As established and top-of-the-range competitors struggle, Eamonn O'Reilly is quietly expanding his restaurant empire, writes Lucinda O'Sullivan, by offering un-poncey, reliable food in fine surroundings
While some established, high-end restaurants have been in trouble, it is good to see one chef -- Eamonn O'Reilly of One Pico and Bleu Bistro -- expanding, with the opening of his new Box Tree restaurant and Wild Boar pub in Stepaside, Co Dublin.
While other fellas have been preening themselves for the telly, not to mention beating themselves into too-tight trousers on occasion, O'Reilly has never sought the limelight, relying more on his very steady reputation for top-notch, reliable food to attract his clientele. He is highly regarded in the industry as a good restaurateur and businessman -- as well as an excellent chef.
I first wrote about him some 15 years ago, as he started out with One Pico in Camden Street, when he was just 25 years old.
After his time there, he moved into Dublin's 'Golden Mile' of St Stephen's Green to Molesworth Lane off Molesworth Street. He then opened the casual Bistro Bleu on Dawson Street. It was he who, as the downturn came, lashed in with value lunches and early birds -- getting the ball rolling in Dublin.
Despite extensive development between Dundrum and Stepaside during the Celtic Tiger, places to eat have been thin on the ground. Located in a new development, the pub and restaurant stand side by side.
The decor is lovely -- Argentina meets Chelsea meets France -- with lots of grey-painted woodwork, antler chandeliers, and very expensive-looking, olive-green-leather banquettes contrasting with tartan-upholstered chairs. The emphasis at the Box Tree and Wild Boar is firmly on local and artisan produce, and the prices are really good, with starters for dinner at €6.95 to €9.95 and mains at €13.95 to €24.95, but mainly under €20.
Dublin Bay prawn risotto is served with truffle bisque, pea and sorrel, while crispy hen's egg comes on black pudding, champ, mustard, honey and hazelnuts. Sea bream is accompanied by seared king scallop, fennel and vanilla puree. Classy.
The pub menu includes bangers and mash, cottage pie, butter-roasted chicken, and small plates of desserts, cakes and cream teas from 11am to 6pm.
We popped in on its first week and tried the lunch menu, which had starters at €6.95 and mains at €12.95, plus a special opening offer of two courses at €14.90. I kicked off with a delicious, tasty, natural-smoked haddock brulee -- it was warm, creamy and tasty, and served with ribbons of pickled cucumber and Melba crisps. Brendan had a fantastic tranche of ham-hock terrine, with a rondelle of caper and gherkin mayonnaise and some apple chutney.
Mains included Silverhill duck confit with star anise and braised red cabbage, and Atlantic cod with a potato mousseline, vermouth cream, peas and black pudding. Brendan went with slow-roasted Old Spot pork belly, which was a fine, succulent tranche, served with cauliflower puree and a cider and sage sauce. Wicklow venison casserole, which had been cooked into a delicious, moist tenderness with red wine, shallots, and smoked bacon, was served with silky potato puree. It was all comforting, un-poncey food which already had the punters in their wax jackets down from the mountains.
The dessert decision of lemon rice pudding was decided by a tweak of their own wild blackberry jam (€5.95) and it didn't disappoint. Brendan had Lorraine carrot cake (€5.95), which was also homely and wonderful. With a 500ml carafe of El Molinet tempranillo-cabernet blend (€18.70), and a large bottle of still water (€4), our bill with optional service came to €70.80. They have a set dinner menu with two courses at €19.95, Sunday to Thursday all evening, or from 5-7pm Thursday to Saturday. They also have a Sunday lunch menu at €18.
The Box Tree,
Tel: (01) 205-2025
Sunday Indo Life Magazine