he's the business
Back at One Pico to see what's up in the wake of the Tiger's demise, Lucinda O'Sullivan is utterly charmed by the efforts of a true celebrity chef, and one who is, she finds, cooking better than ever
I first wrote about Eamonn O'Reilly's cooking back in 1997, when, aged just 25, he opened his original One Pico restaurant in what was a former convent at the top of Camden Street. I wrote about him again in 2001 when he moved to his current premises, and his food was outstanding but, like everything of that time, there was an awful lot going on on the plate. I suppose you could say both occasions marked the beginning and the height of the Celtic Tiger.
One Pico has just had a major revamp, shedding its former cream and gold colouring for a muted theme of sophisticated grey and soft-sheen silver. It is very elegant and unfussy: grey velvet buttonback banquette seating and dining chairs. Judging by the number of corporate suits there during our visit -- the suits still know where good food is -- this is an establishment city restaurant operating with confidence and panache. And I think Eamonn O'Reilly is now cooking better than ever. There is an authority about everything on the plate -- no over-the-top stuff, just elegant, classy and assured, top-of-the-range, French-style food with all the necessary elements -- at probably better value than ever.
My friend Rena and I kicked off with a Mojito (€8.50) and a Bombay Sapphire G&T (€8.45) while we took in the menu. An amuse bouche of a perfectly seared scallop, on a little square slate sitting on a crispy white napkin, was very effective, with a smear of silky cauliflower puree and truffle foam. Nine starters (€10-€18) included seared scallops served with a trotter boudin, shallot and truffle dressing, and a raisin jus. Foie gras parfait had a pear and vanilla puree, with a lime jam and warm brioche; while langoustine risotto incorporated sauteed Dublin Bay prawns, sweet peas and sorrel, and a truffle foam.
I opted for a duck boudin (€14) which was absolutely divine. The boudin of confit duck leg, rich and tempting, was standing proud on the plate, beside a rondelle of black-pudding hash topped with a poached hen egg, in turn swathed with a grainy mustard hollandaise. A quenelle of apple compote and a smear of sunny yellow completed the picture on the snow-white plate, and it was all hatched and dispatched by me with an almost indecent haste. I would go back for that alone.
Rena, meanwhile, loved her starter of seared red mullet (€14) topped with a red pepper escabeche, resting on shards of shaved fennel, with black olive puree and decorative lines of saffron aioli crossing the glass plate.
Mains generally were €29, apart from a braised fillet of beef with braised short rib, white onion puree, Jerusalem artichoke and smoked bacon foam (€36); best end of lamb and confit shoulder with goat's cheese and piquillo pepper (€32); and, at the other end of the scale, a risotto of ceps and truffle (€19).
To follow the rich duck, I chose a crisp sauteed fillet of sea bream (€29), topped with a roast scallop on a mousseline of potato, circled with fine green beans and black bacon, in a Vermouth cream. Rena had a lightly spiced John Dory (€29) on Puy lentils, with baby carrots, celeriac puree and a crab croquette. Both were excellent.
When we got to puddings we were getting abstemious, so we shared a lemon and Macadamia nut souffle (€23) with a little jug of subtle thyme Anglaise, and Ferrero Rocher ice cream. Heavenly.
With a bottle of Trimbach Alsace Pino Blanc 2006 (€29), a large Tipperary water (€5.95) and optional service, our bill came to €164.90 -- and we enjoyed every penny of it.
There is also a three-course set dinner menu (€39), and an early-bird menu (€25). Check the times available -- they vary. One Pico is now also open for Sunday lunch (€24-€29) and dinner (€29-€39) and lunch during the week (€19.95-€25).
Eamonn O'Reilly is a true celebrity chef who actually cooks!
5-6 Molesworth Place,
Tel: (01) 676-0300