Restaurant review: Brioche Restaurant, Dublin 6

Brioche Restaurant, 51a Elmwood Avenue Lower, Ranelagh, Dublin 6; tel: 01-4979163

BY NOW we know the new “best restaurant in the world” which was announced on Monday.

The idea is nonsensical of course — there can never be a “best” restaurant or “best” wine but only perhaps one that feels most appropriate at a particular time.

I predict we are on the cusp of a change in dining habits. Tasting menus have ruled restaurants at the upper end for over a decade now but I think their time is numbered. 

As we eat out more and educate our palates, I predict we will increasingly want to make our own decisions rather than be dictated to from on high.

Despite my interest in wine I must also come clean that I have come to dislike wine and food pairing menus as the constant changing of glasses and wines disturbs the rhythm of a meal, not to mention you inevitably end up drinking too much. 

It’s easy to match an individual course; finding a perfect bottle to match a meal is much harder.

So I should probably stop complaining now and get to this week’s review which is set in the leafy suburb of Ranelagh, a place where I once failed to buy a house. 

Everyone would probably like to have a house here despite the council wrecking the place to appease the traffic gods.

Ranelagh has the smallest, most expensive red-brick houses in the country but also lovely and eye-wateringly expensive larger houses. And it has one of the highest concentrations of good restaurants of anywhere in the country.

I’ve written recently about the flight to the suburbs by chefs seeking their own space and Ranelagh was arguably where it all began — John Farrell of Luna has two restaurants here (Butcher Grill and Dillingers), there are cool coffee shops and brunch spots (TriBeCa, Cinnamon), there is the excellent Kinara Kitchen, Pinochio if you want Italian, La Bodega if you want Spanish, La Réserve if you want French, Michie Sushi if you want Japanese, there’s a Diep, an Itsa, a Marios, a Milano, and there is even a good Swiss restaurant called Edelwise that serves chicken cordon-bleu and a choice of fondue (I’m not making this up!).

Brioche is a little harder to categorise so I’m going with creative contemporary Irish cooking. When chef Gavin McDonagh opened a couple of years ago, the menu focused on small plates, but he has recently returned (wisely, I believe) to a standard à la carte along with a chef’s surprise and tasting menus for the indecisive.

By chance we arrived on the opening night of Brioche’s new wine bar, designed to fill the small but comfortable (and previously rather dead) space at the entrance. 

There is already a serious commitment to wine at Brioche so a wine bar makes sense and I think it will work.

This meal was in part a thank-you dinner so I didn’t skimp on the wine for our meal — Terres Dorres Beaujolais Blanc (€55) — which worked well with our food and my guest’s mood.

The pleasingly short menu had four choices for starter and main and was based exclusively on seasonal produce. 

We began with some wondrously light, fluffy brioche and an amuse of some feather-light chicken-liver parfait on some rather enthusiastically charred (burnt?) bread.

Roast mackerel squeaked with freshness and worked well with its earthy kohlrabi — salt-baked and shaved — a lime and coriander dressing lifting the flavours, and the dish was further balanced by some avocado mousse. 

Fresh crab with a buckwheat risotto, cured salmon, and gooseberries also had balance and a lightness of touch — exactly what you’d want as first courses.

Cod with sweet white asparagus, broad beans, and bacon cream was flaky and tender, and my ray wing had a fine crisped outer layer that gave way to sweet flesh beneath — the rather solid gnocchi accompaniment could perhaps have had a lighter touch.

Strawberries, olive oil cake, and basil ice cream had flavours that bounced off each other nicely and finished the meal on a high.

So who cares about the world’s best restaurant — don’t be checking Ryanair, take a Luas to Ranelagh and as summer’s bounty arrives, I think the best place to go is probably Brioche.

The tab:

Two starters, two mains, shared dessert, along with side dishes, aperitifs and a (quality) bottle of wine, cost €138.00 (excluding tip)

How to:

Tuesday and Wednesday: 6pm-10pm;

Thursday to Saturday: 12.30pm-2pm, 5pm-11pm

The verdict:

Food: 7.5/10

Drink: 8/10

Service: 8/10

Ambience: 8/10

Value: 8/10

In a sentence: Creative contemporary Irish cooking with seasonal ingredients.


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