Bon Appetit retains its star quality in Malahide

Oliver Dunne may have changed the set-up in his restaurant but the food is still excellent

Bon Appetit
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Address: 8 James's Terrace, Malahide, Co. Dublin
Telephone: 01 845 0314
Cuisine: Irish
Cost: €€€

Brunch is everywhere, especially on Sundays. If a plate of huevos rancheros and a bucket-sized Bloody Mary is your thing, you’re spoiled for choice. But, apart from hotels, it’s hard to find a place serving a good Sunday lunch, with most of the better restaurants shutting up for the Sabbath.

So, on a blustery August afternoon, searching for a proper lunch for our family of five – two adults, three tweens and teens – we set off for Malahide, attracted by Bon Appetit’s keenly priced two courses for €22.95.

It's no secret that running Dublin's only Michelin-starred restaurant outside the city centre has proved a strain for Bon Appetit's chef/proprietor Oliver Dunne. Trying to reconcile his aspirations with the realities of operating a viable business in this prosperous but stolid north Dublin suburb has never been easy, especially in the crash years, and he has rejigged and reconfigured his Victorian townhouse on several occasions in an attempt to get the right fit.

This year has seen the most radical reinvention: after nine years, Dunne effectively handed back his star by amalgamating the restaurant with the brasserie in the basement, saying his experience running the more informal Cleaver East had sent him “back to basics”.


The current set-up has a tapas bar at hall level, private dining rooms on the first floor and the new restaurant-cum-brasserie down a dark flight of stairs in what Bon Appetit calls the lower ground level but which to you and me is the basement.

The five of us are seated at a round table set for six, which leads to a running gag during the meal about our invisible companion. The room itself does feel a bit cellar-like. Some people are having lunch, while others are having the afternoon tea, which is a little peculiar.

The staff are warm and efficient. And the food, under the direction of Dunne's protege Aaron Carroll, is very good indeed. Standout from the starters is a Fivemiletown goat's cheese panna cotta, which comes with a beetroot and port puree, pickled beets and a brilliant salted beetroot honeycomb. Dublin Bay Prawn dumplings are glutinous parcels of prawn floating with pickled shimeji mushrooms in a coconut and lemongrass broth which is more zingy and packs more punch than it sounds.

Sunday mains always include a roast and today it’s pork loin, cooked to the right point of moistness and accompanied by black pudding, red cabbage and a mustard mash not for the fainthearted.

The confident handling of ingredients, combined with bold flavours continues with my well-cooked hake, sitting on crushed potatoes, crab and mussel-saffron cream. Roast organic salmon with pappardelle, pine nuts and poached egg is gentler but still excellent.

We were ravenous when we arrived, but are starting to flag at this point. Duty demands, though, that desserts be sampled. Normally, I’d say white chocolate mousse with blueberries, blueberry gel, white chocolate jelly and pistachio snow sounds a bit fiddly and even (whisper it) girly. I take it all back; it’s my new favourite thing. There’s also a deconstructed and intensely flavoured vanilla bean cheesecake with salted lemon curd.

Bon Appetit may have jettisoned its star, but the quality of the cooking hasn’t appreciably changed. The bill, for four lunches, one three-course child lunch, three desserts, two glasses of wine, three bottles of mineral water and two decent espressos, comes to €168, which has to be one of the best value meals you’ll find.

I know it’s the middle of August, but it still beats me why the place wasn’t jammed. On the way out, a waitress told us they were starting to serve brunches next week. Quick: get there before the huevos rancheros take over.

Hugh Linehan

Hugh Linehan

Hugh Linehan is an Irish Times writer and Duty Editor. He also presents the weekly Inside Politics podcast