WITH the whole country in stasis and all dine-in restaurants closed, this will be the last restaurant review on this page for a few weeks.
Under government guidelines everyone is mandated to stay within two kilometres of their house and only venture out for visits to the pharmacy and for food. Restaurants are permitted to serve take-out food and many are delivering or allowing collection with payment in advance. We can only hope that staff are keeping themselves safe as social distancing is difficult in a restaurant kitchen.
I know I will receive criticism for writing this review at all, as many people (including prominent restaurateurs) are calling for even takeout to stop.
Many restaurateurs themselves are completely conflicted, torn between a desire to keep themselves and their staff safe and the knowledge that if the don’t sell some food they face bankruptcy.
It should be noted that the virus does not seem to be transmittable through food but on venturing out to your local takeaway you do of course run the risk of meeting someone with the virus, so stick to strict social distancing. I’ve been out twice to collect food from restaurants in recent weeks and each time I managed to stay within two metres of anyone with the exception of the person handing me the food.
In one case (Michie Sushi in Ranelagh) the food was left on the counter for me and and in the second instance my server was 95% behind a window pane.
I chose Mamó in Howth for my last review last week, before the March 27 announcement, as they are an excellent example of the ideal takeout restaurant. Mamó’s chef and front of house person are a couple so have no need to distance themselves from each other and at the time I visited they were employing just two other people who they had been in close contact with already in the weeks leading up to the shutdown.
Chef Killian Durkin is ex-Chapter One and his partner Jess Darcy worked in Etto, so their own provenance is as impeccable as their sourcing — Ballymakenny Farm, O’Higgins Butchers, Kish Fish, etc.
The menu was a mix of in season ingredients all sourced locally.
The restaurant is small with an open kitchen and crucially there is a hatch-like front window.
I found that day’s menu on their website and ordered and paid over the phone and a time was agreed for collection.
Collection was organised in 10 minute intervals so that there would be no queues.
Howth is a 50-minute journey from my house and I brought with me our tenant Wesley D’Amato who took the above photo.
At collection time Jess handed me the food through the hatch which was above my head so that while our hands got within 60cm of each other there was a pane of glass between the rest of our bodies.
The journey back from Howth unfortunately took almost an hour, so we felt that the Lobstser Croquettes needed to be sacrificed immediately — their golden crunchy exterior encased a creamy almost fruity tasting lobster in a cream sauce, delicious.
The car journey was not kind to some dishes such as the Venison Pithivier (€18) which needed 20 minutes in a hot oven to crisp up the pastry but the sweet meaty interior was unharmed, and the mix of baby carrots and whole shallots worked well.
The Parmesan Gnocchi with rich textured Wild Mushrooms (€16) just needed 30 seconds in the microwave but the best survivor was the Portuguese Fish Stew with Black Pollack and Fennel — rich meaty textured fish and nutty pungent fennel in a saffron sauce not unlike a classic bouillabaisse in flavour — outstandingly good.
We ordered all three desserts which were essentially faultless, the highlight for me being the Clemantine Crème (€5.50), a dome of silky light textured mousse surrounded by contrasting clumps of rhubarb crumble.
The dense, creamy-rich Dark Chocolate Brownie (€6) was also impressive and the jar of Salted Caramel Budino Pudding (€8) had delicious buttery richness contrasted by a light bitter caramel kick.
If Mamó’s food tastes this good after a 50-minute car journey, I can’t wait to go back and dine-in.
Dinner for three including two snacks, two starters, three mains, two sides and three desserts €120
Mamó’s takeout is suspended at the time of writing, check their website: www.mamorestaurant.ie/thehatch
- Food: 9/10
- Service: 9.5/10
- Value: 9/10
If you are going to serve takeout food from your restaurant this is how you do it, make sure you have a bare minimum kitchen team, a short menu, take payment in advance, and avoid any contact with customers as much as possible — as for the food it was wonderful, I can’t wait until I can go back and dine there properly.