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Tabletalk: A star is born in Blackrock

Damien Grey's Liath, set in Dublin's Blackrock Market, has gone from strength to strength since it first opened, says Lucinda O'Sullivan, and now, with a Michelin star to its name, it's the hottest ticket in town

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"Liath is now the most desired restaurant in the country, but with only 22 seats, it's the devil to get a table"

"Liath is now the most desired restaurant in the country, but with only 22 seats, it's the devil to get a table"

Fermented sweetcorn soup with a chilli miso glaze, tarragon oil, and a film of translucent lardo

Fermented sweetcorn soup with a chilli miso glaze, tarragon oil, and a film of translucent lardo

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"Liath is now the most desired restaurant in the country, but with only 22 seats, it's the devil to get a table"

Liath, which means grey in Irish, is the beautiful love child of the former Michelin-star Heron & Grey restaurant. The parting of the ways of the owners, Andrew Heron and Damien Grey, rocked the Irish foodie scene. With Aussie chef Grey remaining on in the tiny premises in Blackrock Market, people wondered what he would come up with next, and he didn't disappoint.

Starting anew, with a complete renovation, Liath was born into what had become a sleek, sophisticated jewel with a stage-like kitchen, from which Grey, and his inestimable sous, Jozef Radacovsky, perform. I'd visited when it first opened last spring, but having gained a Michelin star for 2020, I was curious to see its progression.

Striking gold

Liath is now the most desired restaurant in the country, but with only 22 seats, it's the devil to get a table. However, we struck gold, with a cancellation for four.

Arriving in Blackrock Market a little early, I was having a quiet wander, when Mr Liath himself bounced down through the market. He'd had a review that day from another critic, awarding him nine out of 10.

"What did you do wrong - it's like [the reality-TV show] Four in a Bed?" I teased. "Did you ruin the breakfast, or was your foie gras not up to scratch?" We both fell around laughing. 

Full of fun and having a return dig, Mr nine-out-of-10 arrived to our table with a glass of kombucha for me, in reference to a recent review of a hip wine bar where the only non-alcoholic drinks available with dinner were kombucha or tap water. Needless to say, at Liath they have the most gorgeous non-alcoholic pairings of innovative seasonal cocktails, iced teas, wildflower syrups and tonics, and drinks available, at €36; while the standard wine pairing is €64, with six 80ml glasses being poured.

Every dish in the eight-course-minimum Tasting Dinner Menu (€96) is complex, with some involving hours, or even months, of preparation, but the textures and flavours will hit you like a bolt of lightning.

First up, was an homage to the simple Jerusalem artichoke. The skin had been removed and crisped, the meat re-formed, and sprinkled with a burnt hay powder, a mushroom glaze, winter herb pesto and hazelnut oil, and paired with a glass of Maria Casanovas Brut de Brut Cava.

Next, came a blaze of colour, pictured below. A little row of shrimps and charred sweetcorn came in a fermented sweetcorn soup with a chilli miso glaze, tarragon oil, and a film of translucent lardo. Paired with a Bourgogne Aligote 2017, it was pure ecstasy.

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Fermented sweetcorn soup with a chilli miso glaze, tarragon oil, and a film of translucent lardo

Fermented sweetcorn soup with a chilli miso glaze, tarragon oil, and a film of translucent lardo

Fermented sweetcorn soup with a chilli miso glaze, tarragon oil, and a film of translucent lardo

 

Next up, was a mouthful-on-a-spoon of lemon sorbet, jelly, diced lemon segments, espuma, lemon salt and candied lemon rind, refreshing our palettes before we moved on to a real favourite, which has been on the menu since day one, a tiny Tunisian-style feuille de bric pastry cone, which was filled with smoked eel and anchovy paste, truffle salsa and Parmesan glaze.

Charcoal dust

The sensational umami flavours of the charcoal dumplings in our next course didn't hide their light under a bushel, either. They were all about mushrooms - year-old dried ceps, with ginger, chilli, walnut jus, but there was a little bit of charcoal dust in the dough, over which was poured 'mushroom tea', or 'catsup' as they used to call it when I was a child.

A superb tartlet of deer tartare on diced foie gras followed, matched with a Gallina de Piel Mimetic Calatayud Garnacha 2018 - delicious plummy, medium bodied, vegan - which ticks all the boxes.

Next, saffron-tinted ravioli involving cep puree, diced truffle, a wild game farce and a 'drunken truffle' glaze arrived, paired with Domaine Chaume-Arnaud 2018 Cotes du Rhone.

A petite tranche of sea bass, having had a flash on the yakitori grill, sat on wilted scallions and diced cornichons, and was bejewelled with a caviar-laced sauce beurre blanc. This was served with a Julien Ilbert IGP Cotes du Lot 2018 'vin de soif'.

Following a gorgeous blood-orange 'bomb', we finally wrapped up a stunning evening with a dark-chocolate ganache, praline crunch, and a white chocolate fermented raspberry sphere.

Dining with three friends, my share of the bill, with service, came to €180.

"Too much drink and a chocolate finish," was the secret to Lady Diana Cooper's dinner parties. Nothing much has changed!

It's a 10 from me, Mr Liath.

Liath,

Blackrock Market,

19A Main Street,

Blackrock, Co. Dublin.

Tel: (01) 212-3676

liathrestaurant.com

lucindaosullivan.com

 

Three to try... bibs and stars

ALDRIDGE LODGE

Billy Whitty’s and Joanne Harding’s Aldridge Lodge is a bastion of great seafood. So it’s no surprise that they’ve got their own Bib.

Price: Four-course dinner menu, €40

Try: Grilled Hook Head Lobster, pomme duchesse, lobster bisque and pan juices.

Drinks: Extensive wine list

Duncannon, New Ross, Co Wexford.

Tel: (051) 389-116

aldridgelodge.com

 

ANIAR

This Michelin-starred hotspot in the City of Tribes is where hot chef and restaurateur JP McMahon practices his craft, much to the delight of grateful foodies everywhere.

Price: Eight-course tasting menu, €89

Try: Oyster with arrowgrass, carrot, elderflower, potato, hock.

Drinks: Wine pairings, €60

53 Lower Dominick Street, Galway.

Tel: (091) 535-947

aniarrestaurant.ie

 

THE CHART HOUSE

One of the great Dingle restaurants, Jim McCarthy’s Michelin Bib Chart House is celebrating its 20th year in business.

Price: €9.50-€32

Try: Slow-roasted pork belly, sauteed Savoy cabbage, Irish cider, caraway cream, €25

Drinks: The works

The Mall, Dingle, Co Kerry.

Tel: (066) 915-2255

thecharthousedingle.com

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