Food & DrinkGrub Spy

Grub Spy: Bon Appetit, Malahide, County Dublin

Grub SpyBy Alan Kelly
Delicious: Bon Appetit
Delicious: Bon Appetit

What do you do when your enterprise is fast approaching its best-by date? When profits may be heading towards the Swanee and your shelf-life is close to kaput?

A bit of corporate plastic surgery is one option, or ‘rebranding’ as it’s officially called. But that’s a tricky procedure especially when it’s a hugely respected and successful restaurant that’s about to go under the knife.
Plastic surgery can go horribly wrong, just ask Donatella Versace. And nobody wants to end up looking like they just lost a fight with the back end of a bus. 
Bon Appétit in Malahide is the case in point. Once upon a time you headed upstairs for the Michelin star full monty, the ground floor for terrific tapas, and downstairs for the brasserie effect. Now the ‘rebranded’ star of the show is the brasserie. But is the food worth the procedure and have they missed any tricks?
I try a starter called goat’s cheese panna cotta. It’s an elongated chilled wedge of near-tart scrumptiousness, the colour of whipped cream and soft as warmed-up marshmallows. Blobs of basil emulsion, intensely-sweet tomato and a coating of roasted nuts make it lasciviously, lustfully, and goatishly gorgeous.
I want to lick the plate, the knife, the fork...even the waiter. But I don’t do that because it’s illegal and I’m happily married.
An amazing piece of butter-poached chicken is up next for scrutiny. Right on the cusp of perfectly done, it’s just one tasty thrill on a plate of many tasty thrills. Little waves of added pleasure are also there with a cheesy crust, some star anise-scented carrots and a rich gooey herby jus.
It’s an extraordinary bunch of flavours that work together on so many levels. Potatoes, perhaps cooked a tad pointlessly in a churros style, are nonetheless excellent and a joy to eat. 
After wading through all those brilliant concoctions, I think its time for a simple little dessert. Surprisingly, and very nearly the biggest hitter of the lot, is my old favourite, carrot cake. But this is no ordinary carrot cake.
From the creamy cheesy frosting to the pistachio ice-cream and dusting of pistachio snow, it’s a luscious, moist cracker of a dish from start to finish. I could have eaten slabs of it all day. 
I have to say, I don’t usually care much about marketing strategies or developing new business identities - it is taste and flavor that ultimately matters to all diners.
And what this kitchen manages to extract from ordinary sounding stuff like carrots and cream cheese, and then turn them into something approaching magical, is amazing.
This is cooking that’s imaginative without being deranged, elegant without being prissy, and savvy without being too far up itself. In other words, it’s the kind of place every hungry punter will fancy.
A glass of chilled white brings the tab to €39.45. Aside from décor that is (in my opinion) dull and way too 1990s for its own good, these guys definitely haven’t missed a trick. 
The damage (€39.45): 
  • 1 starter
  • 1 main
  • 1 dessert
  • 1 glass of wine
Verdict: 4.5/5