Sunday 22 April 2018

Restaurant review: Lucinda O'Sullivan at Pearl Brasserie, Dublin 2

A romantic cubicle at the Pearl Brasserie is the perfect spot to discuss affairs of the heart, says Lucinda O'Sullivan. And if the sublime food doesn't stir your other half's passions, nothing will

'How would you like to be, down by the Seine with me? Oh what I'd give for a moment or two, under the bridges of Paris with you." So goes the romantic song crooned by the sultry Eartha Kitt.

We can't all be under the bridges of Paris at the drop of a hat, but how about St Valentine's Day for a little bit of ooh-la-la closer to home? And it's a leap year, girls!

Perhaps Sebastien Masi and Kirsten Batt had Under the Bridges of Paris in mind when they did a makeover on their below-stairs Pearl Brasserie, incorporating pod-like alcoves, which have to be the coolest, most romantic in the city. If the object of your desire doesn't fall flat for that romantic thought, then they never will.

Masi and Batt opened Pearl Brasserie 10 years ago in what was then a cavernous basement where Conrad Gallagher had Lloyd's Brasserie. Masi, from the French town of Clermont Ferrand, came to Ireland in 1994 to work in Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud before moving to the then Commons Restaurant on St Stephen's Green.

The food and service delivered by Masi and Batt was so accomplished that Pearl soon became a destination for serious foodies, politicians, builders, bankers, and those about town who wanted really top-notch food at more moderate prices.

As the restaurant became more and more established, they revamped the entire place a couple of years ago, turning it into a sophisticated venue. In late 2010, they expanded by taking over and reviving Locks Brasserie on the Grand Canal. I hadn't been to Pearl Brasserie since the makeover and the appointment of a new head chef, Mark Brodie.

You are immediately cocooned when you step down into Pearl. The front room has a normal layout, but the back room has a series of three or four glass-encased cubicles in which you can see your fellow diners, but have total privacy to discuss affairs of state or the heart. Quite enchanting. In the cubicle next to us was a very famous poet with his wife and friends; it's a place to see and be seen.

Starters (e8-e18) included salmon mi cuit with orange, fennel, cucumber and beetroot, while Spain's famous pata negra ham was paired with the French Comte cheese and home-made cherry jam. To start, we had the foods of love: lobster and foie gras. Irish west coast lobster "two ways" (e16) came with chorizo, ginger bisque, mango and pak choi -- each morsel a little bit of heaven. Brendan's duo of duck foie gras (e16), seared and salt cured, was enticingly presented resting on a rectangle of brioche, enhanced by a daub of apple balsamic puree and a scattering of macerated raisins and micro herbs. I followed up with squab pigeon Rossini (e30), a twist on the dish dedicated to the composer Rossini. It was superb, with many elements of breast, leg and a black truffle mousseline on the plate playing in harmony with the Rossini element of pan-fried duck foie gras. Brendan's superb fillet of aged Irish beef (e29) consisted of braised cheek, spinach, white onion puree and red wine jus. I had a side dish of cauliflower (e4) while Brendan had lovely chunky fries with sea salt (e4).

Desserts (e7-e10.50) included a chocolate assiette, and a tasting of lemon, but I went for macaroons. Two bright-green pistachio macaroons sat on a ribbon of raspberry jelly in an arty, geometric line-up, interspersed with fresh raspberries and centred with a luscious white-chocolate cream. Lovely.

The wine list is a tome, but they have a selection of house wines by the 250ml glass from e6 and 500ml carafes from e14. We had a bottle of Salentein Malbec Reserve 2009 (e35) and with an espresso (e2.70) and optional service our bill came to e162.20. This is the food of love that would soften the hardest of hearts.


Pearl Brasserie,

20 Merrion Street Upper,

Dublin 2.

Tel: (01) 661-3572

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