Last month we returned to The Greenhouse restaurant in Dublin for the first time this year. We had been several times previously and each time enjoyed our meal, but always left frustrated as there were invariably errors, both with food and the service.
We always found the food showed great technical skill, but it sometimes was overly complicated with too many components on the plate or that the proportion of the ingredients wasn't quite right. The dishes all too often lacked a focal point, clarity and were occasionally slightly confused - we remember a veal dish in which the veal was the smallest component on the plate and was lost in the muddle of other ingredients. Some dishes gave the impression of a chef that was trying too hard to show his skill and get accolades and as a consequence was attempting to showcase too many techniques on one plate.
There were also serious seasoning issues - a cod dish which was so overly seasoned that the taste of salt remained on the palette for the rest of the meal comes to mind. With the exception of their passion fruit soufflé, which is excellent, the desserts were at times underwhelming too.
The service could be clumsy and unprofessional - we wrote here before about the sommelier having a private conversation with another staff member whilst we waited for our wine pairing for a dish that was already on our table.
Despite this though there were a few excellent dishes and the food demonstrated a lot of skill. So, we would leave each time feeling that the restaurant showed great potential and we would always return in the hope that the errors would be ironed and this potential fulfilled.
The first thing we noticed when we returned last month was that there seemed to be new front of house staff; certainly the Maître d' and sommelier were different and, as a consequence, the level of service has greatly improved. The service was welcoming, friendly, knowledgeable and professional. A good start...
Unfortunately though, the food has not progressed and still suffers from the same problems. Our first course, on the 5 course lunch tasting, was the foie gras royale with apple, foie gras crumb and walnut. A variation of this dish seems to be a constant on the tasting menu as we have had it each time we have been there. And with good reason as it is always excellent. It is actually one of the best foie gras dishes we have had anywhere. It is rich, delicate and very moreish. The sort of dish you would never get bored of eating.
The second dish of scallops, horseradish snow, wild garlic was also a very good plate of food. Everything was cooked well and tasted nicely, but the dish could have been proportioned a bit better. There were only two small scallops and quite a bit of the other components. An addition of a scallop and a slight reduction of the other elements would have given a bit more balance.
Next up was cod served with a shellfish ravioli, sea lettuce and asparagus. The cod was perfectly cooked, but the sea lettuce was so salty it overpowered everything else - salt was all we could taste. There was also a bit of shell in the shellfish ravioli, which was quite unpleasant.
The meat course of duck was easily forgettable. The duck breast was tough and on one of our plates the fat was rendered down properly and on the other plate it wasn't (it was actually very hard to cut through it). The duck heart was by far the best thing on the plate and worked well with a piece of macaroni. But overall this dish was quite poor.
The dessert was very interesting. It was watermelon served in different ways along with salted peanut ice cream, liquorice and a shot of strawberry 'float' on the side. The sprig of coriander with the watermelon gave it a slight Thai hint which was really intriguing. It didn't quite seem like a finished dish, but with a bit of work this dish could be a winner, especially if the Thai element is emphasised a bit more.
The food is always presented excellently, it shows skill and many different cookery techniques, but again it was let down by the small details like portioning and the cooking of the duck breast, and amateurish mistakes like seasoning and shell left in the ravioli. These mistakes should not happen for a restaurant that clearly has lofty ambitions. Price wise this restaurant is near the higher end and for the price we wouldn't expect such consistent schoolboy errors.
This time we left frustrated again, and, after this visit, we believe that we have given The Greenhouse enough chances to show it can deliver food a very high level. But sadly we are coming to the conclusion that maybe The Greenhouse will never will fulfil the potential that is so apparent. Maybe this is as good as it will get. That would be such a pity, because there is clear talent in the kitchen.