It's halfway there
The beautifully redesigned restaurant at the Morrison Hotel sadly does not stand the taste test, writes CATHERINE CLEARY
Take one picnic basket. Sit a large golden Labrador on top. Et voilà Eton Mess, that mush of broken meringue, whipped cream and strawberries. So goes the myth about the famous dessert. Tonight I’m struggling to eat a sundae that tastes like an accident with a bucket of popcorn and a melted Snickers ice cream. Multiplex Mess. Sadly it’s not a great thing. Not even close.
I’m in the newly-reopened Morrison Hotel on Dublin’s Ormond Quay. And a meal that started out well has become a train wreck. This hardly ever happens. If a kitchen can wow you with starters, you’re usually in safe hands.
The hotel is open again after a dramatic redesign. John Rocha’s tobacco brown man cave has been swept into a folder marked: boom history. Now it’s bright, light Scandi-chic with lots of bleached or painted timber and glamorous clusters of lights. The restaurant is on the right of the lobby. A curved tiled kitchen space sits where, I think, a bar used to be. Chefs in aprons hover here. Two Scottish women giggle with the waiter over the idea of watching a man “slaving over a hot stove” to get them their dinner.
And boy is that stove hot. It’s a Josper charcoal grill. It heats to 500 degrees Celsius, which sounds like strapping your steak to the outside of a space shuttle and attempting to re-enter earth’s atmosphere. But I wonder do the words “fire, air, charcoal” on the menu sound profound or do they sound like a heavily marketed big expensive barbecue?
The place looks great. The polished cutlery on the tables lies snugly in a crisply starched tea towel. Side plates are flowery. Service is excellent and the meat-heavy menu has a pricey wine list on the back. This includes seven kinds of champagne, the most expensive clocking in at €275 a bottle. We order a bottle of Zagalia, a Sicilian pinot grigio (€27).
Those great starters arrive lickity-split on beautiful plates. Jeanne’s gnocchi are dense tube-shaped chunks of potato pasta drenched in a creamy confit tomato sauce with artichokes, tiny chunks of great mozzarella and warm wilted spinach leaves draped over it. It’s got a dusting of grated Parmesan and looks and tastes wonderful. I get a generous plate of slow-roasted beetroot quarters, half of them purple the other half glamorous apricot orange. They’re sweet and slippery and a perfect contrast to a dry, salty goats’ curd, paper-thin slices of raw radish and micro leaves.