So what’s your favourite restaurant? A question I get asked on a weekly basis and one I can’t answer, there are just too many variables - my mood being the main one.
However on two occasions recently I have wanted to bring someone important to a good restaurant in Dublin and I chose Chapter One.
My reasoning was fairly simple - consistency. Not just the food but also the staff who manage to be professional and efficient and yet have a wonderful ease about them with not the slightest hint of pretension. Chapter One is in this sense I think a very Irish restaurant.
Yes French service training is said to be the best in the world and it probably is but no amount of training will make you charming. Not all staff in Chapter One are Irish but it feels like they are.
I enjoy the slagging I get when I ring begging for a table at the last minute, or the ribbing about my indecision when faced with a menu where I want everything listed.
On this visit there was the exclamation of “here, now, don’t be doing me out of a job!” when I tried to fold my guests napkin when she stepped away from the table. I feel comfortable here.
Our meal began, as all good meals should, with two glasses of Champagne.
Laurent Perrier NV is a little under the radar these days but is a solid reliable house with just enough brioche and creamy textures to please most palates but will not frighten the horses.
Wood pigeon and foie gras terrine was two generous pink triangles almost an inch thick and served with fermented and pickled cherries to lift the flavours.
Too often terrines are under-seasoned and bland but this was the opposite — packed with dense flavours and admirable depth and meaty richness counterpointed by blobs of foie gras parfait and some textured creamy squares of fresh brioche.
Violet and Jerusalem artichoke salad with marinated peach, goats curd and hazelnuts was even better with bitter sweet artichokes off-set by the crunchy sweet-earthy nuts and just enough sweetness from the peach and creamy textures from the goat cheese.
We both chose fish for our mains — delicate flavourful (and just-cooked) cod with some creamy sweet Castletownbere shrimp and mussels had a charming mussel-cream sauce spiked with horseradish to enliven the flavours.
Skate is a densely textured and meaty fish so serving it with glazed salsify root made sense as did the crisp fresh cucumber butter which served to lighten the dish.
Nettle and potato gnocchi added welcome extra textures and the dish managed to be more than the sum of its flavours.
Oremus “Mandolas” Dry Furmint Tokaji from Hungary was our wine choice the solid list of wines by the glass and while not cheap at €13.50, it had good richness and a textured dried pear quality which nicely complemented the fish.
Dry Furmint is not common on wine lists but is a good example of the work of Ed Jolliffe who pays as close attention to his wine sourcing as chef Ross Lewis does to the food sourcing.
We had wondered if a Gruner Veltliner would work better and were kindly given a small taste of the two wines to make the choice easier, proper wine service.
Desserts are often an afterthought in fine dining restaurants but here they are treated with admirable care and attention.
Warm chocolate mousse with coffee ice-cream and a contrasting lemon jelly was as good as it sounds and almost disappeared before I had a chance to grab a taste.
My bourbon glazed mini stuffoli doughnuts were sticky and perhaps a little dense but worked well with the cinnamon ice-cream and were give some prickly touches with an elderflower yoghurt and some contrasting greengages.
While this was not a cheap lunch and few people are likely to visit Chapter One weekly or even monthly, given the quality of the ingredients the wine we ordered this was actually good value.
My marks this week are high but not perfect, I’ve only once given 9/10 and this was just off that score.
Don’t get me wrong it was an excellent meal — this is beautifully sourced and cooked food, but go on Ross, throw a few more curve balls and fast balls at us, I dare you!
Two three course lunches (€39.50), two glasses of Champagne (€18.80) and two glasses of dry Tokaji white wine cost €144.10, excluding tip.
Tue-Fri - 12.30pm-2pm
Tue-Sat - 7.30pm-10.30pm
Classical Irish fine dining in a bright relaxed room.