Dublin: Kapow! It’s a winner

Pichet15, Trinity Street, Dublin; 01-6771060; pichetrestaurant.ie

IT SEEMS everybody loves Pichet. The reviews are rave. It won the Santa Rita People’s Choice gong at the Dubliner Best Restaurants Awards. Sally McKenna of Bridgestone Guides has one word for food and service in a restaurant “as Marvel might have drawn it”: Kapow!

So what is the place doing right, and does it really pack such a punch?

The answers are a) rather a lot, actually and b) yes.

Pichet opened in 2009 and lost little time in establishing itself as a darling of the Dublin restaurant scene, a go-to joint for gourmets looking to be mollycoddled without the Michelin Star prices.

Pichet’s popularity owes much to the celebrity of its host and co-owner, Nick Munier, of course. Munier is one of the judges on RTÉ’s Masterchef Ireland, and before that, he starred as the long-suffering maître d’ in Marco Pierre White’s Hell’s Kitchen.

Munier is only one half of Pichet, though. The other half is responsible for the food. Stephen Gibson, come from Derry Clarke’s l’Ecrivain and a more reluctant celeb, is chef and co-owner. He is the substance behind Pichet’s style.

Visiting with L on a Wednesday night, I kick off with a bowl of citrus-cured salmon, served with avocado purée, pickled cucumber, wasabi crème fraîche and a soy and mirin (a rice wine) dressing.

Three deliciously tender strips of salmon arrive spotted with the creams and greens, and all of the textures — fleshy fish, crunchy radish, creamy wasabi — sing from the same hymn sheet.

L orders the Castletownbere crab, dolloped like a scoop of ice-cream on a wooden board, and flanked by a ramekin of clams. Being coeliac, she has the sour dough toast replaced with gluten-free bread, which is quickly put to use mopping up squidges of smoked paprika aioli. “Gorgeous,” she purrs.

Our mains keep the standard. My medley of roast chicken — an artful arrangement of breasts, vegetables, crispy wings and foie gras terrine — is superbly executed, braiding moist, summery flavours with almost gamey hints of autumn in one comforting, bistro plate.

L’s sea bream, served with a cassoulet of white beans, tomato, Iberico ham, violet artichoke and squid confit, is perfectly cooked, though the cassoulet (a sort of slow-cooked stew) is dominated by its tomatoes. It’s our only foodie quibble of the evening.

Several other items on the menu caught our fancy: a tasting of Hereford beef fillet, for instance, which offers a nice alternative to steak with its daube, corned beef hash and pickled tongue; and the crispy hen’s egg with smoked haddock is something of a Pichet speciality.

From the side orders, priced at €3.50, we take a yummy portion of baby potatoes with shallot and mint butter. There’s also a steel bowl of sweet, squishy and lightly-salted ciabatta, served with quality olive oil and balsamic.

Everything is cleanly, crisply, confidently presented. And that is the key to Pichet. It wears its celebrity lightly, without cocky swagger or (too much) preppy pretension.

Sure, the space is a bit tight, especially in the former veranda area. And the traffic brushing past grubby buildings on Andrew’s Lane is all a bit ugly. But otherwise, this is a slick space, with bistro-style wooden tables laid out beneath playful art, Roman blinds, fish-eye mirrors and possibly the most fetishised restaurant chairs in Dublin.

Seriously, these are some sumptuous posterior-snugglers. Combining royal blue leather with tasty white piping, they look and feel like they’ve been extricated from a Bentley.

For dessert, I get the tidiest Eton Mess I’ve ever eaten — a rather fussy pattern of strawberries, meringue and Chantilly cream presented on a rectangular plate. L orders a mix of salted caramel ice-cream with dark chocolate mousse. Both are lovely.

The wine list is tight and comprehensive, with sound options by the glass. I ordered a Herbis from Rueda in Spain (€7.20) to go with the salmon, and stuck with it throughout.

Glasses of Prosecco are flagged on the food menu for €8.50, and there’s a tempting list of cocktails too. Even without its celebs, Pichet could be the beginning of a famous night out.

THE TAB

Dinner for two, with three glasses of wine, came to €120.40. Tip extra.

THE VERDICT

Food: 8/10

Service: 7/10

Ambience: 7/10

Wine: 7/10

Value: 7/10

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