While summer has its undeniable allure for many reasons – the odd dry day, the grand stretch in the evenings to name a few, for me, it is the temptations of autumn and winter which take pride of place on my list of favourite foods. Wild game, truffles, celeriac and chestnuts (roasting on an open fire, where possible) make this the most wonderful time of the year for my taste buds and any menu reflecting this will capture my greedy attention. While fashionistas herald the arrival of A/W on the catwalk, I tend to get more excited about how it looks on a plate.
Locally sourced and seasonal seem to be the buzzwords on the lips of every chef, the boxes which must be ticked and the principles which must be adhered to when designing a menu. That said, seasonal can often mean scattering one or two Irish ingredients in their peak condition on a plate, rather than designing an entire menu to maximise the bounty of the time of the year.
Upon hearing that one of Dublin’s finest chefs, Gareth Mullins, has released his seasonal menu, a trip to the ever stylish Brasserie at The Marker was on the top of my list. As much a feast for the eyes as the appetite, The Brasserie is sharp and sleek, dotted with art deco pieces, splashes of canary yellow, slick slate grey features and a Tetris-like cavernous ceiling.
We take our seats by the floor to ceiling windows overlooking the docklands, all lit up and a sight to behold, as are the well heeled crowd sipping on Ayala Champagne and settling in for an evening of indulgence in this uber chic setting.
As is always the case with Gareth’s creations, there is a fine balance between decadent dishes and those designed with a lighter touch, the Equilibrium choices. Creating knock-out dishes capable of ticking various nutritional boxes is something few fine dining establishments have mastered, but Mullins is as comfortable with the ubiquitous kale as he is with caviar.
While the title ‘Autumn Salad” could be construed as cold and uninviting, what arrives is far from it. Massaged kale, lithe shavings of celeriac, salted beetroot and a purée of mushroom and truffle was earthiness bowled and utterly more-ish. If my kale salad al desko was a tenth as tempting as this I’d be a happy girl indeed.
Across the table, a beautifully simple looking dish of Blow Torched Sea Bass was petite but packed with textures and spikes of contrasting flavour. Spiralized potato crunched, tender kohlrabi cubes, pickled green grapes lend a burst of welcome fermented acidity , while juicy mussels sang of the sea, each playing with bass capable of flaking with a fork. This was a cleverly composed celebration of winter waters and a beautifully balanced starter.
As a devout game fan, I will always gravitate towards it on a menu, and spotting Guinea Fowl my mind was made up. The star of this show was undoubtedly the perfectly seasoned Autumn crumble sitting atop crisp skin – deeply rooted in the season’s flavours with an intense toasted nuttiness. Plump and more tender than any bird has a right to be, I suspect salt brine and sous vide treatment is to thank for producing fowl this succulent, mirrored by almost dewy wild mushrooms and intense pan jus completing the umami hit.
While my dining companion was veering towards a light and delicious sounding Roasted Pollock dish, I managed to convince her that a special of Saddle of Hare was a more tempting choice, and I’m glad I did. Bursting at the seams with sage scented chestnut stuffing, a beautifully blushing and expertly cooked hare, gamey, rich and intense was a rare treat too good to pass up.
Irresistible hues of smokey pancetta, a buttery puff pastry sausage roll packed with flaked hare shoulder, sweet roasted chestnuts and chanterelles and a dot of sweet beetroot purée finished this wild and wonderful show-stealing dish.
I don’t often spend too lengthy a detour on side dishes, but Dillisk Polenta Chips with Smoked Garlic Aioli merit such – well worth deviating from the notion of equilibrium which we kept alive with another side of Kale and Pumpkin Seeds. I’ve never met polenta in any incarnation as tempting, and these crisp and buttery beauties, perfectly seaweed seasoned, would have no problem dethroning triple cooked potato fries. We both would have eaten a bag full, no questions asked and fought over the last one.
I’m not a Panacotta fan in general but am always open to persuasion and hoping a chef can erase my preconceptions of the often overly gelatinous goop the Italian stalwart can turn out to be. A cinnamon spiced crisp for scooping glided through the velvety and pleasantly tangy buttermilk creme, cut across with mulled wine hues of berry compote. With optimum pertness and wobble, this ticked all the boxes for a light but luscious end to our meal.
Whether you’re popping to the Bord Gais after a pre-theatre treat or making the Brasserie the star of the show on the night, each dish is a class act, performing on a stage worthy of Mullins’ masterful creations. Even the more indulgent dishes on offer display a lightness of touch and an elegance of sorts, while managing to pack dense flavour punches. This is the kind of restaurant you will want to return to at the change of every season.
The Marker is a cutting-edge venue, contemporary luxury at its finest, but The Brasserie doesn’t just piggy back off its five star surroundings, it shines on its own merit, a feat not all high-end hotel restaurants can lay claim to. There are whispers of moving The Brasserie to the top of the town, all the way up to the stunning Marker rooftop. I’ll gladly run up those stairs if, and when, it does.
The Marker Hotel
Grand Canal Square
T:+353 (0) 1 687 5100
Growing up with the name Darina, I was constantly asked if I could cook like my namesake. I am the only person to have contested both Masterchef and the Great Irish Bake Off and am passionate about discovering and creating delicious things – I can sometimes be caught in the act on TV3’s Six O’Clock Show or RTE Today. Working with TheTaste allows me to satisfy this craving and marries my food fascination with my love of writing and ranting. Follow me on my pursuit of deliciousness.