Thursday 22 March 2018

Eden is still far from paradise

Paolo Tullio

Paolo Tullio

I am, by nature, an 'early adopter'. That's the category of people who buy new products as soon as they're launched. I was one of the first people to have a programmable calculator in the early 1970s, then I was an early adopter of the personal computer, then I was on the internet in the mid-1980s.

You get the idea. I was quick out of the blocks to buy a digital watch and a mobile phone. I'm a gadget freak and I love technology.

The trouble with being an early adopter is that very rarely does the first in a line of products have all the bugs ironed out. It's certainly true of software. Version 1.1.1 of most software crashes much more frequently than later versions.

It's obvious really, the developers think that they've thought of all permutations and combinations, but in practice they haven't. It's the early adopters who test-drive the product, and the later versions tweak the product into usefulness as the bugs get ironed out.

Knowing this, it's my habit never to go to restaurants that have just opened. I treat them as I would version 1.1.1 of a software product.

I know there will be teething troubles, that the menu of the opening week will need serious revision, that all the systems have to be in use before anyone can tell if they work. Dining in a newly opened restaurant is like Russian roulette; you might get lucky, but you stand a good chance of disappointment.

As a result, I'm almost always the last of the national food reviewers to review a restaurant. Normally, I'll go after the place has been in operation for a couple of months.

You could make the reasonable argument that if a place is open for business and is ready to accept your credit card, then it should be running like clockwork.

It's a valid argument, but one that would lead you to more than your share of sub-standard meals. So I prefer to go after the bugs have been sorted out.

The other thing I prefer to do is to visit restaurants mid-week. I'm convinced that at the weekends when they're full to capacity, restaurants don't perform as well.

But, this week, I broke both my rules. We ended up having a celebratory dinner in the new Eden on South William Street, even though it had only been open a few weeks, and we went on a Saturday night.

The main reason was that the talented duo of singer Rebecca Sinnamon and pianist Johnny Taylor perform there on a Saturday night.

The new Eden has a big dining room, which is a good deal longer than it is wide. The interior is well done, just a little Spartan, but with high ceilings in places, well-spaced tables and comfortable chairs.

Our table of eight was pretty central and gave us a good view of the performance area. I did notice that a table of 20 ladies celebrating a birthday were already seated and had had their orders taken. That meant that we'd be served after the large table throughout the night, a recipe for long waits.

In the end, the delay wasn't too bad and we were happy sitting there enjoying the music.

The menu looked interesting: there was burrata, a Pugliese cheese, served as a bruschetta, a ham-hock fritter, a beignet of ray wing (a fritter), and a crab and mango salad among the starters.

The starters were priced from €6 to €11. Mains were priced from €15 to €22 and included the now- ubiquitous beetroot as a gratin, a risotto with prawns, chicken breast, sea bass fillets, duck breast, grilled salmon and cod with smoked bacon. As you can see, the starters had more interesting dishes than the main courses.

Being eight, we were able to give the menu a fair sampling, although four of us chose the rib-eye steak for main courses. Only three of us had starters and we had the salmon gravadlax, the chicken-liver parfait and the sprouting broccoli with a duck egg.

The parfait was pretty good, the gravadlax was also well done, but the broccoli dish was not.

Sadly that was mine, and it failed because the broccoli wasn't properly cooked, dressed or seasoned.

In Italy, sprouting broccoli is done 'ripassato in padella', meaning once the broccoli is cooked, it's drained and then tossed in a frying pan with garlic and olive oil. It's delicious. If Eden were to adopt this recipe, then they would have a better starter.

The main courses were pretty good, although it's also true to say that not much can go wrong with four steaks. Perhaps the least successful was the cod dish because the smoky bacon had imparted too much flavour to the cod, leaving it with virtually no cod flavour.

The owner of the lamb shank dish thought it good enough, but too small, leaving him hungry for more. I had the slow-cooked pork neck with a truffle mash, and it was good. The pork was tender and the mash was tasty, so it succeeded.

We shared three desserts, a white- chocolate mousse; an almond, orange and polenta cake, and lime and coconut cheesecake.

I was doubtful about the polenta cake, wondering how it could be made tasty as a dessert, but it was truly delicious. I can't say the same of the white-chocolate dessert. It was composed of white chocolate, water melon and cucumber. If you combine three elements and each has little flavour, you'll get a combination with little flavour. I doubt this dish will remain on the menu.

Espressos finished the meal and brought the bill to €298.80 for eight of us. I wish we'd left this visit for a few more weeks, as I'm sure the small faults I found would have been teased out by then.

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