Thursday 13 December 2018

Written in the stars

21 Dawson Street, Dublin 2. (01) 6767015, thegreenhouserestaurant.ie

The Greenhouse on Dawson Street, Dublin. Photo: Justin Farrelly.
The Greenhouse on Dawson Street, Dublin. Photo: Justin Farrelly.
Katy McGuinness

Katy McGuinness

Mickael Viljanen’s exquisite offerings spark more Michelin speculation.

On Monday, the Michelin stars for Great Britain and Ireland 2019 will be announced at a live event at the BFI IMAX cinema in London as part of a 'multi-sensory experience exploring the theme of gastronomy and cinema'. The tyre company is partial to a bit of razzmatazz, but last year's ceremony is remembered as tedious.

As usual, the chattering classes of the food world are up to ninety about the possible winners and losers. Which establishments are being talked about? Ichigo Ichie in Cork (too soon?), Mews in Baltimore (too seasonal?), and Forest Avenue (finally?) are three that keep cropping up. If Clenaghans in Aghalee near Moira had hopes of emulating the gastro-pub success of Wild Honey last year, those were dashed by the departure of chef Danni Barry last month.

Of course chefs care about stars, but does anyone else? The consensus is that younger diners aren't that bothered, but the older gastro-tourist brigade still are. Michelin made Mickael Viljanen wait too long for his first star at The Greenhouse, but now there's speculation that they might give him a second.

For a few weeks, I've been salivating over Instagram posts of Viljanen's grouse à la crépinette, so fingers are firmly crossed that it will still be on the menu when we arrive for dinner on a Friday night. (The good news for us is that it was, the bad news for you is that it isn't any longer. However - and this a glorious silver lining - it's replacement is hare royale, another magnificent Viljanen speciality.)

The verging-on-frumpy room is busy when we arrive, but an hour later half the tables have cleared out and remain empty for the rest of the evening. (Are people eating earlier these days? Seems a pity.)

The American man dining solo at the next table is finished. "I don't often use the word 'brilliant'," he says. "But that was absolutely brilliant."

We are in Michelin-land, so amuse-bouches come unbidden - a light chicken liver mousse sandwiched between two crisp rounds of potato, topped with a morsel of quince and grated Parmesan, mackerel tartare with crème fraîche in a delicate pastry case, and an unctuous beignet of soft piggy head meat set off by bright green lovage mayonnaise and a matchstick of tart apple.

The first course is foie gras royale, a menu stalwart. The current version sees the smooth purée of foie gras, butter and cream adorned with cubes of smoked Lincolnshire eel, caramelised walnuts and textures of Granny Smith apple, and an ethereal flurry of grated frozen foie gras. Next, ceviche of sweet, hand-dived scallop with cucumber in an elderflower and jalapeno jus that lends subtle heat, topped with a generous blob of oscietra caviar. 'Turbot & Cepes' is the terse description of a glorious plate of meaty fish and the king of mushrooms in a multiplicity of iterations; if you need a definition of umami, look no further.

And then it's time for the grouse, the breast meatier and more tender than one could dare to hope, the caul-wrapped meat rich and gamey, the salsify, Jerusalem artichoke, beetroot and blackcurrant the very quintessence of autumn.

Frozen liquorice meringue is just beautiful, with a glass-like lid that cracks open when you hit it with a spoon, before plunging into a sorbet of lemon and kalamansi (a lime-like fruit from the Philippines) with olive oil over a layer of licorice-scented crunch. In the chocolate delice with praline - pretty, pretty, pretty - there are notes of coffee and yuzu, alongside a delicate sea-salt milk sorbet by way of contrast.

Dinner for two, with a bottle of La Solana Suertes del Marques 2014 from Tenerife, a subtle balance of fruit and minerality, comes to €301.50 before service. In another city, the price would be far higher, and Mickael Viljanen would have a room that's as cool as he is.

ON A BUDGET

As at many other Michelin-starred restaurants, the set lunch is a bargain. At The Greenhouse, it'll set you back €39 for two courses and €45 for three.

ON A BLOW OUT

At dinner, the six-course tasting menu is €115. Add cheese for another €18, and you're looking at a bill for two of €266 before drinks or service.

THE HIGH POINT

Two star food.

THE LOW POINT

In a no star room.

The rating

10/10 food

8/10 ambience

10/10 value

28/30

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