Variety Jones: Ambitious food, bound for greatness
Since its opening, Variety Jones has been receiving eulogistic reviews from Ireland’s most influential critics. In January, Catherine Cleary called it already one of her “meals of the year”, while Katy McGuinness found it was “near perfection”. Located on Thomas St, a mere five minutes walk from our house, our hopes for Variety Jones were sky-high and we really wanted to love it. While we did love some parts, we fell like it could get even better.
Accompanied by two friends, we sat at the high table beside a bar, a cosy corner perfect for a small group. The menu is rather short, and our waitress convinced us to go for the “chef’s menu”, which involves the chef sending whatever he feels to the table from each section of the menu. For €55 per person, this sounded like a tempting offer which we decided to go for.
We started off with a plate of snacks. Some seed cracker came with ricotta, radish and trout roe, while the beef tartare was paired with a Danish rye bread, both quite tasty. The duckfat financier with brown cheese and pickled beetroot felt a bit fatty.
From the “cold” section, the oysters served with Vietnamese dressing and cucumber were sheer perfection. The foie gras and chicken liver parfait gained from being topped with sweet and sour onions cutting through its fatness, but the potato waffles it came with felt unnecessarily heavy. Some of the lovely seed crackers from the snacks would have worked better in my opinion.
The dish of the night came from the “warm” section; the grilled artichokes thrived thanks to the saltiness brought by some small pieces of Iberico ham and the creaminess of some sheep’s cheese mousse. I was slightly disappointed to miss the two other warm dishes, a grilled vegetable plate with goat’s curd and some asparagus with sardines which would have probably been my choice for the meal if we hadn’t opted for the chef’s menu. But that’s the game when you go for a blind date.
The bucatini alfredo kept its promises. The thick spaghetti-like pasta, cooked al dente, were coated with a deliciously creamy sauce and topped with a healthy grating of parmesan. The generous pepper seasoning made it lean towards a cacio e peppe more than a classic alfredo - for the best, as it gave the pasta more sharpness.
We then tasted the “Family style” dish, a BBQ pork with grilled greens and a bean salad. Personally, I would have preferred the other option, the grilled halibut, but that wasn’t the chef’s choice for the night - unlucky me. I found the pork rather bland but truly enjoyed the cavallo nero topped with a tasty spicy sauce; the bean salad was nice.
We finished the meal with a rhubarb and almond cake with poached rhubarb and cream, a rather simple dish which satisfied our sweet tooth. While the quantity of the food was on point, letting us enjoy our meal until the last bite, we hoped to get more “wow” moments, like we did with the oyster and the artichokes. There was absolutely nothing bad about the meal, but a few details could have made it really great.
We shared two bottles of wine between the four of us - a Douro and a Classe, a delicious organic red from Languedoc recommended by our waitress, who happened to be the sommelier of the place, bringing the bill to about €85 per person with tips. Not cheap, but considering the amount of food we got to try, we felt the value was right. We just hope that our neighbour restaurant, with the talented chef Keelan Higgs at its helm, will be able to go from good to great. It definitely has the skills and eagerness to do so.