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Michelin meals... but without the price tag

The Michelin Guide is a strange little book. It is hugely influential, but I wonder how many people in Ireland would buy it.

Michelin claim they only judge the food, as opposed to the ratio of waiters per diner and the quality of the curtains. This year, food was definitely uppermost in their mind as neither Locks or Aniar in Galway have an emphasis on swag curtains or silver cloches.

On a side note, Mickael Viljanen, of Greenhouse, was cruelly overlooked by Michelin this year -- but not by Georgina Campbell who crowned Greenhouse restaurant of the year on Tuesday last.

We visited Locks on a busy Thursday and found the place packed to the gills -- as I predict it will be from now until Christmas.



flavours

My starter of foie gras terrine with caramelised pear and gingerbread crumble was easily the dish of the evening -- a dense, rich and creamy terrine with the foie flavours wonderfully complemented by the gingerbread and the pear which was part fresh fruit and part toffee.

This was a rare thing -- a completely flawless dish. The Engineer's starter of bluefin tuna was a little more problematic.

The tuna itself was of excellent quality and simply seared for a second or two on each side. The difficulty we had was with the pungent, earthy flavours in the surrounding root veg, including kohlrabi lotus root and pickled mooli (a white radish -- better known as daikon).

The contrast between the earth and sea flavours was just too strong in our view, but maybe if you love your turnips you would fare better with this dish. For the main course, I had loin of rabbit with a sweetcorn and rabbit leg croquette and while I loved the rabbit, I was less keen on the corn.

The other main was a perfectly cooked hake in a subtle ginger blanquette sauce, which I loved but the Engineer felt could have done with a little more pep.



flawless

Our sides of crunchy green beans and crispy fries were flawless and it was good to see a kitchen use a potato peeler as perfectly crispy chips like these are all too rare. We shared a very fine and light banana parfait served with good peanut butter ice-cream, chocolate dust and banana caviar -- globules of gel bursting with essence of banana.

The wine list is a good mix of new and old vintages, with a nice choice of fine wines if you are feeling flush. There is a good selection of half carafes, and we drank a fragrant Viognier Domaine de Castelnau, from the Pays d'Oc, and a decent Hunter's Pinot Noir, from New Zealand.

There is a rule of thumb that you will pay approximately €100 per person per Michelin star, but you would struggle to spend this in Locks and could easily escape spending half that and much less if you opt for the early bird or value menu.

Sebastian Masi and his head chef, Rory Carville, deserve their star. You should visit soon in case they start looking for a second one.


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