Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud: An afternoon among the stars
In the whole of Ireland, only one restaurant can pride itself in sporting two Michelin stars on its windows. It is Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, an institution of the Irish food scene located beside the Merrion Hotel in Dublin city centre. For 33 years, it has been offering a fine cuisine, "contemporary Irish with classical roots" according to its website, which draws customers from all around the world. As you would expect from a two-star restaurant, the experience comes at a price, with a Chef's tasting menu for €120 or an 8 Course degustation menu for €185.
Interested by their fairly affordable (all things considered) weekend lunch offer, a Table d’hôte three-course menu at €60, we booked a table for two on a rather sunny Saturday afternoon. We were warmly welcomed and showed into the lounge area, where we were offered a drink before our meal. We declined, unlike most of the other customers as the area was quite busy. We actually felt quite gutted when we were told that this bar was strictly private and only accessible for the restaurant's guests. We would have loved to be able to come back there for a drink or two on another occasion.
As we sat down around our table, we could understand why some people can feel uncomfortable in such a sophisticated environment. In my jeans and sneakers, I felt terribly underdressed, not that the waiting staff showed any sort of disdain. It's only because the setting is so spectacular and that their behaviour makes you feel so special that I ended up wishing that I wore a more appropriate attire.
We started our meal with a choice of bread and butter, and as you would be entitled to expect from a French restaurant, all the more a Michelin star one, it was as good as it gets. I only regretted trying the Irish bread, because, you know, why would you go for what you can find everywhere around you when real delicious French baguette is offered? Silly me.
After a lovely mise en bouche, some foie gras served with a cherry mousse, the entrees arrived. The dishes were brought to the table under a plate cover and the waiters pulled the covers simultaneously. Some people could call it ostentatious, I just admired the gracious performance. Our Lobster bisque was, to put it simply, the most refined and delicious chowder, hiding a Truffled tortellini of the most flavourful kind.
The main was a Quail in pancetta, wild mushroom ravioli with crispy Parmesan and poultry jus. I was served with a side of mashed potato. Before ordering, my boyfriend and I had a discussion about the fact that in nice restaurants, the white fish is always slightly disappointing compared to a steak for example as there are only so many ways you can cook it, it is hardly ever the most surprising dish on the menu. Which is why we both went for the quail. I should have probably stuck to my rule (if it is on the menu, I always go for the fish) as I enjoyed my main, but it was lacking for me the extra "chef touch" that would have made it really special. Every bite was perfectly cooked and tasty but I was not flabbergasted, I felt it was missing something. Maybe a touch of risk?
Unexpectedly, the dessert really was the most outstanding dish of the meal. The Guanaja chocolate and passionfruit tart with mango sorbet. Again, chocolate and passionfruit is a rather classic combination, the chocolate-passionfruit macaron from Pierre Hermé has been one of his most popular for years, but every single spoon of this dish triggered sighs of satisfaction. The crispiness of the biscuit, the richness and darkness of the chocolate filling, the unbelievable sorbet... Two weeks later, the memory of this dessert is still fresh and vibrant on my taste buds.
Coffee and a selection of petits fours were included in this meal and again, these sweet treats were welcomed by our contented smiles. The coconut macarons, the lemon tartlets and mini chocolate cakes were devoured in a few seconds and only made us wish there were more of them. Not that we were in any way hungry anymore, but these delicious treats were pure delicacies and finished the meal on a high note.
As it says on their website, the RPG philosophy is "about delivering impeccable dining experiences", and on that matter, they certainly succeed. There is no doubt about the fact that what was served on these gorgeous plates was top quality produce cooked at its finest. My only regret is the lack of surprise and risk-taking. If only the outstanding setting and service could be matched by a small effort to get out of their long-time comfort zone, it would make the experience truly unbelievable.
Featured photo: Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud