Last Wednesday evening I joined a group of fellow food bloggers for a meal at Bon Appetit, Malahide as guests of Oliver Dunne. It was a lovely mid-week treat and for me a very welcome way of relaxing after a stressful few weeks.
Dining out has become a seldom enjoyed treat in our house. When I do go out to a meal I want to get value for my money; I expect ingredients to be treated well, cooked properly and I like to know that everything is cooked in house. In a local restaurant recently by the time it got to dessert I wasn’t surprised in the slightest to be told that all their options were bought in and they wouldn’t be able to cater for anybody with a lactose intolerance apart from offering them (out of season) fruit salad from the fridge.
It has been a long time since I was at Bon Appetit and considering Oliver Dunne took over in 2006 then it has to have been at least 6 years. Having grown up there and my parents are still living in Malahide, I’ve been lucky to dine in most of the restaurants in the village. It’s a pity though that many of these didn’t live up to my expectations. In the past I would have been annoyed at high prices compared to low quality meals.
Bon Appetit comprises 3 dining experiences. On the ground floor as you enter there is “Le Bon Vin” which is a wine & tapas bar, the “La Brasserie” is in the basement and the Michelin starred “Le Restaurant” is upstairs. The tapas bar was dark, very dark, and lit with candles. It was a stormy day outside and the bar certainly enveloped us in warmth when we arrived, more than a little windswept.
Speaking of lighting, my apologies in advance for the quality of the pictures. I did try my best and at one point I was tilting candles over dishes to try and get better light. Unfortunately it was a dark evening anyway and while the Brasserie was better lit than the tapas bar, I still struggled to do the dishes and the plating justice.
Both Graham, the Maitre D’ (and coincidentally brother to the head chef) and Oliver greeted us warmly and once sparkling waters were in our hands, we settled down to hear about what they had planned for the evening ahead.
Oliver explained that he would like us to taste some of what he had to offer from each of his menus, so to start we had a selection of tapas in the wine bar. Out came Prawns, a crocquette of potato, ham & manchego cheese and a ball of smoked haddock risotto cooked into a crocquette with various dips. Each tapas was fresh, simply cooked and delicious, however the smoked haddock risotto was outstanding.
Next we moved down to the Brasserie where we were instructed to choose a starter and main each from the menu and not to eat too much bread as we would also be sampling courses from the restaurant and the bovine menu! I selected a cauliflower risotto with brown crab and apple, and a number of my dining companions chose a smoked salmon starter. The risotto was again beautifully made, creamy with cauliflower but a little too much parmesan cheese on top which slightly overpowered the cauliflower flavour for my tastes. The brown crab was a beautiful addition to the risotto; a small spoonful which was placed to one side of the bowl, under some fresh cut apple, I would have been happy to just eat the crab on its own with some crisp bread.
Cauliflower Risotto with Brown Crab
Smoked Salmon Starter
Before our main courses arrived, Oliver sent out a plate each of confit suckling pig pork belly with a seared scallop, apple jelly and pea puree for us to taste from the Michelin Menu. I love scallops but rarely order them in restaurants because it is a skill to get them cooked perfectly, mine I’m glad to say was just right. The pork was delicate and moist, but I will admit this wasn’t my favourite dish of the night.
Confit Suckling Pig Pork Belly with Scallop
For my main I had ordered confit duck leg with potato fondant and green beans. As soon as the plate neared the table a wonderful scent wafted over. In fact it smelt so good that the plate did a round of the entire table so everyone could get it. I am, in case you aren’t already aware, a big fan of good ingredients cooked simply and well. This was an uncomplicated plate of food. The only thing that surprised me was half an apricot which was hiding under the green beans. Apart from that the dish did exactly what I expected. It was comfort food, tasty, not too filling and beautifully cooked. My one niggle was that of all the dishes I tasted that night, it was to my tastes, overly salty. I’m not sure if I’m hyper sensitive to salt as we try to keep it out of the diet in general at home but Lily also mentioned at the time that she felt her dish was also on the salty side.
Confit Duck Leg
Also with our mains we were served some Wagyu “Kobe Style” Sirloin with sides of Tempura Pickles, Bone Marrow Fritters and Crispy Beef & Onion Gravy Mash. Now don’t get me wrong, the beef is lovely and the sides were delicious but by the time I got to eat the beef it was cool and didn’t get to taste it at optimum condition. I could taste how buttery and soft it was but struggled to find a marked difference between the wagyu and a quality, well hung piece of normal sirloin. In hindsight I should have tasted the beef first and the duck second.
Wagyu “Kobe Style” Beef
Bone Marrow Fritters
Creamy Potato Mash with Onion Gravy & Beef
For dessert, I selected the lemon slice with citrus curds and thyme shortbread. I was really surprised when this arrived to the table as I thought that the slice was some sort of cake on the menu but I discovered it was close to panacotta in texture. The addition of the citrus curds gave me a retro moment when I realised that in my mouth it tasted like a “loop the loop” iced lolly. I found the thyme in the shortbreads was quite overpowering so was happy just to eat the lemon slice on its own. It was a lovely, light way to finish my meal along with a cup of tea.
Lemon Slice with Citrus Curds
Thinking back now and typing up this review I’ve been browsing through the website and menus for Bon Appetit. This, coupled with some questions from my followers on Twitter on the evening has led me to to the fact that so far I’ve not been able to find details on provenance of the food that is cooked in any of the restaurants. I would love to see this on the menu. It’s clear that seasonal food is very important to the chef and this was very obvious in the menu but it’s a pity that I couldn’t find what I would consider to be an important part of a dining experience.
Will I go back again? Definitely. I consider myself exceedingly lucky that it’s so close to my family home and frankly is great value. A 3 course set menu in the Brasserie any night of the week will cost you €30 per person, Sunday lunch is €23.95 per person which 1 child eating free per adult.
For the past year I’ve been hearing very positive feedback on the entire experience in Bon Appetit from food to service, dining rooms etc, particularly in the Brasserie from family and friends so I am confident that my experience last week wasn’t unique.
Note: I dined as a guest of Oliver Dunne at Bon Appetit, however my opinions are my own and I am not paid to give them. The restaurant has the right to reply and should I receive any feedback I’ll be happy to publish their response here.