‘Fine dining’ has changed a lot over the past decade and if I’m being honest, I welcome the shift from starchy formality to something more-casual. However, many people still feel that dining out in this country is expensive but there is good value to be found and increasingly consumers are indicating that they are prepared to pay a little more for a quality product.
Ultimately good food starts with sourcing the best ingredients and here in Ireland, we are lucky to have some extremely passionate and dedicated food producers supplying restaurants who in turn are firmly committed to showcasing the best that Ireland has to offer.
From the outset, since it opened earlier this year, the team at Morelands Grill has been determined to provide a memorable dining experience and as I recently discovered, this is very much based on using the best possible Irish ingredients that are available.
Morelands Grill is centrally located on Westmoreland Street next to the elegant five-star The Westin Hotel near to College Green and O’Connell Street and a short walk away from the city’s main shopping areas. Although the restaurant can be accessed through the hotel, it has its own main on-street entrance and consequently it feels like it has a separate and distinct identity.
Inside, the décor is sleek and shiny and the dining room has a serene atmosphere. Prime tables look out onto the hustle and bustle of Westmoreland Street – perfect for people-watching – with more tables and banquette seating around pillars in the centre and along the room’s walls. The overall feel is stylish and sophisticated. Crockery is branded with the restaurant’s signature ‘M’ whilst sizeable steak knives bear its full name.
As a committed gin-lover, I was delighted to see that Morelands encourages patrons to create their own bespoke G&Ts and with little persuasion I quickly ordered a Drumshanbo Gunpowder Gin (8.50) which I paired with a Thomas Henry Cherry Blossom Tonic and my chosen garnish of pink peppercorns, fresh berries and rose petals. My guest decided on a less frivolous concoction – Dingle Gin (€7.00) with classic Tonic and a grapefruit and thyme garnish. Needless to say both went down very well.
A dinky selection of excellent Mini-Soda Breads was served to us on a wooden bread board along with soft butter and some flaky sea-salt as we finalised our choices from the menu. At first glance the menu includes fairly standard fare but, on closer inspection, we discovered that it listed a number of quirky and interesting dishes.
My Pan-Seared King Scallops (€16.50) with lobster risotto, sea rosemary and aged-parmesan sounded like an incredibly rich dish but in reality was full of well-balanced, complex flavours. Italians eschew the use of cheese with seafood but I felt that this indulgent dish benefitted from the salty but clean flavour of the aged-parmesan that was used.
The scallops had been expertly cooked with a lightly caramelised exterior and tender centre that contrasted wonderfully with the punchy flavours of the lobster risotto. Loathe to leave anything behind; I used some of the remaining soda bread to mop up every last bit.
Across the table my guest tucked into the Slow-Cooked Duck Confit and Potato Gnocchi (€12.50) with gusto. It was served with spinach, lemon, scallion and a parmesan cream. I’ll admit that I was highly sceptical about this dish before it arrived.
Confit duck is rich and I suspected that its pairing with a creamy sauce would just be too much… but the dish was an absolute triumph.
Lemon juice had been used almost like a seasoning and imparted a zingy freshness which worked really well with the distinctive herbaceous and slightly bitter flavour of the spinach.
The gnocchi were a total delight; light and fluffy as opposed to the bullet-like offerings that are often served in restaurants. This was an outstanding plate of food.
Morelands Grill is extremely proud of its Spanish Josper Grill which it acquired from a company located just outside Barcelona. Charcoal-fired Josper Grills are the hottest indoor barbecues that are available and are famous for the flavours that they give to the food cooked on them.
The smokiness of the charcoal envelopes the steak and imparts a lovely slightly smoky flavour whilst the extremely high temperatures of up to 500C ensure that all the meat’s juices and flavour are sealed in.
I love steak but rarely order it when eating out as my experience has been that it is a dish that promises so much but often fails to deliver. However, the renowned McLoughlin’s Craft Butchers supply the choice cuts that are available from animals fed on grass and natural grains.
The rib-eye steak is sourced from Peter Hannan and is aged in his unique Himalayan Salt Chamber which is lined with massive blocks of rose-coloured salt from the Pakistani Himalayas. The salt slowly removes the moisture from the beef naturally and it is also believed that this aging process controls unwanted bacterial action resulting in a juicier, tender steak with complex flavour tones.
When it comes to steak, I tend to favour rump or rib-eye cuts as I find them more flavoursome so my choice of the 10oz Rib-Eye Steak (€31.50) was easy to make. It was served with roasted tomatoes, chips and my choice of béarnaise sauce on the side.
Rib-eye comes from the fore-rib of the animal and is marbled with a central piece of fat that is very tasty. Searing heat is the best friend of rib-eye, so it is a cut that is particularly suited to the heat of the Josper Grill.
Prime cuts of beef can be eye-wateringly expensive with many restaurants charging premium prices, but when it tastes as delicious as the steak in Morelands Grill, I don’t mind paying for it.
I try to avoid making sweeping statements regarding the various dishes that I eat when reviewing restaurants but this was one of the best, if not the best steak that I have ever eaten.
It was cooked medium-rare, precisely as requested and was exceedingly tender with a succulent, almost sweet flavour unlike any steak that I can remember eating. Crisp but fluffy-centred chunky chips and a well-made slightly astringent béarnaise sauce were the perfect accompaniments along with the extra side dish of Sautéed Field Mushrooms (€4) that I ordered.
My guest’s Herb-Roasted Chicken Supreme (€24.50) was also terrific but it was always going to struggle to reach the heady heights of my rib-eye steak. That said, any chicken lover would have been delighted with the moist and flavourful chicken which was served with a velvety butternut squash purée and a crisp potato rosti, confit shallots and a meaty portobello mushroom.
We also shared a stack of rather excellent Spanish Onion Rings in a Spiced Panko Crumb (€3.50)
Desserts rounded off an incredibly enjoyable meal and were well-executed versions of some classic crowd-pleasers. My Baked Apple Tarte Tatin (€9.50) with its light and flaky pastry base was a total hit and I loved the accompanying creamy calvados custard and the luxurious taste of the caramel butter ice-cream.
My companion’s Warm Chocolate Fondant (€8.50) with its molten centre was also fabulous. It was paired with a white chocolate ice-cream that thankfully wasn’t too sweet.
Morelands has a well-chosen wine-list with quite a number available by the glass and it should be noted that Champagne lovers are particularly well catered for.
My dinner at Morelands Grill was definitely one that I will remember for a long time. One of the disadvantages of writing about food is that I tend to prioritise trying out new restaurants that I haven’t visited before and as a result I don’t get the chance to revisit some of my favourite places as often as I would like.
After my meal at Morelands, I know that I will be back soon to try out some of the other dishes on the menu… although I will find it hard to resist the lure of that magical rib-eye steak!
Beside the Westin Dublin
Niamh believes Ireland produces some of the best food in the world, and travels around the country; seeking out the best food producers, and places to eat.
An accomplished cook and baker, Niamh is also a previous MasterChef Ireland finalist. During the competition she had the opportunity to cook in some of Ireland’s top restaurants and experience life on the other side of the kitchen pass.
Working with TheTaste allows Niamh to write about her experiences and to share her passion for food and cooking with a wide audience.
Visit Niamh’s blog The Game Bird Food Chronicles.