Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud has impeccable service and precisely executed food.
SO let’s get the cost issue over with first. Yes we spent over €200 for a three-course lunch for two people.
But please bear in mind this was two-and-a-half hours of pleasure and you will easily spend as much to see Michael Bolton in the 3-Arena next January, possibly more if you have a few drinks (and who could listen to Michael Bolton sober?).
I arrived a little early and I used my time to examine the superlative wine list — Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud’s cellar has over 30,000 bottles.
If you had an endless budget and were interested in Bordeaux or Burgundy you could spend a few hours with this list trying to make up your mind between the dozens of Chablis or between the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Richebourg 2011 (€4,800) or perhaps the Chateau Latour 1947.
The best strategy is to go for wine by the glass or look to less famed regions.
I did consider a bottle of Stajerska Furmint from Slovenia for €50 until I spotted an absolute steal — ‘Clos-du-Papíllon’ Savennières 2008 from Domaine des Baumard for a mere €60.
This tiny Loire region produces chenin blanc-based wines of extraordinary complexity that can age for decades and Baumard is one of the best producers.
I would expect to pay more than €60 if I was lucky enough to find this in a shop.
The wine was delicious with tense focused dried lemon fruits and a washed-stone character — if anything it was still a little young but its freshness and power suited our menu perfectly.
The dining room has had a full makeover in recent months and is now a calming dusky pink-gold colour which I suspect you will either love or hate — any pastel haze you experience can be lifted instantly by glancing at the stunning Seán Scully at the back of the room.
So to the food — our crusty and fluffy breads were faultless and I particularly liked the extra tang in my seaweed version.
Our amuse of dainty cups of silky potato velouté with morsels of smoked eal and crunchy croutons nicely woke up the palate and slipped down gracefully.
Pea soup was a pristine sweet fresh pea flavour and a couple of black truffle and potato tortellini were satiny, pungent and a perfect contrast.
Given the time of year, I asked about the truffles and was told that they are bought fresh in the autumn and stored with potatoes in jars of white wine.
Salad of ‘candy’ beetroot slices with Ardsallagh goats cheese, fine herbs and lemon oil was adored by my guest and it was indeed tasty and comforting in its familiarity.
My guest also liked her grilled halibut with turmeric, citrus and violet artichokes and from the taste I stole, the combination worked well, although she did admit that the intense citrus sauce threatened to overwhelm by the end of the course.
Still, this was arguably the perfect fish dish for the warm summer day that was in it.
Quail in pancetta with wild mushroom ravioli had the most perfect sauce imaginable and was cooked to absolute perfection with all the elements in harmony.
Valrhona Guanaja chocolate and passion fruit tart with mango sorbet is lingering on in my guest’s mind a week later she told me, and it was indeed a lovely combination of bitter chocolate and sweet-intense fruits.
My red fruit salad with elderflower onsommé and lime leaf ice cream was summer in a bowl.
A shared glass of dessert Recioto Valpolicella from Allegrini added an extra €25 but was worth it for its bitter cherry and chocolate tinged charms (we split the glass in two).
So by now you can probably guess that we were utterly charmed by our visit to RPG. Staff were attentive, knowledgeable and extremely good at their job and we felt cosseted and minded.
There is an old fashioned charm about RPG and yes I am a little surprised that they are still serving beetroot and goats cheese as a starter and still use (drum-roll) silver cloches but it is what it is.
Go and experience it for yourself at least once.
Three-course set lunch for two with starters, mains and desserts, a bottle of wine plus a glass of dessert wine cost: €205 (excluding tip)
Lunch, Tuesday to Friday, 12.30pm-2pm; Lunch, Saturday, 1pm-2pm; Dinner, Tuesday to Saturday, 7pm-10.15pm
In a sentence: An old school French dining experience (perhaps a little old-fashioned for some) with impeccable service and precisely executed food.
Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, 21 Upper Merrion Street, Dublin 2
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