be where you left it when you get back.

There's an element of Art Deco to both this bar and the other, and there's plenty to look at in architectural features and art. There's even a large water feature inside the door.

Interesting as all this was, we'd come to eat and the restaurant here is called Greens, and it's upstairs. It's a big dining room but it's been divided into three separate rooms, so you don't get the barn feeling that you find in large dining areas.

We ended up at a table nestled between rooms that would have made a perfect place for a tête à tête, since it was so secluded. We got the menus and started to read. There were two menus: an early-evening menu that offered three courses for €21 and an à la carte. Both Isabella and I read the set menu first and almost simultaneously said the same thing -- it's a bar menu.

Certainly three courses for €21 is great value, but the choices were a tad unexciting: starters of prawns, soup, garlic mushrooms, paté, and a tomato and mozzarella salad, and main courses of a minute steak, fish and chips, Thai green curry, tortellini, chicken breast and a lamb burger.

I had one of those sinking moments when I asked myself, 'How am I going to make this into a review that's interesting to read?' Then we turned to the à la carte and I instantly felt better. This was a menu with good things on it; starters were priced between €8 and €9 and the main courses ran from €16 to €28.

There was a pretty good wine list as well, with some real bargains on it. A Chablis was listed at €24.40, a Fleurie for the same price and a Mâcon-Lugny for €26.95. We chose a half-bottle of the Louis Latour Mâcon-Lugny at €14.95 and also ordered a large bottle of sparkling water.

When the starters arrived. we were amazed. Isabella had ordered the crab and Parmesan tuile and it arrived looking like a plate from a very posh kitchen, beautifully presented and accompanied with a basil-infused panna cotta and a red-pepper escabeche. I'd ordered one of the day's specials, mussels Meunière, which were just as they should have been, served with a well-made wine and cream sauce. Both of these dishes were of a very high quality and, frankly, surprised us with their skill.

For mains Isabella had ordered the sea bass, mainly because it came with samphire, which she had never tasted. Like the starter, the dish was prettily presented, the sea bass just a tad overcooked, and accompanied with prawns and a Café de Paris butter (flavoured with herbs and mustard). The samphire was there, but was mixed in with a Julienne of other vegetables -- a shame, I thought, as the flavour of the samphire was lost in the mix.

Meanwhile, I had the roast pork fillet, which I'd chosen as it came with sweetbreads. Interestingly, it also came with confit pork belly, which had been shredded and wrapped in a leaf of lettuce, making a ball. Delicious cubed and fried potatoes came with both dishes, served in a tiny sauce pot.

This was good food and there was a lot of it, so much that neither of us were able to finish our plates.

We ended the meal with good espressos outside on the smoking deck and got a bill for €86.65.

Irish Independent

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