Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud is located in the Merrion Hotel, but it does have an entrance from the street in addition to access through the hotel. It is a good sized, very stylish place with low lighting, high coved ceiling. no background music and is the only 2 star Michelin restaurant in Ireland. You enter through a large bar area with lots of seating variations and a deco-style bar where you are invited to drink and relax before entering the dining room. Once you are seated in the main dining room you are given warm gougeres and offered a choice of champagne. The elegant room is accented with a huge light fixture from the high ceiling and striking pieces of art. They have been in this room for just over 3 years. There are lots of service people who take their cues from the guest on whether to be over friendly or give the guest privacy. Chef/owner Patrick Guilbaud visited the room and personally came by to greet all the tables I could see.
He has been the force behind the restaurant for the 36 years it has been operating. Interestingly the Dublin paper ran an article about him and the restaurant the day we went. The menu offers a 4 or 8 course tasting options as well as a la carte fixed price for 2, 3, or 4 course meals. We chose the 8 course option and portion control and pacing were perfect.
After ordering the bread selection is brought around and it includes seaweed, leek-onion, baguette and cranberry-walnut.
The amuse bouche was a chestnut and celeriac soup which was very nice. Not thick or pasty it was very drinkable yet did have some body to the broth. Very nice.
Galway Bay Oysters, shallots, ginger, oriental style dressing, coriander and lime salad were next and unfortunately I forgot to get a photo of it but it was lovely. The crunchy strips of shallot worked beautifully with the coriander and the sweet oyster. It was a great course – sorry about no photo.
Sesame crusted tuna tataki with jalapeno mayonnaise and crispy katafi was slightly spicy. The tuna was on a thin slice of white radish and accompanied by some baby romaine. It was very good and the fried katafi (like noodles) added a fun textural contrast.
Pan roasted duck foie gras was plated with pineapple on a dark rum caramel and tonka sauce. Sweet fresh pineapple was caramelized on one side and placed under the fabulous foie gras which was then topped with some crunchy pineapple. The foie gras was cooked to perfection and had no veins or tough bits. The pineapple was a wonderful foil to rich foie gras and the sauce put it out of sight. A great course.
Annagassan Blue Lobster was poached in butter and then placed on a sauce of roasted lobster essence with a hint of cardamom. The lobster was cooked perfectly and the sauce nicely rich. A crispy coronet topped the dish and was filled with chopped bits of lobster and something creamy at the bottom. All the ingredients worked nicely together for another lick-the-plate-clean offering.
Glazed loin of Sika deer was plated with cranberry, mandarin, autumn vegetables, a sauce civet and a crispy piece of beet root. The cranberry was in the form of a relish and the crispy beet was a bright red topping. The venison was cooked nicely rare and was amazingly tender. A terrific dish of wonderful rich mashed potatoes was on the side to mix with the lovely venison. All the sauces and embellishments really worked together to bring this plate life. Another great plate.
The cheese course was from a large cheese cart where you could pick as you desired. I chose a old Comté and Roquefort. Both quite nice accompanied by some pumpkin seed crackers along with hazelnut crisps. An apricot and raisin relish was wonderful with the cheese as were the grapes.
The first dessert was a roasted banana caramel parfait with honey croquant and banana yuzu sorbet. It had a stiff cookie with a carmelized layer on top which was topped with ice cream. While it had good textural components the taste was a little dull.
A plate of treats contained a macaroon (okay), apple tart with mint (not enough butter in the crust) and a mince pie topped with coffee and chocolate (sweet with lots of textures but a bit bland).
A contemporary dark chocolate tart with bourbon vanilla ice cream was much better. A thin, crisp part topped a chocolate ganache which then topped a chocolate cookie, all beside a lovely vanilla ice cream. A good mix of flavors and textures made this one a success.
Lastly a huge wooden box was brought to the table and when it opened the aroma of chocolate blew me away. An 80% chocolate was mixed with a bit of caramel to produce some exquisite chocolate truffles. They were creamy and just plain excellent. The really strong taste just melted in your mouth. A perfect end to a grand meal.
The sommelier, Scott White took us on a tour of the wine cellar after dinner and that was another treat.