I'd heard nothing but great things about Greenhouse.
Various people told me it was "the" place to eat in Dublin and would likely be getting rewarded by the Michelin Guide pretty soon. So when a wonderful client invited me there for a spot of lunch it's safe to say I jumped at the chance.
The only small drawback with the place… well, it had been hyped by so many people with so many wonderful adjectives that it would have to be jaw droopingly good to live up to expectations.
It did and then some.
Lunch is always a great time to visit expensive restaurants because you get the same experience as normal at a fraction of the price. At the height of the Celtic tiger and within a stone's throw of the Old Anglo HQ, a place like this could have charged about €40 for a main course without batting an eyelid.
Thankfully these days you get two courses for €25.
For the quality of the food it feels like you're pulling their trousers down and taking advantage of their good nature – but of course, the truth is that restaurants have had to evolve more than anybody in the recession. The model is to get people in with a special offer and then sell them all the add ons like water, alcohol, coffees etc.
You wouldn't pay many chefs – or indeed a fraction of your Dawson Street rent – on €25 lunch specials alone.
It's the Ryanair model of getting people in with the cheap deal and then up-selling them to within an inch of their lives. It works, though, and I'm happy to see restaurants surviving; if anything the recession has helped them improve. The shite is gone and the cream is rising to the top. Not great if you own a restaurant yourself but as a punter eating out we should all embrace the recession.
Things didn't start too well.
Our host suggest the five-course tasting menu. Bring it fucking on! No need to mess around with choosing from menus, just a case of bringing us the best the kitchen can deliver.
It was 2.15 and the waitress informed us that we were "too late for the tasting menu". Last orders for lunch were 2.30 so why put it on the fucking menu if you can't order it?
Strange. But anyhow, we picked our menus back up and ordered from the lunch selections – I went for ham hock with soft poached egg, fine herbs and broad beans. To say it was savage would be an understatement. Every mouthful was insanely good.
It looked like a piece of art and I've never heard a table shut up so suddenly. We were all mesmerized. Delicate, light and if I hadn't been with company I'd have literally picked up my plate and licked it like a dog.
My main was lamb with sweetbreads and a bunch of other stuff – this tasted even better and was probably one of the prettiest plates of food I've ever been presented. If it was a piece of art it would have set you back thousands... mind you, the size of the portion was pretty tiny. I could have eaten about three times as much, but maybe that was me just being a pig.
The verdict from the table was unanimous: some of the best food ever tasted in Dublin. Even better than Guildbauds.
Michelin star material? 100%. The food is even good enough to get two stars. Easily. Hands fucking down.
A five-course tasting menu of this stuff and you'd be wetting your pants with excitement.
The one small downside…the room. It's tiny and it feels like sitting in a brasserie. There is nothing wrong with it per se but the room lets the food down.
Portion sizes aside this was as close to a 10/10 as I've ever had in Dublin, but the little touches on the service side of things just weren't there. This restaurant belongs in one of the best hotels in town and there is no doubt that will happen within the next year. It has to, otherwise we could be looking at another Dylan Mcgrath Mint style disaster where location stifles a wonderful chef.
My dessert was passion fruit, coconut and pineapple with caramel. It was seriously tasty but the whole table was obsessed with the soufflé that one of the other guests had ordered. One mouthful of that and you were transported to a cloud of yumminess. I'd made the wrong choice – but hey, on the upside I've an excuse to go back now.
The buzz about the Greenhouse is merited. Improve the room, don't falsely advertise your tasting menu thus starting the meal with a negative experience, move to an elegant hotel setting and up the service a notch and this will be the best restaurant in Dublin.
The food is probably technically already the best in town from what I see – and I'm going to enjoy watching this one evolve. A Michelin star next January followed by a second one not too long after is my prediction.
(Oh, and I don't have the bill because even though I insisted on paying the client wouldn't let me. I'd guess with wine for four people it would be about €200 though. Incredible value for this level of cooking.)