With ‘fermenting’ and ‘foraging’ the buzzwords, our critic headed for Woodruff, but the experience left a bad taste in her mouth
A review is but a snapshot in time, they say, and I hope so, for in this case it was a pretty poor image that emerged following our visit to Woodruff. The fact of the matter, food critic or not, is that nobody goes out looking for a bad experience — but when you leave disappointed, having dropped quite a lot of dosh, and reach gratefully for the cheese and brown bread when you get home, there’s something wrong.
I’d heard good reports of this Stepaside restaurant, including a long gush from a foodie who was convinced that this amazing gem on the outskirts of Dublin would get a Michelin star. While it does have a basic mention in the Michelin Guide as a good neighbourhood bistro, it doesn’t have a Bib Gourmand and, based on our experience, it would be some leapfrog if it jumped from this basic listing to a star.
The room was minimalist Scandi hip, and the meeter-greeter laconically cool as he told us our bottled water (€4) hadn’t been in the chiller. Why not, we wondered, on one of the hottest days of the year?
We were seated just inside the open door, facing a sign for the Côte de Boeuf special for two (€85) — which was unavailable. Of course there were hipster ‘snacks’ (€3.50-€7), including house breads and cultured butter, and salt-cod croquettes. We focused on starters (€14-€15), passing up a lamb and two beef dishes — salt-aged beef tartare, or koji aged hanger, oyster, gambas, gooseberry and buckwheat.
Rena’s tempura courgette flower (€14), stuffed with St Tola goat’s cheese, on heirloom tomato, diced black olive and romesco, was pleasant.
Connemara crab tartlet (€15), on the other hand, with kohlrabi, green strawberry, brown crab and yuzu, would’ve been better served if the star ingredient had a bigger role to play. Instead, two large folds of the hard, bitter German turnip hogged the plate. Embellished with tiny green strawberry wafers, the turnip was accompanied by a commercial-looking, canapé-sized tartlet, holding no more (and I’m being generous) than a teaspoon of crabmeat mixed with what turned out, on enquiry, to be un-billed chervil and olive oil. It tasted awful, with the bottom somehow being akin to the juice from a roasting tin — inedible, and ridiculous at the price.
Mains were €28 — Andarl Farm pork cutlet; sea trout with Lissadell cockles; salt-aged Feighcullen duck — apart from tandoori-spiced aubergine at €20 for Rena, and wild halibut at €36 for me — but, with only two other diners in the room, there was quite a long delay before our next course arrived.
Rena’s blackened aubergine was enjoyable, she said, but I drew the short straw again. Maybe Sunday wasn’t the best day to order fish, for my seared slim half tronçon of halibut, dry as a bone, just did not fly.
Sitting on a crude forest — no cheffy tweezers here, more upturned colander styling — of kai broccoli and splodgy green beans (billed smoked fennel in absentia), splashed with a ‘mussel bisque’, this poisson did not taste good. “If I was at home, I’d have spat it out,” said Rena succinctly, on tasting.
Apart from the two bites of fish, the plate went back and should have been removed from the bill, but wasn’t. It’s the second time lately I’ve had to fall back on spuds, which indeed were a juicy extra €4.50, bringing my main course to €40.50.
As for the said Beechlawn organic spuds, they came as roasties draped with seaweed! Why? It just felt like a ridiculous overkill in ticking the fashionable ‘foraging’ box.
We shared a simple dessert of white chocolate mousse (€8.50), with two gooseberries, crushed hazelnuts and the ubiquitous broken meringue shards — which cover a multitude nowadays. “It’s a menu that read like magic but didn’t deliver on the plate,” said Rena, and she was right.
I’m sure this isn’t a joy for the restaurant to read, nor is it a joy for me to commit to paper, but what we received wasn’t good enough, particularly at high prices. With two glasses of Ulterior Naranja Orange Wine La Mancha 2020 (€9 each), and two glasses of alcohol-free Leitz Eins-Zwei-Zero Riesling (€3.50 each), our bill came to €127.
Woodruff, Unit 7, The Village, Stepaside, Dublin 18.
Tel: (01) 558-1362, woodruff.ie