23 April 2014

The Sexiest Mexican Restaurant in Dublin: 777

‘I can’t believe it took me so long to visit 777’ I said to Mr. FFID whilst enjoying a fantastic Margarita on a Sunday afternoon.

With the frosted windows and the black façade, it's be quite easy to miss 777, a trendy Mexican restaurant and tequila cocktail bar located on South Great Georges Street. 777 is quite small and rather busy, doesn’t take bookings for parties fewer than 6 people and sits couples/pairs on high stools at the bar.

The interior is funky with its white tiled walls, suggestive art pictures and cool display of tequila bottles.

On the menu you find a ‘dinner family style’ at €38 per person for three courses, a range of Mexican small bites and plates, a few mains from the wood burning grill, a late night bites menu and an extensive tequila and cocktail menu. The prices aren’t cheap but they have some specials depending on the day of the week (Margarita Monday, Taco Tuesday and their €7.77 Sundays). 

We visited on a Sunday when we were craving for Mexican food and dreaming of guacamole. Sunday was a good day to visit 777 for the first time as they have 7 brunch dishes, 7 dinner dishes and some cocktails priced at €7.77. 

Because there were just the two of us we were offered seats at the bar, the long orange counter that crosses almost the entire room. There is enough room to hold a few dishes in front of you and you can also see the cocktails being made right in front of you. It’s not an intimate set up that’s for sure but it’s perfect for casual grub over cocktails with good company.

We ordered the ‘tacos al campeon’, two tasty breakfast tacos filled with chorizo, egg and topped with salsa verde.

We also shared ‘El Gringo’ which consisted of crispy nachos served in a skillet with cheese, cream, beans, guacamole and topped with big red chilies. Delish! 

We also had the ‘costillas’, three fiery chili glazed succulent baby back ribs.

I washed down my food with a great Margarita (€10) while Mr FFID had a delicious T-N-T (Tequila and Tonic).

Our bread and butter pudding with dulce de leche (milk jam) was simple but a perfect way to end the meal on a sweet note. I admit loving everything with dulce de leche in it.

To round off the meal we both had a ‘Coco canela’, a smashing sweet cocktail of tequila, chocolate sauce, crème de cacao and cinnamon.

777 is a sexy eatery, it's filled with young and beautiful people, the music is loud and it feels totally hip. I have a massive crush on the place: the flavoursome food, excellent cocktails and great interior. My only regret is not having visited earlier.

7 Castle House, 
South Great Georges Street, 
Dublin 2

21 April 2014

Chocolate Afternoon Tea at the Dylan Hotel

Easter eggs aren’t really my thing but afternoon tea is right up my alley so when I saw the Dylan Hotel was doing a chocolate afternoon tea for Easter I just had to try it.

The chocolate afternoon tea is currently being served every day from 12pm to 5pm until the 27th of April and has to be booked in advance. When I saw the price of €35 per person I almost didn’t book it, thinking it was a bit too pricey but Mr. FFID said the magic words ‘Ah go on, it's an Easter treat!’.

Three options are available for this afternoon tea, so you chose your preferred chocolate (white, milk or dark) at the time of reservation.

It was my first time in the Dylan, a five star boutique hotel located in Ballsbridge, which reminded me of the G Hotel in Galway.

The room we were in was small, cosy and bright with a few sofas, beautiful armchairs and mirrors.

Our tea and coffee were served straight away and then the food was brought to our table. I’m not going to lie, at first, I thought it looked a little small but that’s because my eyes are bigger than my stomach.

The savoury part of the tea included 4 types of sandwich per person: beetroot and goat cheese, chicken pesto and rocket, smoked salmon chive crème fraîche with pickled red onion and capers and finally, egg mayo on brown bread. 

The sandwiches were fresh, tasty and very nicely presented.

On the middle tray we had two substantial freshly baked scones served with clotted cream with a strawberry in the middle and a delicious strawberry jam. 

The scones were lovely, soft and still warm.

We then had a dark chocolate mousse with a passion fruit gel beautifully presented in an eggshell and served with a small shortbread biscuit.

The mousse was light and the combination with the passion fruit was lovely, it went down a treat.

Then the waiter brought the hot chocolate with a shot of King's ginger liqueur in it. This was very good, the chocolate was thick and rich and the ginger liqueur worked really well with it.

I have high standards in terms of macarons and unfortunately the dark chocolate and passion fruit macarons were a disappointment. They were too chewy, a bit dry and the flavours were lacking.

However the dark chocolates truffles were amazing, being provided by my favourite place for sweet treats in Dublin: Cocoa Atelier. They would do well to also source their macaroons from there, as they're the best in the city.

Overall we enjoyed our Easter afternoon tea, the service was friendly and the surroundings were stylish and modern. My fear of leaving hungry was irrational as we were stuffed: the portions were actually just right as the scones were big and the chocolate was quite rich. It was a little overpriced for what it was and in comparison to what’s on offer in hotels like the Westin or the Merrion but as Mr. FFID said ‘It was our Easter treat!’ and we're glad we tried it.

The Dylan Hotel
Eastmoreland Place
Dublin 4

18 April 2014

Taste of Paris: Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse

I know most of you read this blog because it's about Dublin but this also my little personal space where I can share things or places I love, so I've decided to start a series called 'Taste of Paris' to tell you all about my favourite Parisian spots.

For my first post I was actually planning to blog about a restaurant but then I realised it was the start of the Easter weekend and that it would be better to blog about...  Le chocolat. Sorry to disappoint you, it's not about Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche in a movie about chocolate but about a place I visited when I was in Paris a few weeks ago: Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse.

Michelin-starred chef Alain Ducasse fell in love with chocolate about 30 years ago while he was working with some amazing pastry chefs. Ever since, he has had the dream of producing his own chocolate.

Well he did it! He created Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse, a chocolate factory located close to Bastille on rue de la Roquette in the 11th district. The premises used to be a Renault garage, there is a front courtyard, the shop and the factory itself.

Because they have see through windows you can actually look at what's going on inside and if you're lucky you might see the staff at work. Nicolas Berger is the artisan chocolate maker in Le Chocolat and he transforms cocoa beans into chocolate bars or divine little pieces of chocolate that then are sold in the beautiful onsite shop.

When you get in you can smell the beautiful fragrance of chocolate.

The boutique is stunning, chic and industrial looking at the same time and the chocolates are displayed in a centrepiece in the middle of the room, as well as on all the surrounding shelves.

Ganaches, truffles, chocolate bars, the choice can easily make you dizzy if you love chocolate.

Le Chocolat is a luxury chocolate shop so prices are quite high but they make a nice gift for chocolate lovers and the place is so pretty that it's really worth visiting. It's actually the video below that made me want to visit this place a few months ago,  have a little look, it's absolutely stunning and there is no better time than this Easter weekend to be dreaming of chocolate! Happy Easter everyone!

LE CHOCOLAT - Alain Ducasse from Simon Pénochet on Vimeo.

Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse
40 rue de la Roquette
75011 Paris

16 April 2014

#BrewsWePlate: An Evening of Fine Dining and Irish Craft Beer

#BrewsWePlate is the brainchild of couple Eric Heilig and Floriane Loup, who during their pop up events serve a tasting menu made to match perfectly with a selection of Irish craft beers. I was delighted when Caroline Byrne aka 'The Dublin Foodie' asked me to go along with her a few weeks ago: an evening of Irish craft beer and fine dining definitely sounded like a good plan!

I didn’t know what to expect, which made it even more exciting. Upon arrival I found myself in a room especially set up for the pop up dinner upstairs in Cassidy’s on Westmoreland Street. 

That night, #BrewsWePlate teamed up with White Gypsy brewery which is based in co. Tipperary and between each course Declan Nixon from White Gypsy introduced us to each beer.

We were greeted with a Cork Dry Gin and Tonic with Dillisk seaweed and cucumber for aperitif. Buckets containing a variety of fresh homemade breads were brought to the table (treacle and porter brown soda bread, Swedish style pilsner and flux seed flat bread, nettle bread, spring onion and walnut bread and multigrain loaf) as well as carrot and ginger butter and lemon and wild garlic butter.

We started off with an unusual amuse-bouche of shredded pork, crispy pig’s ear with Dillisk crème fraîche wild garlic and buttermilk foam. It was an interesting and delicious mix of textures, the pork tartar worked wonders with the strong flavor of wild garlic.

The pairing started with White Gypsy’s blond beer served with a scallop dish. The perfectly cooked and plump scallop was plated with a smear of roast banana puree, coriander leaves, lime gel and Goji berries. This tasted wonderfully exotic and happened to be my favourite dish, leaving me with a taste for more.

We then had a White Gypsy Belgian brown ale paired with the next dish, consisting of a hen’s egg, leek, roast Jerusalem artichoke, roasted pear, torn brioche and chicken heart.

A White Gypsy American pale ale came next with the main dish:  a piece of tender pork shoulder, crispy pieces of crackling, grapes, smooth celeriac puree, almonds and grapefruit.

We rounded off the feast with a White Gypsy German Doppelbock served with wonderful dark chocolate ganache, a sweet potato gel, rye, duck egg yolk ice cream, sea salt and cocoa soil. 

I found #BrewsWePlate to be an original concept and an enjoyable experience. The food was inventive, beautifully plated and the pairings worked well. The service wasn’t rushed and the atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. After the event, I was curious to know more about the people behind #BrewsWePlate and so interviewed Eric and Floriane.

What’s #BrewsWePlate?
#BrewsWePlate is simple. We offer food and craft beer lovers a great pop up experience. We occupy a different location for each event and invite an exciting brewery over to serve and introduce the guests to their best Irish-produced beers. On our side, we put together a tasting menu in which each dish is specifically designed to enhance the flavours, various characteristics and qualities of each beer.  We aim at uniting the best of what Ireland has to offer.
We also want to open the experience to food and beer lovers or companies that would like to recreate these evenings at home or in any other location. You can now get #BrewsWePlate just for yourself and guests, with a designed tasting menu and beer pairing. 
Who is the team behind #BrewsWePlate?
The whole #BrewsWePlate adventure started with chef Eric Heilig and Maitre d'hote Floriane Loup. We are partners in life and in business. Eric has been working as a chef for the past twelve years and has broadened his culinary skills in some of the best restaurants around Europe. Among them, "The Long Room Hub" at The Lodge in Doonbeg, voted best Irish Hotel Restaurant of 2012, where he worked as the Junior Sous-Chef. His travels and love for food lead him to work in Michelin starred restaurants such as Bacchus in Mallorca and Le Val d'Or in Germany. After obtaining a sommelier degree, Eric developed a passion for craft beers and has since then involved them in his food and experimented with various foraged ingredients to the point of brewing his own beers and ciders. 
Floriane has always been what people call a "foodie". As she was working in the food industry in some of Dublin's best restaurants while completing her Masters in Journalism, Floriane had to face the facts and admit that she could not live without her two passions: food and communicating. She has worked for various newspapers and magazines in France and Ireland and worked as a communications officer for the European Parliament in Luxembourg. 
We have the same food and beer philosophy: breaking the stiff conventions tied to fine-dining and opening the doors of a too-often-closed club of food lovers and craft beer aficionados.

- What was your inspiration and how did you come up with the idea of #BrewsWePlate?
We've always been true foodies. We both are coming from countryside families and enjoy simple but well-produced food. We are always looking for new flavours and that is probably what brought us to craft beers. We both have knowledge and background in wine but discovered that the possibilities are endless with beers. Each beer is different, has its own characteristics and flavours. 
One of the first conversations we had when we met was about the fact that we could not find a place in Dublin that would render all this. You do have more and more craft beer pubs opening with great beers but they tend to be too cautious in their food menu. Moreover, even though the restaurant industry has been booming for the past few years and more beers have been given a spot in the drinks lists, nobody has yet fully involved them in their food or in their pairings. There are no perfectly balanced tasting menus offered, with dishes specifically created to enhance and elevate the flavours of excellent craft beers.
Food and beer should be enjoyed by all in an open-minded, simple and sharing philosophy without having to compromise with the quality you're getting. We decided that it was time for to take it in our own hands, share our passion with people and also get them to learn more about food and beer.

#BrewsWePlate on Facebook here 
#BrewsWePlate on Twitter here 

Disclaimer: I was invited to this event free of charge.  I gave no undertaking to write a review and the words above are, as always, my honest opinion.