IT’S not easy to put your name to something but if you are famous and have a reputation you need to be extra careful.
Avenue by Nick Munier opened in 2016 and early reports were that the kitchen was taking some time to reach its stride so I avoided going; reports of a new chef just before Christmas and some attractive pics on social media encouraged me to pay my first visit.
A restaurant review can only ever be a snapshot and I need to be clear that we visited on Mother’s Day Sunday when the restaurant is not usually open.
The special menu of €30 for four courses (starter, main, dessert and coffee) was good value and read well with a mix of French bistro classics and more creative dishes, many of which were also on the à la carte menu.
The first warning that things might not pan out as well as we hoped was the wine list which gave only the barest of information on each wine — grape variety, country and price.
‘Tempranillo, Spain’ might as well say ‘red wine, Spain’ given that the grape is grown in almost every wine region and can taste different in each one; Pinot Grigio could be a mineral vibrant wine from Alto Adige or a commercial and utterly bland one from Puglia.
Pinot Noir from France at €38 could be a wonderfully priced Burgundy or a cheapie one from the Loire and if I’m spending €40 on ‘Dessert Wine’ or €85 on ‘House Champagne’ I need more information.
Our waiter was unfamiliar with the list’s producers or regions but offered to bring a selection to the table for me to view and I chose a Languedoc Pinot Noir made by Baron Philippe de Rothschild.
It was perfectly acceptable but a little pricey at €38 given the quality.
But let’s begin with a positive, our pre-meal bread was textured, crusty and tasty and was hoovered up by the Teenager.
Wild Mushroom Risotto with pickled girolles was rich and flavourful but perhaps a little over-salted and over-cooked for my taste but the Engineer cleaned her plate.
The Teenager ordered the ‘Torched Mackerel, Buttermilk Purée, Salted Melon, Orange Dill and Pistachio Crumb’ all of which sounds great, and it almost was but was let down by over-salting — “the orange was the only thing that wasn’t salty,” he declared.
French Onion Soup is one of those wonderfully comforting peasant dishes that needs no refinement or drama — the peasant qualities are what make it so inviting.
Caramelised onions provide sweetness but also pungency and the comforting nature of the dish is ramped up with some cheese on toast floating on top.
As you near the end of the bowl you can gorge on mouthfuls of melting onions and rescue the ones that have adhered to your chin.
Sadly here the only comfort element was the cheese crouton as the soup had been strained. Now (in my imagination at least) peasants do not own strainers.
The bitter-sweet kick of a thousand onions that add both depth and texture to French Onion Soup were absent and as a result it tasted far too sweet — this peasant classic hadn’t been refined, it had been neutered.
Buttered poached hake, grilled courgettes and sauce vierge was once again on the salty side but did work fairly well as a combination of flavours once you fought through the salt.
Moules Marinère were well executed but the portion seemed less than generous and the accompanying frites were frozen (confirmed by our waiter) and tasteless.
To end on a couple of positives my Rib Eye Steak was perfectly cooked and a fine piece of meat and our desserts were good (if not outstanding).
I know that everyone at Avenue will be disappointed with this review but there was clear evidence of a creative chef here — what let him down (badly) was his seasoning.
There is nothing wrong here that can’t be fixed and nobody needs to be voted off, come on Nick, you can do better!
Lunch for three with a bottle and a glass of wine, three starters, mains, three desserts and coffee: €147
Tuesday-Thursday: 5pm-10pm Friday-Saturday: 12pm - 2.30pm, 5pm-10pm The Verdict Food: 5/10 Drink: 5/10 Service: 7/10 Ambience: 6/10 Value: 7/10
A meal with more disappointments than highlights.