The Dawson Brasserie
35 Dawson Street, Dublin 2
Telephone: 01-6127911, www.thedawsonbrasserie.ie
Chef: Paul McNamara
The magnificent dining room of La Stampa is reborn as the Dawson Brasserie (insert trumpet sound worthy of the Sun-King here), but it boasts a long list of chefs who’ve come and gone over the years. From Jean-Christophe Novelli and Richard Corrigan to Paul Flynn and Conrad Gallagher, it’s like a culinary version of Pavlov’s dog, or Pavlova’s dog if you like.
Dublin’s finest dining room keeps tempting chefs to take it on and the latest is Paul McNamara, with a pedigree which includes Chapter One and the Lanesborough hotel in London.
From a list of conservative and predictable dishes my companion, a grande dame of the culinary world originally from the US, ordered the pan-seared scallops with crubeens, apple, caper and raisin (€14).
This was a well-structured offering, but the sweetness of the scallops required the acid thrust of a Granny Smith instead of the dull hint of sweet apple in this version.
I had the seasonal salad of poached pear, glazed pecans and blue cheese (€11). This is a favourite which I make at home, so I’d expect a little extra work or twist in a restaurant version, but this was not the case here.
There’s a decent selection of wines by the glass; I had a sauvignon blanc from Saint Clair in New Zealand (€9) and madame had the Rias Baixas DO, Albarino, from Vina Almirante in Spain (€8).
Our main course arrived and luckily we knew the difference between the hake my companion ordered and my monkfish tail (€27), even if the staff didn’t. It was so tough it took considerable force to pull a morsel from the main meat. Perhaps the membrane had not been removed before cooking or I got the very end of the tail, either way it required returning to the kitchen.
Many moons ago I worked in a very ordinary restaurant in London, which I now realise had staff with some extraordinary training. If food was sent back you had to know the quickest thing the kitchen could turn around, as diners eating in front of those with nothing make both uncomfortable.
This didn’t happen here, so my companion had nearly finished when some new monkfish appeared.
This time it was just as tough on the exterior as before, but the interior was bordering on just to the point of cooked, which I feel works in salmon but not in monkfish. I sent this one back too and settled to finishing the superb creamed spinach instead (€4.50).
Madame’s hake (€23) passed muster and was prettily served with mushrooms and micro’ potatoes and herb leaves.
We’d also asked for a taster portion of the vegetarian option of macaroni and blue cheese (kindly not charged for), but the oomph of what must have been truffle oil told an old culinary story of fur coat and no drawers. Nothing like the mac and cheese the American grande dame’s mother used to make.
For dessert I had the very tasty Dawson Eclair of milk chocolate mousse, which was served with burnt butter ice cream and warm chocolate sauce (€10). At first I thought the ice cream had been defrosted and refrozen, but after some time we began to suspect the strange texture was too much gelatine.
The treacle tart (€9) with clotted cream was a tasty number too, though why the term clotted’ was used we were not entirely sure, as it was more like over-whipped cream.
At some point the long history of this dining room needs to be viewed differently – we probably need to stop looking at the chefs and start looking somewhere else.
Although the food experience was poor, how much of that was about sourcing costs, kitchen staff costs or investment in training?
This is one of the most beautiful dining spaces in Dublin, with a real fin de siecle feel, but it will take a real revolution for this great room to return to the glory of its distant past.
Breaking the bank
Starter: pan-seared scallops with crubeens, apple, caper and raisin €14
Main course: roast monkfish with red pepper, aubergine, crushed potato and basil €27
Dessert: chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream and espresso €10.50
Drinks: Margaux, Chateau Palmer, 3eme Grand Cru Classe, Bordeaux 2001 €415
Total for two: €518
Watching the pennies
Starter: roast white onion soup with cider and smoked Knockanore cheese croute €7
Main course: chargrilled 8oz beef burger with caramelised onions, home-made ketchup, smoked cheese and fries €16
Dessert: creme brulee with shortbread biscuit €8
Drinks: Cotes de Duras, Merlot, Domaine des Allegrets, France 2011 €26
Total for two: €88