So I'm not even vaguely religious but in Bastible Restaurant last Sunday week I had a bit of an epiphany, and I somehow found myself remembering that time Jesus spoke of how the master will become the servant and the humble will be exalted. This food made me feel humble in the presence of genius and with my spirits exalted.
Sunday Lunch costs €45 per person and includes several set courses but with a choice of mains. Appropriately the meal began with some of the best bread I’ve had all decade, a supremely nutty, crusty sourdough that had of course been cooked in a bastible — the flat bottomed iron pot that once sat at the heart (and hearth) of almost every Irish home.
The cultured butter on the side was creamy and light but with enough tang to match the flavours in the sourdough.
Next up three breaded chicken thighs the size and shape of a toddlers’ fist and topped with a slice of pickle. Utter deliciousness — tender, juicy chicken encased in crumb heavily dosed with smoky spicy Morito chilli peppers to give an intense pungency that woke up all our senses. I’d have eaten a bucket of them.
Raw cured spiced beef with diced ox tongue and violet artichoke topped with purple Endive leaves had been given an extra kick with a reduced Veneto vinegar dressing — this last almost over-powered but the meat and veg had just enough texture and flavour to punch through.
Now I confess that swedes have always left me rather nonplussed, their starring role in the the next small plate blew my mind. That peasant favourite the yellow swede had been baked in ginger oil, sliced and somehow elevated into another social realm — perhaps the one where the royal roots live (artichokes and salsify?).
To go with its new-found royal status were some fruity-acidic pickled girolle mushrooms and as a lady in waiting a rather wonderful mole sauce made from pulped roasted pumpkin seeds with Marmite and Kelp stock.
This nutty, bright, creamy, tangy sauce lingered long on the palate and provided a sort of exquisite velvet cloak for the swede to wear. Simply extraordinary, this was 2-star Michelin level flavour-layering.
The two mains of Barbecued Mackerel and braised Lamb Neck were also a triumph — the lamb tasting intensely sweet and meaty, the mackerel’s delicate flesh flaking beautifully.
On the side a puffy fermented potato flatbread with an apple cider vinegar glaze gave carbohydrate weight to the mains while a ramekin of smoked yoghurt offered contrasting flavours, and a compote of raw slightly sour gooseberry and blackberry lifted the flavours in the mackerel and added a tang to the sweet lamb neck.
Dessert was a two parter; firstly a fluffy milk chocolate mousse encased a richly flavoured roasted yeast ice cream, and these two tasty things were made strange and other-worldly by a sweet-sour syrup made from fermented malt and a reduced Weiss beer.
The second part was poker-chip sized discs of honeyed toasted stroopwafel wafer with a burnt cream (made by dropping lumps of charcoal into the cream we were told).
Proper thought has gone into the drinks list in Bastible with a manageable wine list that includes just 35 wines but with a mix of classics (Sancerre, Chablis, Rhône etc.) and fine creative choices including Blank Bottle Chenin Blanc from South Africa, Godello from Rafael Palacios, Niepoort Dão, Lapierre Morgon plus a Mencía and a Nerello Mascalese.
It was particularly refreshing to see a selection of Vermouths on the drinks list as well as cocktails, Sherry, Dessert wines, Ports and Liqueurs.
We chose an old favourite — Maretti Rosso from Piedmont, a brisk cherry and stewed plum flavoured Barbera-Nebbiolo blend that is an almost perfect food wine — offering fruit, acidity and enough heft to cope with everything from chilli chicken to fermented potato bread to swede to mackerel and lamb.
I don’t often mention chefs’ names but head chef Cúán Greene in Bastible is one to remember — what he and chef-owner Barry Fitzgerald are doing needs to be experienced. I’m glad I went on a Sunday as this was as close to a religious experience as I’m ever likely to have.
Sunday lunch for three including a multi-course set lunch each, a bottle of wine and two espresso cost €181
Dinner: Wednesday to Saturday: 5.30pm to 9.30pm; Friday lunch: 12pm to 2pm; Saturday lunch: 12.30pm to 2.30pm; Sunday lunch: 12pm to 3.45pm
In a sentence