The boom is back or so they are saying..and while we may not have learned all we should from the errs of the Celtic Tiger some have learned more than others. A perfect case in point in Residence on Stephen’s Green, once a bastion of excess, the previous private members club is undergoing quite the renaissance.
Having recently been acquired by John Collins, the savvy businessman behind Laduree, Beeftro and a number of other quality food emporiums, big plans are afoot for Residence’s transformation.
Although the private club facade had been dropped sometime ago many felt it was an inaccessible space that still exuded pomp. This, as we found out last Saturday, has very much changed.
The new “open door” policy is breathing a new lease of life into this stunning Georgian building and more importantly a new breed of customer. If you have yet to cross this iconic threshold you are missing out on one of the most beautiful buildings in the city.
We began our evening with some cocktails in the newly refurbished mediterranean themed garden terrace, which is fully heated and ready for all weather conditions, as we sipped on a ginspired “Parma Collins” and bourbon based “Kentucky Tea” keenly priced at €12.50 each.
We could’ve have easily passed the night away grazing on the garden menu but had made a booking upstairs in Restaurant Forty One, arguably one of the finest dining spaces in the city with unrivalled views overlooking the green.
The food offering in Restaurant Forty One has always had excellent pedigree under the helm of Graham Neville, however we were there to sample the skills of new Executive Head Chef Peter Byrne who comes with his own impressive resume having previously headed up Sika Restaurant in Powerscourt Hotel and worked alongside Ross Lewis in Chapter One for over eight years.
Byrne’s arrival couldn’t be more timely given the new direction, although many of the formalities are slowly fading the standard of food and importance of provenance on the menu are still top of the agenda.
Much like the surroundings the choices on offer are elegantly classic with some modern twists. Refinement is something Byrne excels at, which considering he nearly had a career as a professional footballer is surprising. Our first dish of Seared Yellow Fin Tuna (€24)was beyond doubt one of the most impressive dishes we have been fortunate enough to indulge in recently.
A quenelle of featherlike Lambay crab meat married beautifully with the citrus yuzu jelly and suave, silk like avocado puree. This was a controlled dish in which every element was exact and tantalisingly delicious.
Next up was a Slow Cooked Quail Breast (€24) which was crisp and intensely flavoured, propped up by two little antenna like legs, surrounded by a tiny sea of pea fricasse and salty slivers of Alsace bacon.
Mains proved equally as impressive, sticking to our game theme we sampled some field to fork Aylesbury Duck (€35) from Mary Walsh’s much famed Kilkenny Free Range farm, if it’s good enough for Patrick Guilbaud it’s good enough for us.
Byrne yet again excelled himself with this crowd-pleasing dish which was proving popular on the night we dined. Classically paired with a caramelised orange puree, it was the addition of the pistachio and other worldly, pickled cherries which left us fighting over the last mouthful.
Across the table a fine specimen of Turbot (€35) lay beneath a bed of almost illuminous asparagus, drizzled in a “vin jaune” sauce which had an almost nutty, saffron like flavour to it. Simply topped with a sprinkling of girolle mushrooms and addictively good pickled pearl onions.
Picking a wine to pair with all these dishes can be difficult as you need something that won’t overpower, although we have a soft spot for New World wines we were slightly disappointed to see the list so heavily Old World focused. After a quick chat with Residence’s excellent sommelier Victor Nedelea we settled on his impressive selection of a delicate “Little Beauty” Pinot Noir (€58) from New Zealand and what a little beauty is was, made by a New Zealand wine making legend Eveline Fraser, of Cloudy Bay fame.
Plans are already in motion for some serious investment into expanding the wines list but there is plenty there to keep most satisfied especially if you have a leaning for a decent Bordeaux.
There was never any discussion of dessert being overlooked as each of the five choices before us sounded better than the next. So often we experience outstanding dishes from venues but they often fall at the last hurdle – pastry.
Residence is without doubt a dessert lover’s paradise, Pastry Chef Florian Rossignol is a serious talent to watch, there was a Rhubarb Millefeuille (€12) that would bring a tear to the eye of any sugar fiends like us. Expertly glazed and piped with vanilla cream, not quite “a thousand layers” but simply constructed with cubes of tart rhubarb hidden beneath a deliriously tasty gingerbread ice-cream.
We all have that smug moment when your dessert arrives first and you think ..Ha ! Bet you wish you ordered this .. well that was short lived when a plate of Wexford Strawberries (€12) with shortbread, white chocolate, coconut and lemon balm arrived with Michelin like refinement. No words can do this sublime dish justice, you simply have to come and experience it.
We have to be honest in saying we wouldn’t have been the biggest fans of Residence in its previous guise, however Peter Byrne’s cooking is too good to be ignored. There is no doubt a new culture in Residence, Restaurant Forty One is evolving and we were seriously impressed by what we experienced. It still exudes luxury and a sense of occasion but now the doors are fully open, a warm smile with some confident cooking awaits.
Dinner for two including a bottle of wine and two cocktails came to €225.00.
Restaurant Forty One
41 St. Stephen’s Green
T: +353 1 662 0000
E: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
W : www.residence.ie