Eating Out: Lucinda O'Sullivan samples new offerings from Brown Thomas
In-store dining has taken quite a leap forward, says Lucinda O'Sullivan, following a visit to Brown Thomas, where she was impressed by The Restaurant's Patrick Guilbaud-inspired menu.
We've tended, in the past, to think of self-service cafes as the dining element in department stores. When my boys were young, the self-service in what was then Switzer's, was the cause of much excitement as we grabbed our trays for the bacon, egg and sausage, muttering to the lads to hold back on the orange juice, as it cost nearly as much as the breakfast!
Nowadays, in-store dining in major cities has moved on to being the location of some very cool and chic eateries, with many involving the de rigueur celebrity chef.
Brown Thomas is, of course, regarded as Dublin's poshest shopping destination and, after various restaurant incarnations on their third floor, they have now followed this international trend, moving their dining option up a significant notch, with a menu inspired by the two-Michelin-star restaurateur Patrick Guilbaud.
I did wonder, initially, if The Restaurant would be too posh, with an intimidating amount of French frippery, but, in fact, it has a very well-chosen menu with something for everyone, served in a more formal, but very pleasant atmosphere.
Sunday brunch seemed the perfect opportunity to give it a whirl and, following a bit of retail therapy, I headed up the escalator to meet my friend Paul.
We kicked off with natural cold-pressed juices (€5.25 each) - a ginger tonic number for me, and a green multi-veg one for Paul.
The menu's brunch section had a Franco-New York vibe, with breakfast-style, oeuf-y offerings (€9.95-€16.95) including a beef-fillet minute steak with poached eggs and hollandaise on toasted brioche; American-style pancakes with blueberries and maple syrup, and the popular eggs Benedict. Moving back to this side of the Atlantic, there was an Alsace omelette, and an oak-smoked salmon omelette; plus the full Irish by any other name.
Moving more towards the 'unch' end of brunch, a half-dozen oysters came straight up or baked (€15.95/€16.95), and seafood platters were €36.50/€69.
Mains and salads (€12.95-€24.50) included prawn and mussel linguine; beetroot risotto; and a chicken and quinoa salad. There was also the fashionable combo du jour of 'Reef & Beef' - a beef-burger plus or minus a lobster tail (€24.50/€17.95). Served on a brioche bun with cocktail sauce, Dijonnaise and stacked fries, it was a real cracker, and Paul loved it.
I was focused on the smaller seafood platter, as I wanted to see would it be served French style, on a tiered stand. It was, and a veritable celebration in itself, looking and tasting delicious, sporting a half dozen Carlingford oysters with shallot mignonette, Killary Harbour mussels, a quartet of jumbo prawns, and crowned with a lobster tail.
We finished up with an elegant rectangle of flourless chocolate cake with pistachio ice-cream, and a caramelised lemon tart with clotted cream, both at €5.50.
Along with a great selection of wines and Champagnes by the glass and bottle, there were selected cellar wines ranging from Louis Latour Chablis at €54, to Chassagne Montrachet at €119, plus Champagnes from €60, up to Dom Perignon at €245.
There are cocktails too, so all in all, a very attractive way to while away a few hours, or celebrate a special occasion. We settled for two modest glasses of Campo Nuevo rose (€7.50 each) bringing our bill with optional service, bottled water (€4.95) and two espressos (€4.80) to €117.05.
By the way, the weekday breakfast menu covers croissants, cereals, porridge, and eggs, while the regular lunch menu also offers small plates, appetisers and mains.
Afternoon tea is €24.50 per person. In fact, The Restaurant succeeds in covering a lot of angles; it is in-store dining, but it captures a sense of occasion and of 'being out'. Tables are on a walk-in basis, with reservations taken only for parties of eight or over.
The Restaurant, Brown Thomas, Grafton Street, Dublin 2. Tel: (01) 605-6666, brownthomas.com
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