Brioche restaurant in Ranelagh serves French tasting plates at a very high standard. The food is innovative and imaginative, and the service is excellent in this pleasing room off Ranelagh.
What I like about Gavin's food is that not only is it skilful, but it also ticks all those other boxes, such as seasonality, locally sourced and imaginative. His menu changes frequently as he keeps up with the changing seasons, but you can expect to find somewhere around 16 dishes to choose from.
To give you an idea of what to expect, here are some of the dishes on the menu: a charcuterie board; a crab, apple and fennel salad; cured salmon served with pickled pear, ginger, soya and wasabi creme fraiche; a beetroot salad; cured and smoked mackerel; wild mushroom tortellini; new season asparagus; oxtail beignet; pork head croquette; cassoulet; pan-fried brill; daube of beef; half a poussin and braised pork cheeks.
While we were making up our minds we also looked around, because the kitchen is open to view. We could see the chefs hard at work. I saw Gavin, then to my surprise I saw Matt Fuller, another really fine chef who is currently in Airfield, Dundrum. When I got a chance to talk to them, it turned out Matt was giving Gavin a hand for the night. So we got two of Dublin's best young chefs cooking for us.
Now I'll add a little caveat. When you change menus frequently there's a chance not every dish will be a winner. Actually that doesn't upset me in any way, because you'll never get truly exceptional dishes unless there's a constant renewal. It's just the flip side of the same coin. Put together an innovative menu and there's a chance some dishes will be superb and others may not reach the same level.
For starters we had the Kilteel crab salad, the wild mushroom and fennel tortellini, the brill and the asparagus. The crab salad was a winner, the combination of apple and fennel has always been one I liked and the dish worked very well. The wild mushroom tortellini had a delicious filling of mushrooms and fennel, and was topped with a pine-nut and roast garlic dressing, but we all felt the pasta itself would have worked better had it been a little thinner.
Marian had ordered the asparagus, which came with a free-range duck egg, a Parmesan foam and truffle. Marian has recently decided she doesn't like truffle (all the more for me) so she had it without, and I have to say it still worked well as a dish. Harry had the brill, beautifully cooked and smothered in a red pepper ragu, which was also very tasty. However, we both felt that good as both parts were, they shouldn't have been together.
The second round of tasting plates arrived: the boudin of trout and scallop roe, seared scallop, langoustine and blood orange beurre blanc; the slow braised daube of beef; rare breed Fermanagh black bacon with cabbage, sprouts, hazelnut and onion salad, and spiced pineapple pickle; the oxtail beignet and the cassoulet.
Each one of these dishes was perfectly executed and a couple were truly exceptional. I thought the oxtail beignets (little fritters) were delicious, accompanied with caramelised onion, carrot purée and spring vegetables. The daube of beef was so tender it could be cut with a fork and the cassoulet – dish of sausage and beans – was also nicely flavoured.
We managed two desserts between us – the rhubarb crumble with vanilla ice-cream and creme anglaise, and a selection of Irish cheeses.
There's an adequate wine list from which we chose a few wines by the glass: a couple of Pinot Grigio, a couple of Saint Estephe and a couple of the really excellent Château Haut Rian, whose praises I've been singing for some years now. The wines, plus teas and coffees, brought our bill to €176.75.