We’ve eaten in lots of Dublin’s best restaurants but one place we hadn’t been to was Patrick Guilbaud’s on Merrion Street. The main reason for me was the price of the tasting menu, which is more expensive than the one we had at Gordon Ramsay’s Royal Hospital a few years back. When a menu costs more than that of a three Michelin star restaurant in one of the most expensive cities in the world I can’t really justify the expense.
Thankfully, there is also a lunch offering of two courses for €38 and three for €50 so we decided to avail as it seemed much more reasonable. We arrived slightly early and while waiting in the lounge for our table to be set we ordered two aperitifs: a glass of Veuve Clicquot (€19.00) for me and a raspberry champagne cocktail (€22.00) for Pauline which was beautiful.
We were presented with menus so we could order before being seated and I have to say I was very tempted by the á la carte (three courses for €105): there were some fantastic dishes that sounded very interesting – foie gras with smoked almond and almond milk and crab with pineapple, pickled ginger and wasabi, in particular. In the end I decided to stick with the lunch menu but only after a lot of agonising.
We were brought to our table and a few minutes later we were served our amuse bouche, a foie gras parfait of wonderful consistency but far too much salt. The bread selection was very good, with some lovely mini baguettes and a fabulous fennel and tomato roll.
To begin, Pauline ordered the paella risotto and it was probably the stand out dish of the afternoon: a luscious mix of saffron, butter and spring vegetables such as peas and broad beans. I had the foie gras and black pudding salad which consisted of a small piece of liver, a big square of pudding and a tiny fried quails egg with a small garnish of parsley. All the ingredients were good but in essence it was just a posh fry up.
As my main course, I chose the pork belly and carrot puree: the meat had a wonderful confit like texture and was coated on top with an aniseed sauce; it would have been nice to have some on the plate too as it had a lovely flavour. Our other dish was breast of Magret duck that came with more spring vegetables; it was a nice dish but not exactly inspiring.
For dessert, I went for the orange cheesecake and although it looked quite unassuming it was a wonderfully refined preparation of a classic recipe with subtle orange notes permeating the cream cheese. Unfortunately, Pauline’s rhubarb and white chocolate whose presentation, in contrast to my choice, was very eye-catching didn’t have the flavour to match.
In choosing our wines we let the sommelier match them to each of our courses and he made some excellent pairings. Rather than recommend a sweet wine with my foie gras, he suggested the Henschke Riesling from Eden Valley (€13.00) which was sublime; the Rosine Ogier Viognier (€17.00) to accompany the risotto was even better with an intriguingly floral nose more reminiscent of a gewürztraminer. We then moved onto red with a Crozes Hermitage Chassis (€15.00), quite full bodied given what we were eating but it still worked really well with both dishes. We also had the same dessert wine as each other, this time recommended by the junior sommelier, the Muscat Bernardins (€14.00); again it was top quality and its restrained sweetness gave a lightness that suited our puddings perfectly.
Service was as attentive as you would expect at this level although it occasionally bordered on the fussy as is always the risk with places like this. Naturally the cooking is of a very high standard but I can’t help but feel that the kitchen is holding back with the lunch menu and I regret not going á la carte now. I think it’s disappointing because I have had better food in Thorntons and L’Ecrivain for less money and having eaten at both sittings in those restaurants there doesn’t seem to be as big a gulf between lunch and dinner as I imagine there is here. The bill, including tip, was €259.00.