We’ve wanted to try Bon Appetit for a good while now and when I saw a voucher for €60 (at half price) on one of the groupon sites I decided to buy it and make a booking. We took a reservation at 9 o’clock on a Friday night and got the Dart out to Malahide so no one had to be the designated driver, especially as the restaurant is only a few minutes’ walk from the train station.
We arrived slightly early but didn’t have to wait around as our table had already been set; we knew we were going to order the tasting menu but there were two choices: the eight course ‘Prestige’ comprising items from the á la carte and the seven course ‘Surprise’ which was supposed (more on this later) to be quite different from the standard menu. We asked the waiter what choice he thought we should have and he unequivocally recommended the ‘Surprise’. We took his advice and also ordered the matching wines.
We began with an amuse bouche of asparagus velouté that was very pleasant, although I pretty much like anything once you put enough cream in it. The sommelier then came over and poured us our first glass of wine, a bright Sauvignon Blanc from France, and tried to describe it to us without giving anything away about what we were about to have.
We were quite surprised when we were presented with a first course (or so we thought, more on this later) of thinly sliced veal, celeriac, broad bean and wild mushrooms as a zippy, young white wine with veal seemed like an odd combination. We were half way through eating our food, which was actually quite nice, when the sommelier realised that he’d been told we were having scallops and had given us the wrong wine. He said there was an inexperienced team on the floor this evening and apologised for the mix up. The scallop dish was from the á la carte (as was the veal, in fact) and sounded fantastic; I’ve since seen pictures of it on Twitter and I really would have liked to have tried it.
Next up was trout, broad beans (again), potatoes, dill and lemon. This was quite disappointing, the potatoes were undercooked and the trout was strangely grainy: it looked like it had been cooked sous vide at around 40°C but didn’t have the lovely custard-like texture you normally associate with this method of preparation. The matching wine was fabulous though, a Spanish white made from the much underrated Macabeo grape.
There was a small break and we were then served a pear sorbet which wasn’t very nice at all and didn’t really taste of pear. This was followed by the meat course and it was at this point we began to think that maybe they’d missed a dish at the start rather than a mistake being made with the wine: normally red meat is around the fifth or sixth course on a tasting menu and we were only on number three.
As it was, this was the lowpoint of the night, it was taken pretty much straight from the á la carte (notice a theme developing?) with the only change involving the substitution of some braised breast meat with a tomato chutney that was far too sweet and overpowered the lamb. There was a sprinkling of the same mushrooms as came with the veal and a small mound of yet more broad beans inexplicably mixed with whole pearl onions. The entire thing just completely lacked finesse and neither of us finished it. Again though, the accompanying wine was fantastic, a deep and rich Cote De Rhone full of fruit and lovely bit of oak.
We then moved onto the pre-dessert and, thankfully, it was really nice: a very unusual combination of Sichuan pepper creme anglaise and a gingerbread and peanut crisp base replete with a subtle hit of the mouth-numbing effect of the pepper.
Our dessert proper, and only fourth actual plate of food, was the prune and walnut frangipane, walnut milk with rum and raisin ice cream and again came from the á la carte. This was excellent, a great combination of robust and grown-up flavours and very pretty looking which is not something I can really say about anything else we ate. The only misstep was the dessert wine, recommended by a different sommelier, that just wasn’t sweet enough and got completely overpowered.
When we were about to pay the bill we asked the maitre d’ if there’d been a dish missed during the meal and we were informed that a shot glass of soup and a walnut sized lump of sorbet comprised a separate course each. In fairness to him, he did acknowledge this is very unusual and no other fine dining restaurant in the city operates the same policy and he even said he’d pass our complaints about the lamb to the kitchen.
I suppose this review reads like one extended first world problem but this was definitely the most disappointing meal I’ve had in a Michelin star restaurant: the mess up with wine, the repetition of several ingredients across multiple dishes, the unorthodox definition of what constitutes a course, the inconsistency of quality and the so-called Surprise menu being virtually identical to the Prestige are not acceptable for the money being charged here. I think it’s only fair when you’re spending €200 on a meal (even after the voucher was applied) to hold a restaurant to a higher standard than usual.
To put it in perspective with two examples, we had a surprise tasting menu in Thornton’s where we each got different dishes (so sixteen in total) including several that were changed on the fly because my wife was pregnant and not one of them came from the normal tasting menu or contained repeated ingredients; furthermore, we had our best meal of the year in The Greenhouse two months ago with four amuses bouches, seven full plates of food (of far higher quality than Bon Appetit) and seven glasses of wine for €13 a head more. I’m sure this was probably just a bad night and it’s somewhat unfair to judge a restaurant on just one sitting but eating in these sorts of places is expensive and I can’t afford not to be choosy.