Leslie Williams enjoys some fine dining at Restaurant Forty One
Residence Members Club, just a stone’s throw from the Shelbourne Hotel, was the quintessential Celtic Tiger project, founded by hip young entrepreneurs (the Stokes Brothers of Bang Restaurant). Residence was for guys (and a few gals) who would never have been seen dead in the Kildare Street or the Stephens Green Hibernian Club, and they probably didn’t even own ties so would not have been admitted anyway.
The Stokes twins are long since bankrupt but Residence has survived and has been owned for a number of years now by a US based tech-entrepreneur who also has a home in Killiney with a large garden which chef Graham Neville uses to grow herbs and vegetables.
The Club doesn’t have bedrooms but has meeting rooms, private dining rooms, a couple of small bars and Restaurant Forty One. While you can still join the club as of this autumn all facilities are open to non-members.
The private rooms here are used frequently by wine companies so I have eaten here more often than any other restaurant in the country. There have been occasional courses I was unsure of but I have never had a bad meal here. Neville is, plainly put, one of the best chefs in the country.
There is no easy way to say this next bit but I have never felt particularly welcome arriving in Residence despite being there every couple of weeks (sometimes twice a week), and there has never been even a hint of a flicker of recognition from the reception staff. Maybe that only comes if you pay for membership.
On this occasion I had booked under the name of my (somewhat famous) guest so my greeting was a little warmer, and as I was early I headed for the bar in search of a beer with flavour. The barman was honest and admitted he didn’t know anything about beer so I asked to see the fridge and found an Amber Ale from Wicklow Wolf — the only craft producer stocked.
The dining room has original ceilings, decent art and is comfortable in an old-fashioned classical way. Our meal began with a complementary amuse of a single silky tortellini of mushroom, chicken and truffle, classical in its own way and the first of three complementary courses.
Seared scallops (€24) with caper flowers and raisin purée were nicely caramelised and tender — a safe dish but the kitchen was right not to get too creative with them. My sautéed foie gras (€21) was probably the better of the starters, delicately cooked with a beautiful texture, sweet and delicious and served with ripe quince, a rich sauce with some earthy sweet-sour elderberries and crunchy walnuts for extra texture.
Both dishes worked well with our wine — Domaine Schlumberger Alsace Grand Cru Riesling (€61) which also stood up well to our main courses. The wine list is good here and don’t be afraid to ask for guidance from sommelier Victor. Our fish main courses (€35) were beautifully cooked - John Dory (with earthy sweet Jerusalem artichokes and shrimps), translucent in the centre and flaking delicately; with my Brill (with salsify and pumpkin in a light chestnut and Madeira sauce) performing a similar feat, accented by the marginally more successful sauce of the two. John Dory with sweet earthy Jerusalem artichokes, baby shrimp and a light Noilly Prat sauce was about perfect as was my delicate tender Brill with salsify root, sweet firm pumpkin and a light chestnut and Madeira sauce.
By now we were quite full but desserts are a must in Forty One. First we had to have a pre-dessert which consisted of sweet warm pineapple with a white chocolate foam and popcorn — a riot of flavour in the mouth.
Crumbly shortbread with almond praline cream and salted caramel ice-cream similarly had lovely contrasts mixed with complementary flavours and my tarte tatin was textbook. This was old-school dining pleasure and all the better for it – I probably didn’t need the extra courses (I hardly ever do) but I realise the kitchen was being generous so I shouldn’t quibble - generosity is a hallmark of Neville’s cooking and personally and I should just say thank you.
Dinner for two including two starters, two mains and two desserts plus three ‘complementary’ dishes and a bottle of Alsace Riesling Grand Cru (€61) and herbal tea cost €205.50 excluding tip.
Lunch: Tue-Sat – 12.30-2.30pm
Dinner: Tue-Sat - 5.30-10.30pm
In a sentence:
Classical fine dining in formal but comfortable room with emphasis on quality produce and a strong French cooking influence.
Restaurant Forty One, Residence Members Club, 41 St. Stephens Green, Dublin 2. Tel: 6620000
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