Don't ever let anyone tell you that six degrees of separation is not a thing in the Dublin restaurant scene. Here we are, waiting patiently for our table, happy in the knowledge that none of the staff has twigged that there's a critic in the house, when along comes a waiter with a familiar face. Just a couple of months ago, he was looking after our table when I reviewed Osteria Lucio, and here he is again. Rumbled.
e are a group of five, and we're allocated one of the tables on the right, with a not very comfortable high-backed bench on either side; it would be stretching things to describe it as a booth. It's a squeeze for the three on one side.
I've been hearing mixed reports about Mister S ever since it opened last September. A sister to Featherblade on Dawson Street, everyone got very exited when it first opened, in the way that we have come to expect. Certainly, Mister S gives good Instagram, and the impression was that it was delivering something different for Dublin - cooking over live fire, using special woods - at reasonable prices. Then a few people told me that they had been underwhelmed. It was time to go and see for myself.
First things first: the menu reads brilliantly - you want to order everything on it - and the suppliers listed are a who's who of some of the best in the business. I'm particularly happy to see Andarl Farm - known for its superb velvet pork, raised free-range and outdoors by Dave and Diana Milestone near Glenamaddy in Co Galway - and Sustainable Seafood Ireland name-checked.
We start with the burnt end spring rolls, which have become a Mister S signature, burnt ends being the tastiest, crunchiest fatty bits trimmed from the extremities of a large piece of barbecued meat. Here they meld with rendang spicing and are formed into a wrapped spring roll, served with a piquant mayonnaise on the side. The combination is a good one. We order the smoked chicken with romesco (I've been told Mister S uses organic chicken but I can't see a chicken producer mentioned), a tender thigh submerged in the tomato-based sauce, topped with toasted almonds. The smokiness is subtle but present. Gambas come with a bisque butter on a plump flatbread, and are full of gutsy flavour, their heads crying out to be sucked.
A vegetarian main course - squash, shallot and Cashel blue tart topped with kale and a flurry of finely grated cheese is made with good, crumbly pastry - is excellent.
And then we are on to the meats, which really should be highlight of the meal and sadly are not. It's impossible to discern the flavour of the pork tomahawk because - once again - the meat is swimming in a gloopy sauce, indistinguishable in appearance from both the romesco and the prawn bisque that have preceded it. It's not unpleasant, but neither is this the way that I think the dish is intended to be served.
And then there's the wagyu, 700g of meat for €63 (it's priced by the 100g). The meat is a real disappointment, lacking in both flavour and the unctuous butter mouth-feel that you expect with wagyu. The miso roasties, about which I have heard so much, are swimming in a pool of butter that's gross rather than dirty fabulous; the hispi cabbage topped with feta and sobrasada is a delight; and a salad of kohlrabi with pickled pear plain dull.
An apple and blackberry pavlova - actually a meringue shell over the fruit - is pretty to look at, but dry and powdery, lacking that essential chew, while a salted caramel tart with hazelnut ice-cream is pleasant, despite over-hefty pastry. With two bottles of serviceable Beaujolais (Coquard '69', €38 each) and a couple of Ramonas, our bill for five comes to €253.50, or just over €50 a head before service.
We all have bad days, and perhaps this lacklustre meal was down to seasonal ennui. But restaurants simply can't afford to have them, the way things are out there at the moment. More rigour in the kitchen required.
ON A BUDGET
A small meal for two of burnt end spring rolls, carrots with freekeh and salsa verde and the marinated pork tomahawk will cost €35 before drinks or service.
ON A BLOWOUT
A couple ordering the gambas and smoked chicken to start, the wagyu, sides and desserts, would run up a bill of €105 before drinks or service.
THE HIGH POINT
THE LOW POINT