Sika restaurant is in the Powerscourt Hotel, in the grounds of the Powerscourt Estate in Enniskerry. This was once the Ritz Carlton, and the restaurant was Gordon Ramsay’s first foray into Ireland. We have a bit of history here; Paolo walked through it prior to opening with developer Johnny Ronan, while since then we have reviewed it every year or so.
It was always very good, if a little formal, and I suppose we were always a little dubious about the whole Gordon bit; it's not like he was ever in the kitchen, and so it was a branding exercise, back when throwing large amounts of money at people for little return seemed like a good idea.
Well, Gordon is no more, and now the restaurant has to stand on its own two feet, which I happen to think is a good thing. Chef Peter Byrne cut his cloth in Chapter One, manager Dara Cruise has been in the Ice House and the rest of the team are young, and hungry to prove themselves. They now have their head, so it will be interesting to see how it develops, but an excellent meal with food scientist daughter Abigail, proves they have gotten off to a good start.
The room is pretty much the same, large, gracious and effortlessly elegant. Sweeping windows frame views across the Powerscourt estate towards the sugarloaf, and round tables, with crisp cloths, stiff napiery and gleaming accoutrements set the scene.
A choice of French baguette, rosemary soda or sundried tomato bread is made easier as the tomato looks ridiculously good, and indeed it proves to be. A simple enough set menu offers a choice of five of each course, with an emphasis on local and seasonal.
Starters include spiced pumpkin soup with confit rabbit and pumpkin seeds, Perigord truffled Fivemiletown goat’s cheese with organic beetroot, pear and walnut crumble or a quail breast, glazed leg, smoked bacon, Brussel’s sprouts, Foie Gras parfait and chestnut foam, to list the ones we didn't choose.
Main courses continue in this vein, with dishes centred around a main ingredient, but comprising complementary and sometimes surprising elements. So the pan fried cod with pearl barley comes with McCarthys Coppa and brown butter jus, while Altantic halibut is topped with brown shrimp and black garlic. The beef is a study, with a prime Hereford fillet, breaded short rib, mushroom duxelles and jus gras.
Abigail started with the ravioli, followed by the pork, while I couldn't resist some scallops and the Challans duck breast. An amuse bouche of smoked haddock, leek bonded with mustard and topped with potato foam - almost a deconstructed fish pie -got the taste buds hopping, and much like Pip, gave us Great Expectations.
Abigail's raviola had a diameter of three inches and was stuffed with chicken pieces and mushroom, all the while sitting on spinach, sprinkled with toasted pine nuts and dressed with a smoked bacon velouté. This dish drew contented daughter sounds while I attended to perfectly cooked scallops on a bed of Jerusalem artichoke purée, into which were inserted little blades of crispy pancetta. An apple and balsamic jus provided a piquancy, and the dish was well executed.
Abigail's pork dish was study of pig, with a sliced pork loin, a perfectly formed malt glazed jowl, with dainty little broccoli florets dotted about and a round fort of potato foam with crispy pork pieces on top, like little cake decorations in the bakery of a butcher.
The Challon’s duck was probably the star, served perfectly pink, it was cut length ways, providing two chunky pieces of meat that changed the aspect of the plate from the more usual thinly sliced discs. Blood orange purée provided the sweet, while a Sichuan jus was poured over crumbed ginger bread and caramelised endive lay across the duck, and a white boudin was made from the leg. The flavours here were excellent, and the spicy Sichuan was an excellent accompaniment.
We finished with a Valrhona chocolate globe which housed a hazelnut meringue and obligingly melted when warm chocolate sauce was poured over it. My poached rhubarb had flavours of ginger and flowers, and the lemon streusel was a perfect pairing.
Sika is only starting out, and I thought this was a good beginning. No doubt the menu will change and dishes that are their own will come to dominate, but the Powerscourt and its restaurant are only a half hour from Dublin, but a world away. Hopefully it will become a destination for Dubliners for a picnic on the lawn or a great Sunday lunch, it is certainly a very accessible amenity.