In October of last year, I got to eat in a Michelin Star restaurant. Chapter One is a very popular restaurant in Dublin’s City Centre. I went with college and we had to write a review as part of our final grade. Here is what I wrote;
What was I expecting before embarking on my first Michelin star restaurant adventure? Probably a bit too much to be honest. Maybe that is why I was quite frankly disappointed by the whole experience, or maybe it was actually just a waste of money.
Thursday, 23rd October I found myself sitting in what is probably one of Dublin’s most prestigious restaurants – Chapter One. Nestled in the basement of The Writers Museum in the beautiful Parnell Square, it was established over 20 years ago in 1992. Fifteen years after opening; it received a coveted Michelin Star.
We were welcomed really well with a handshake and greeting. We were then lead into the hall where our coats were taken from us. I didn’t really mind this, it was just an unfamiliar experience. Some of us were sat in the main dining room; another few in a room off it and a lucky six were sat in a cosy little snug. I was in the room off from the dining room. It was quite dark and as we had a long table and weren’t seated with the rest of our class, it felt like we were really distant from everyone else.
The table was decorated with a variety of pumpkins and a piece of bog; the cutlery and glasses were glistening. Each of us had a menu packed full of fancy ingredients and culinary terminology. I liked the way the menu was laid out. It was simple with a bit of colour from the Chapter One logo. Every component of the dishes was listed and it was spread out nicely.
The waiters and waitresses were smartly dressed with white shirts and black leather aprons. You think they would be flawless, being it a Michelin Star restaurant and all. They were quite professional, but they defiantly had a few faults. The waitress serving us chewed chewing gum throughout the afternoon. She also dropped cutlery on one of the people at our table. I’ll forgive her for spilling the water a few times! Another fault I found with the service was how long we had to wait, and it seemed to just be the table I was at. It took an hour after our starter had been cleared away for our main to arrive, about half an hour after the rest of the class, almost like they had forgotten about us. The dining room was on their dessert when we were just beginning our main course.
The atmosphere throughout Chapter One was really good. As foodies, and the next generation of Chefs we were excited to be eating in a top class restaurant. We got to visit the kitchen, which was extremely chilled and laid back. The decor was really simple within the restaurant, but worked really well. It was modern and contemporary, but also had a traditional feel. The bathrooms are another story altogether! All the accessories had a silver finish and really fitted with the Michelin Star vibe. They even had individual handtowels – not a dryer or paper towel in sight! The pumpkins on each table added colour and a nice seasonal touch!
On to the food. There was a good variety of dishes throughout the menu including both fish and meat. The dishes were creative with a wide variety of ingredients included. It came across that a lot of thought was put into the menu. Ingredients were rarely repeated and the menu was extremely diverse.
For starter I had, Crispy lamb breast with caper sprout puree, truffled honey and mustard dressing, pickled pumpkin and watercress. The lamb breast was composed of heart and liver and one other ingredient that I am not sure of. Each component of the breast tasted really nice. They all worked really well together alongside the crispy breadcrumb exterior. The dressing of honey and mustard was also really nice. On the plate, it worked really well. You could see each component of the dish which made it really appealing to the eye. There was a mix of textures coming through within the dish from the crispy breadcrumbs, the smooth interior of the lamb breast and the silky honey and mustard dressing. The textures weren’t flat and brought excitement to the dish. The only fault with the dish lies solely in the presentation. It was a dish of little colour and presented on a dark plate it looked a bit boring and dreary.
For main course I delved into Spiced daube of beef with burnt onion, cauliflower and horseradish cream, cep casserole and fried bone marrow. First of all, as you can see from the photo it was an extremely dark dish! As it contained an array of burnt vegetables (thankfully this was intentional) it was bound to be a dark dish anyway, but then it was served on the same crockery as the starter had been – a dark blue plate. I wasn’t too keen on the flavours of this dish. I am not a big lover of fatty meat, which beef cheek is, which I did know before ordering. The beef was so tender and melt in the mouth though. The fat had melted which kind of put me off as it left a tackiness running through the beef. The glazing on the outside I found was too sticky and I didn’t really enjoy the taste. The main course was served with the best mashed potatoes I have ever tasted! They were delicious! They were mashed with smoked cheese and spring onion and I thoroughly enjoyed them – the same potatoes served to the queen on her visit to Ireland in 2011. I suppose they had to be good then!
My favourite part of any meal, and especially this one – dessert. At Chapter One I chose Warm chocolate mousse with lemon marshmallow and praline, spiced bread biscuit with vanilla ice-cream, and it was delightful. As soon as you out your spoon into it you could smell the chocolate and lemon. It smelt divine! The flavours individually were really nice. The mousse was rich and chocolaty. The lemon marshmallow had a nice bitterness to it, although not off putting. It added freshness to the dessert. The vanilla ice cream was so tasty, as was the spiced biscuit bread. Together, I feel all the ingredients worked really well. The lemon in the marshmallow worked really well with the rich chocolate. The vanilla ice-cream added a extra bit of creaminess to the dessert and the spiced biscuit worked really well with the complete dish to add a bit of a savoury element to it. There was a good combination of textures throughout this dish. The smooth mousse worked well with the foamy texture of the marshmallow. The crisp of the biscuit added another element of texture to the mix. The presentation of this dish was stunning. The actual dish was assembled in a glass bowl which was set in a larger wooden one. When you removed the glass bowl, you could clearly see each layer of the dessert. I thought this was a really nice touch and added a flair of elegance to it. There was a good assortment of colours in this dish. The mousse had a rich brown colour while the marshmallow and ice cream were bright a white and cream. The biscuit on top had an orange hue.
Throughout the meal we were served wine. I am not a wine drinker at all, so I only had a sip of both the red and white wines. The white wine we received was Gentil, Hugel et Fils and the red was M.Chapoutier, 2012. The rest of my class really enjoyed both wines. Throughout the meal, the red wine was being constantly being topped up.
After our meal was finished we were served chocolates and a choice of tea or coffee. I was disappointed with the tea as we had no choice in it, it was just served to us already in the cup. It would have been nice to have received a selection to choose from, after we did pay so much money to eat there. We also answered questions to win an Irish coffee which the waitress prepared excellently right in front of us. It was a nice touch to the experience as it isn’t something you see every day at a restaurant.
I think it was worth it for the creativity of the menu, but not necessarily the food, but that is my own personal opinion. It would typically cost almost twice the price to eat at Chapter One. I wouldn’t pay that much though as the portion sizes are extremely small and you are really just paying for the Michelin Star experience. Overall, I really enjoyed the experience of dining in a Michelin Star restaurant, but it was definitely foreign to me and I wouldn’t be pushed to eat at Chapter One, or a Michelin Star restaurant again. I am a girl of simple taste and although I really enjoyed both the starter and dessert, they didn’t wow me. I think it is far too expensive for such small portions, especially when I didn’t really enjoy the main course, but that is just me.