Leslie Williams pays a visit to Michaels restaurant, 57 Deerpark Road, Mount Merrion, Co Dublin
CHER, Nigella, Bono — they don’t need second names. Neither I suspect does my guest on this review – Manuela. Manuela you will remember became the nation’s darling during her time as Giovanni Trappattoni’s interpreter as she masterfully converted his baroque Ital-Inglesi into witty soundbites. Manuela is also prominent in the food world here and runs the chef’s organisation Eurotoques.
Myself and Manuela have been trying to find a good Italian restaurant to review for a number of months now and both of us were intrigued by Michaels in Mount Merrion in South Co Dublin which seems to have been around forever. It used to be Michael’s Italian but since Gaz Smith took ownership in 2016 the name has been shortened to Michaels.
This was my first visit as despite Mount Merrion being just 15 minutes from the city centre it always sounds further away. My reason for visiting was partly the universal praise but also Gaz’s Twitter feed — @MichaelsCoDub — which he fills with pictures of fresh made pasta, simply cooked lobsters and John Dory and Sole dripping in butter have had me salivating at my desk, and I’ve loved his responses to ‘influencers’ trying to cadge a free meal (a huge problem for restaurants these days).
On another note Gaz deserves huge kudos for the brilliant initiative where kids order fish dine for free — something which should have Department of Health funding in my view.
I had booked under an assumed name of course but any chance of anonymity was scuppered by Manuela as she was immediately recognised and we were given complementary aperitivo — a delicious Prosecco cocktail with mint and citrus created by sommelier Talha Pasha.
Talha is currently revamping the wine list and so at his suggestion we opted for one of his new wines that had arrived that day — Rossignol Vino Rosso from the Veneto. On further research this turned out to be an Amarone in all but name and its vibrant fruit flavours made it a fine match for the pasta and even the seafood — there are some wines so good that they match everything.
Our meal began wonderfully with an amuse-bouche of Lobster Arancini — a molten ball of cheesy risotto rice and lobster followed by excellent crispy flat bread drizzled with garlic butter and some crusty white loaf with some intriguing and tasty hazelnut and caramel butter. Soft-shell crab had a rather dense crumbed coating but was still light, crispy and fresh tasting and we both agreed it was a crowd-pleaser.
So far we were in Paradiso but our next two dishes sent us briefly to Purgatorio — a very odd Goose, Chicken and Foie Gras Terrine seemed to be mostly a pile of shredded goose meat with little flavour of foie, and a less than successful pasta course of Agnolotti with mozzarella and sundried tomatoes with a balsamic tomato sauce.
The homemade pasta was silky and tender (if more ravioli than agnolotti), but both the sauce and the filling were far too intense and blunt for the delicacy of the pasta. Having said that I took a portion of the pasta home to the Engineer (her abandonment compensation) and she adored it — the locals probably do also.
So unlike Dante who spent over three days in Purgatorio our 10 minute stay was brief and Paradiso beckoned again with possibly the most extraordinary lobster experience of my dining life.
One truly enormous shared lobster with claws thicker than my fist, beautifully cooked with pin-point precision firmness, the crispiest of chips, a textbook hollandaise sauce, a large mound of crab claws, and everything dripping in melted butter. And all this for a measly €58 between two when it could have fed four.
Desserts (€7.50) were also super-sized with a deliciously tart tasting Pistachio and Lemon Tart and a classic espresso infused rich Tiramisu with a splash of Marsala added for fun.
So perhaps not a perfect meal and I would encourage Gaz to take a simpler approach with his Italian dishes (as he so expertly does with his seafood and steaks) although this may risk a local revolt. As for me I’d spend a week with Virgil and Dante in the Inferno to have some of that lobster again.
Michaels, 57 Deerpark Road, Mount Merrion, Co Dublin Tel: 01-2780377; www.michaels.ie
Dinner for two including amuse bouche, two starters, a pasta course, a shared whole lobster with chips and two desserts plus a bottle of red wine cost a mere €119.45
Tuesday-Saturday, 11am-10pm; Early Bird Menu, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: 12pm-10pm
In a sentence: A charming neighbourhood restaurant with some Italianesque flourishes but the real reason to visit is the seafood – generous, expertly cooked and wonderful value.
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