More small plates, and this time, a tasting menu too…
And on the €48 five-course tasting menu at Forest Avenue, there’s a mere two choices for main course. If you don’t fancy the dessert, the only other option is cheese. Not a choice of cheeses, just the one cheese they are featuring on that menu. So, if it sounds like a place for fussy eaters to avoid you’ll be glad to hear that there is also a get out of jail card. You can opt for a vegetarian menu.
With floor to ceiling glass as you walk in, the room has a Nordic feel with white painted brick walls accented with matt grey, dark wooden floors, and wooden tables that have been spared a final sanding. A white stag’s head is on one wall, a chandelier has a quirky antler design and the open kitchen is punctuated with copper heat lamps which coil down onto the pass. There are stairs to a mezzanine area for private dining for up to 20 people.
We were shown to a table by the stairs… hello? The worst table in the place… so I asked to be changed to a better table, and of course they said yes. This is something you should always do. Someone’s going to get the crap table, just make sure it’s not you.
The menu starts with “snacks” and we were treated to three of them. First up was a dainty Parmesan sable biscuit which was filled with creamy goat’s cheese and beetroot; a perfect little sweet and salty mouthful. A globe of spiced beef with a punch of miso mayonnaise followed and our final snack was a creamy chicken liver parfait served between two fragile shards of bric pastry. The full savoury flavour of the parfait was as good as foie gras… excuse the taint of blue prose… this really was good.
Off to a good start…
Our first course of house made ricotta, pumpkin, chicory and hazelnuts was scattered over a dark plate Nordic style, and opaque shaved ribbons of Milleen’s cheese were laced on top. Perfectly composed with salty, lactic notes from the ricotta and sweetness from the pumpkin purée, there were also spikes of acidity from the pumpkin pickle, pepper from the rocket, and a textural crunch from the chicory and toasted hazelnuts. Every single ingredient on the plate worked. Which is good, because there is a danger that trendy scatterings can be a bit bland; you need a bit of tension between the ingredients to give it definition.
A white plate with a soft boiled egg sitting on top of tiny cubes of gnocchi with cauliflower and roasted strands of leeks was next to arrive. This too was good, although the egg could have been a bit softer and the dish was in need of seasoning. But as there was a little wooden dish of sea salt on the table, this wasn’t a problem. For our main course, we ordered the two options available.
Beautifully seared scallops that were delicate and moist inside were served with potato agnolotti, earthy girolle mushrooms, cavalo nero and celeriac purée; a perfect dish that echoed winter terroir. And for our other dish, staying firmly fixed in the season, was loin of venison, served rare, with parsnips that had been cooked in miso to add intensity and a good glossy sauce that had touches of aromatics.
After the savoury courses, we took a little breather before moving onto our final course. Dessert, which arrived in a jade green teacup, was a mound of cream tea soaked prunes which were topped with a delicate, salted walnut ice cream with crunchy pieces of honey comb on top. The cheese option was a round of perfectly kept St Tola ash goat’s cheese, which was served with a little jug of honey and thin slices of apricot toast. Both dishes were simple, but delicious combinations.
Worth a special journey…
The food in Forest Avenue is cooked by people with a serious pedigree. Owners John and Sandy Wyer both worked in L’Ecrivain, pioneered the limited, weekly changing menu concept at www.mulberrygarden.ie and are taking things a step further here. Tasting menus are often criticised for being bitty; it can be hard to get the full sense of a dish from a small plate. But in Forest Avenue, the cooking is skilful and the composition of the highly seasonal dishes is resolved. This is a great restaurant. At €48 for the tasting menu, it is extremely good value, and if you’re looking for an even better deal, the “Residents’ Menu” on Wednesday and Thursday evenings is exceptional value for two or three courses at €27/€33.
One of the best restaurants in Dublin.
Forest Avenue, 8 Sussex Terrace, Dublin 4. Tel: (01) 667 8337