Chapter One, Dublin

By Michelle Connolly Saturday 30th Jul, 2016

Chapter One
18-19 Parnell Square
Dublin 1, Ireland

You get the feeling that Ross Lewis has always been ahead of the game. From a start in England, travelling around to develop his craft, to training in Ferran Adrià’s El Bulli restaurant – always seeking inspiration from the very best. And in this case, since opening Chapter One in 1993 the inspiration has been from the wealth of fantastic produce from his native Ireland. Championing Irish farmers, growers and artisans has been at the forefront of Chapter One’s ethos from the beginning, as well as nurturing talent and promoting the burgeoning reputation of Irish food.
Chapter One is a gem in the heart of Dublin’s food scene. Descending the stairs of Parnell Square you enter what was once the home of one of the Ireland’s premier distillers, the Jameson family. Greeted by charming staff, we were swept through an ambient, low-lit corridor and through to our table in one of the many dining rooms. Every member of staff had a smile or a greeting, and we were warmly received by both our server, and our sommelier.
The thing that strikes you on the menu – aside from the range and variety of dishes – is the incredible value of the menus. Each one is superbly priced, when you consider you’re enjoying Michelin Star quality dishes it’s unbelievable. We went for the four course menu, spotting most of the dishes on the more decadent tasting menu but without the commitment (for my non-meat eating companion). Having placed our orders, we spoke with the knowledgeable sommelier who made some decisions on each, matched to perfection.
We began with Carrot and Buttermilk Velouté, which was beautifully smooth and creamy and matched with a delicious German Gewurztraminer wine. Violet Artichoke had so many flavours on a single plate, with goat’s curd, marinated flat peach and hazelnuts in beurre noisette – sweet, tart, and delicious. Due to the complexity of the artichoke, this was actually matched with a sherry which set the flavours off spectacularly. My favourite however, was the Japanese Pearl Tapioca. This was the epitome of umami taste, with organic spinach, Irish shiitake mushroom and mushroom juice, and St Tola goat’s cheese. The textures and tastes were so unique, it blew us away.
The second course were small plates, we chose House Cured Duck Bread, the perfect pink and utterly tender, served with a rich foie gras and salt-baked celeriac, an utter dream. The Ravioli of Coolea was light and creamy, with flavourful asparagus and umami pickled shiitake mushrooms, and the perfect portion size. My personal choice of Crisp Grilled Lasagne of Scallop and Atlantic Crab was fabulous. Tender scallop, light and crispy lasagne rolled around fresh buttery crab meat.
Each of the courses were artfully plated, slices of dry aged lamb lying alongside beautiful shoulder meat balanced on potato galette. Thick slices of meaty, smoky monkfish, white asparagus and potato dumpling bathed in cucumber butter. Sesame seed decorated salt marsh duck with resting in an orange and endive sesame sauce was balanced and rich, tender breast meat and crispy leg working so well together. As with each course, the wines were fantastic and enhanced the dish wonderfully.
Before dessert, we managed to grab a little time with Ross himself and learn a little more about the Irish food scene, and their fantastic suppliers. Talking us though the kitchen – at which The Chef’s Table gives you an unbelievable view into the inner workings (minimum of 4 and maximum of 6 people per booking) – each of the stations was responsible for one of the amazing dishes that crossed our plates. It was the passion and enthusiasm that struck us, when Ross speaks about Irish food and artisan producers you can tell that he not only has an extensive knowledge, but is driven to share it with everyone else. It’s very impressive, and you can see it shared in his staff and chefs too – an inspiring experience.
Before dessert we tried a palate cleanser of gin and milk with cucumber three ways – malted milk ice cream, gin liquid and fresh, pickled and minted cucumber. Totally refreshing, and a delicious in-between. Our final dishes of Slow Cooked 64% Felcor Chocolate Fondant was drizzled with a malted stout ice cream, and a dark charcoal crumb dashed across the plate like a shadow – utterly decadent. The Fermented Raspberries with Salt Ice Cream, Rose Ganache adn Milk Crumb was sweet and tart beautifully blended, and very moreish, while the Strawberries with Buttermilk Ice Cream, Cuinneog Butter Shortbread and Strawberry Consommé was summer in a bowl – so fresh and creamy. Interestingly, the strawberry wine matched with it was also very fresh despite seeming syrupy on the nose, a great match. I couldn’t resist the Irish cheese board, into which we all tucked once the desserts were done, the perfect selection from hard and crumbly to creamy and spreadable served with a rich Porto style wine.
Finishing with some coffee and chocolates, we sat and marvelled at the meal we had just enjoyed. Probably one of the most lovely evenings I’ve had in recent memory, we will definitely be back. If you’re ever in Dublin, even on a flying visit, make sure to book ahead and enjoy an evening with a good book – or a Chapter One thereof – you won’t regret it for a second.