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Paolo's Reviews

The Bakery


Here's a theory for you: every restaurant has its optimum number of customers and that number will be less than its seating capacity. An inbuilt corollary to this theorem is that a full restaurant doesn't function at its best. There is a number that is harmonious; a number of customers that fits the capacity of the staff to perfection; not so smal l as to induce boredom, but not so large as to overwhelm.


Les Freres Jacques


Les Freres Jacques is the kind of place that business men like for lunch. There's plenty of room between the tables so no one can overhear your conversation, there are plenty of waiters and the food is reliable. When you walk in you get an immediate impression that this is a professional establishment where everything works exactly as it should. But then, first impressions aren't always entirely accurate.


The Old School House


After reviewing a few restaurants in the greater Dublin area in a row, I was looking forward to going a little further afield. My guest for the evening was Lainey Keogh, who had taken a night off to keep me company even though she had an unbelievably busy schedule preparing for her London Show, which was only two weeks away. When I arrived at her studio in Anne Street I told her I was thinking of 'The Old School House' for dinner. Being originally from North County Dublin herself, going to Swords was, she said, like going home.


Bella Cuba & Chandni


A few weeks ago I went to lunch in the Indian restaurant in Ballsbridge called Chandni. I took my mother and my friend Antonio Breschi, the Italian pianist and composer, which meant that we could all speak the same language. At the time I thought it might be nice to pick another ethnic restaurant in the same area and compare the lunches. Today I put that plan into action and set off for the Moroccan restaurant that I remembered being just across the road from the Indian one.


Il Posto


For as long as I can remember people have asked me where I would go if I wanted to eat an Italian meal in Dublin. My answer had become completely routine: I wouldn't. The fact is that I can eat good Italian food at home, so there is little temptation to spend money in order to eat something mediocre or worse. The bald truth is that since Roberto Pons closed his 'Il Ristorante' in Dalkey there hasn't been a place that I would take Italian friends to and expect them to be impressed.


The Thai House


It was only a couple of weeks ago that we were sitting on the coral sand shores of the Indian Ocean eating wonderful food. Perhaps it was an urge to relive those times of midsummer; or maybe a hope that the mid-winter hanging over could be banished even temporarily by those exotic tastes, that made the idea of a Thai meal so appealing. The Thai House is at the end of Dalkey's main street on Railway Road, the bar is downstairs and the dining-room is upstairs. One of the first things that I noticed on entering is an array of fine wines behind the counter; things like Figeac, Mouton Rothschild and Latour. I guessed none of these were the traditional accompaniment to Thai food, but it augured well for the wine list.




I have to admit I've never thought of Bray as a gastronomic hub, yet there I was driving to Bray sea-front for the second time in a month, this time to eat a vegetarian meal. I'm a fairly committed carnivore and from time to time I'll even kill what I want eat, but my son assured me that 'Escape' was a place worth visiting.


La Med Restaurant


There are advantages to advance planning. I know that's true, but somehow I don't always manage to incorporate the concept into my life. You see, there was this restaurant that I wanted to go to, but I didn't reserve a table. Consequently when the time came to pick up my guest for the evening, a last minute phone call ascertained that the restaurant was booked out for a week in advance. Enter plan B: - drive into Temple Bar and see where chance might land us. Conversely there are disadvantages to not planning ahead. Sometimes chance favours you and all ends well and sometimes chance throws you a cruel curve-ball.


Trumans Restaurant


In just about any sphere of human endeavour the hardest thing to be is innovative. Trying to do something new, something untried, takes courage and sometimes can be seen by others as suicidally insane. It's especially true of restaurants, since we the punters tend to have fixed tastes in food and are rarely willing to go for something beyond the scope of our normal fare. In short, sticking your head above the parapet invites brickbats as surely as an Aunt Sally in a fairground.


The Tree of Idleness


Bray sea front must be one of the last remaining anachronisms in the greater Dublin area. The houses that line the esplanade have the same kind of weather-beaten grandeur that you can find in any Victorian resort like Torquay or Bognor. There's the obligatory Stella Maris, an Esplanade Hotel, arcades and the Palace Bingo, all of which makes me think the town ought to be renamed Bray-Super-Mare. When I first knew it, it had the kind of seediness that only once popular resorts past their prime can have. Today it shows all the signs of having benefitted hugely from the largesse of the German taxpayer.


Coopers in Kilternan


Imagine a wet winter Wednesday with sod all on telly. Now imagine that your house is still in the process of drying out after a flood; that's to say there's an irritating drone from the dehumidifiers, the furniture is piled up all over the place, the floors are denuded of carpet and on top of that, outside you can hear the sound of even more rain bucketing down. If you can imagine all of that, then you've got a pretty good idea of why my wife said 'yes' to my suggestion of going out for a meal.


Eden & The Nuremore


What's in a name? Take 'Eden'; immediately it conjures up the garden of earthly delights - a terrestrial paradise. Take 'Nuremore' on the other hand; it's hard to pronounce and easy to forget. And then there's the location. Eden is in deeply fashionable Temple Bar, and the Nuremore is in deeply unfashionable Co. Monaghan. If the proverbial visitor from another planet were to embark on a gastronomic tour of Ireland, let's face it, he'd be unlikely to start the tour in Carrickmacross.


La Stampa


In thirty years of dining out in Ireland I can say with complete conviction that one thing has changed: it isn't as easy as it was to get a bad meal. That's not to say that a good meal is easy to find - just that the awful, the shoddy, the unimaginative and the plain unappetising are not as abundant as once they were.


Ballymaloe House


When I think of some of the pedestrian platefuls that have been pushed my way at silly prices, it's all the more wonderful to get a meal that is not only stunningly good, but comes at a price that takes the phrase 'value for money' to new heights.


Caesar's Restaurant


Once upon a time it was easy to find an Italian restaurant outside of Italy. All you had to do was look for a red and white check table-cloth and straw-covered Chianti flasks with candles stuck in them. It's harder to spot them that way now; ever since the advent of the River Cafe, an Italian restaurant can be an architect-designed food-consuming ambience, where brushed steel, smoked glass and hard surfaces are decoratively miles away from a traditional trattoria.




This is not, I know, a social diary, but it was one of those nights. I had arranged to meet my companion for the evening at the launch party for the publication of Roger Casement's 'Amazon Diaries'. This glittering literary affair was held appropriately enough in the National Library and over a glass or two of wine we discussed where we might eat later. Over the years people have often said to me 'You must be very hard to please in restaurants, after all you owned one.' to which I always replied 'Not at all. Having been on both sides of the kitchen door, I'm very tolerant.'


Rathsallagh House


Ireland's Blue Book is, not surprisingly, a blue-covered brochure that lists the Irish Country Houses and restaurants that form the association. All are owner-managed. It has some very prestigious names in it: Ballymaloe, Assolas, Ballylickey, Longueville and Rathsallagh to name but a few.


The Hungry Monk


Throughout human history, whenever times are good and starvation is a long-forgotten memory, food has been as subject to fashion as clothes or morals. When I first started eating in Dublin restaurants in the late sixties, menus had a uniformity: you knew you could always find prawn cocktail, steak Diane and crepes suzette. All wine lists contained Barsac and Graves and not much else. Good restaurants like Jammet's tried for the French feel, others simply offered steak and chips or a mixed grill and chips. How times change. Gastronomically, Ireland today is hardly recognisable from those dull, unimaginative days. There is now an eclectic streak running through our restaurants where Italian, French and Tex-Mex dishes frequently sit side by side on the menus.


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