Our verdicts on the stars

 

SMALL PRINT:HOW DO RESTAURANTS win Michelin stars? The picture is no clearer after the news of Dublin’s first new star in five years, and a new star for Galway. Locks Brasserie in Portobello and Enda McEvoy’s Aniar in Galway join the list of Irish Michelin-starred restaurants.

Locks owner Sebastien Masi says he was as surprised himself. Yesterday started for him with a flurry of texts after Locks was listed on a hastily-withdrawn web posting by Michelin. At 2pm he says he got a call from Michelin UK confirming the star.

The Frenchman, who’s been in Ireland for 18 years, took over the failed canal bank restaurant on Windsor Terrace in Dublin’s Portobello two years ago.

The building had had a beautiful but expensive refit by its previous owners at the height of the boom. Masi did nothing to the dining rooms, but he spent around €120,000 on the kitchen and installed chef Rory Carvill.

The first year was “difficult financially”, Masi says. But as it’s outside the city centre, he was paying a third of the rent he had paid on his Merrion Street restaurant, Pearl Brasserie.

“Its never been the idea to get a star,” he says, insisting that the €22 for two courses on week nights would stay in place this year.

When I reviewed Locks in 2010, I wrote: “It feels like the perfect venue for a family special occasion … lighting up the canal again and banishing the lonely sight of a darkened premises."

It has been consistently good since, and the best seat in the house is upstairs, where you can enjoy the light from three sides of the table.

In Galway last night chef Enda McEvoy said he had had no official confirmation from Michelin, although he had been thinking about it all day. But he would “believe it when I see the book”, he said.

Reviewing Aniar last year, I wrote that it served “wonderful food with superb local ingredients ... astonishing food with a lot of style”. The Cavan-born chef worked in Sheridan’s on the Docks in Galway before it closed, and also worked in Rene Redzepi’s Noma restaurant in Copenhagen.

Nails may be bitten between now and next week when the full list is revealed. The Greenhouse in Dublin would be another worthy additions to the guide, in this critic's opinion.

But that much good news might be too much to hope for from the red book.

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