Michelin thrives on controversy, and it would be naïve to think that its decisions are always based solely upon food, as it claims. If everything ticked along from year to year without shocks and surprises, the Guide would be a dull business, and with upstarts such as Le Fooding in France and The World's 50 Best competing for influence and media coverage, Michelin likes to keep chefs on their toes.
In Ireland, Michelin has made controversial decisions over the years, but last October the award of two stars to Aimsir was welcomed.
When Finnish chef Mickael Viljanen of The Greenhouse learned that he had finally got his second star last year, he was so overwhelmed that his bear hug for Raymond Blanc ended up with the two chefs on the floor of the stage. I'm visiting The Greenhouse for the first time since that elevation. The ambience is cheery, relaxed, un-snooty; I love that there is not even a whiff of a dress code.
By way of canapés, there are a croquant of Chantenay carrot, a shiny, hard, orange sphere flecked with gold leaf, filled with grapefruit and smoked pike roe; a delicate chantilly of Flaggy Shore oysters scented with finger-lime and topped with a soupçon of caviar; and a beignet of 36-month aged Comté, rich and savoury, accompanied by a glass of Henriot Brut Souverain NV. The complexity of each tiny mouthful is glorious.
It would not be The Greenhouse without Viljanen's signature foie gras royale with apple, walnut and smoked eel, a dish that evolves subtly from year to year, paired with Max Ferdinand Richter 'Elisenberg' Riesling Kabinett, Mosel 2018. A chilled buttermilk dashi with notes of elder vinegar and jalapeno douses raw scallops, cucumber and pearls of dehydrated, powdery horseradish, topped with a generous blob of caviar, the dish matched with Domaine des Ardoisières 'Silice' IGP Vin des Allobroges 2018.
We eat steamed turbot heady with roasted yeast tapioca and the umami hit of maitake mushrooms under abundant layers of shaved winter truffle, a classic French Chateau Chalon sauce of calves' foot jelly and chicken the correct accent, served with Domaine Marc Morey, Bourgogne Blanc 2015.
The squeamish may baulk at the appearance of aged Anjou pigeon, its elegant leg glazed in kombu and bergamot, stretched out amidst beetroot, cassis and radicchio macerated in cherry blossom vinegar, but really they need to get over themselves, because this beauty is a winter stunner of a dish, enhanced by the rich Bosquet de Papes 2015.
A glass of Niepoort 'Colheita' 1997 complements a magnificent cheese selection, and then we are on to the prettiest desserts: a classic chestnut mont blanc, a barely sweet pear vacherin meringue filled with celeriac mousseline, timut pepper and buttermilk (with a revelatory Nakashima Jozo Yuzu Sake 2018) and - if that were not enough - a confection of Amedei chocolate, hazelnut, confit orange, coffee and salted milk sorbet, served with a glass of Disznókó, Tokjai Aszu, 5 Puttonyus 2010. I have not seen finer pastry work anywhere.
Interestingly, and in contrast, say, to Aimsir, where Jordan Bailey uses ingredients only from Ireland, Viljanen and his sous-chef Mark Moriarty choose not to restrict themselves in that way. Consistency is the priority, hence smoked eel from Lincolnshire, hand-dived scallops from Norway, pike roe from France.
Coupled with an approach rooted in classic techniques, The Greenhouse has more in common with restaurants in Paris than anywhere else. The five-course lunch for two was €240, with matching wines (€130) bringing our total to €370 before service. Money well spent.
ON A BUDGET
The two-course lunch costs €55.
ON A BLOWOUT
The six-course dinner is priced at €149; add in wine pairings and a glass of Krug 'Grand Cuvee' Brut with your canapés, and you'll be looking at a bill of €568 for two before water or service.
THE HIGH POINT
World-class food served without faff or pretension.
THE LOW POINT
That Michelin made The Greenhouse wait for so long for its second star.