I have always considered Bastible, in Dublin 8, to be at Michelin star level, but must admit that I was surprised when it landed a gong at this year’s awards. I had concluded that it had been inexplicably relegated to the never-going-to-happen list, along with The Dairy, the wonderful but now shuttered London restaurant owned by Dubliner Robin Gill.
What has changed to elevate it to one star? Well I'm not about to divulge the secrets of Fatima, but chef and owner Barry FitzGerald reckons that sticking with reduced seating (a by-product of pandemic imposed distancing) and changing to a tasting menu has ensured the sort of consistency and refinement that has Michelin inspectors ticking starry boxes.
It is also likely that the experience that he and his wife Clairemarie Thomas both gained during their time in London – FitzGerald in Arbutus, St John, and then his appointment as head chef in Michelin starred Harwood Arms, before returning home as the opening chef at Etto – is finally paying off.
The €70 tasting menu at Bastible could be described as a four-courser with snacks and petit four, but this might lead you to expect a few artfully displayed mouthfuls on expensive plates. Not so. Bring your appetite, and indeed your vegetarian friends, as the vegetarian menu here is quite exceptional. As is the wine list, although you may find the prices a bit scary. There's not much below €40, but when you consider that the list includes many of the world's top young producers, it is worth asking the advice of Shane Lyons, the sommelier and manager. He suggests a Chardonnay from Judith Beck (€54), a stunning biodynamic wine that is an incredibly good match with our dishes.
Dried carrots do not sound like the most exciting way to start a vegetarian menu, but when they are sitting on a puree of ricotta dusted with crispy pumpkin seeds it is a different matter. The carrots are slightly chewy and sweet, and oh so delicious; and so too is the non-veggie snack of a Kelly’s oyster dotted with smoky Morita chilli which adds a spicy kick to the juices.
Beef tartare follows on one side of the table, beetroot on the other, kissed with lovage with its grassy anise notes and a crunchy confit potato. Baby leeks with pickled Galway mussels are spectacular. It is a dish that allows the ingredients to shine, while the flavours build in a dazzling sauce made from reduced buttermilk whey and I suspect quite a bit of butter and white wine. The vegetarian version is equally good, with pickled shimeji mushrooms. Sourdough bread, which has been cooked in the traditional bastible, lands just in time to mop up the sauces.
The fish course is like an Irish blinis and caviar interpretation – a buttermilk crumpet that is waiting to be piled up with smoked yoghurt, trout roe, fermented gooseberry and smoked trout that is falling apart under a lacquered apple reduction. It is clever and razor sharp with the addition of the gooseberries, and it is something that you eat with your hands rather than a knife and fork. For the vegetarian menu, it is Knockalara cheese dumplings, with wilted spring cabbage, doused in a Coolea cheese sauce with a few drops of chamomile oil.
Hen of the woods, a meaty mushroom, wins the next round for the vegetarian menu, beating the slow-cooked Black Angus featherblade, which feels just a bit too wintery. But both pack a load of savoury flavour, with poached salsify, pureed Jerusalem artichoke, pine vinegar and crispy artichoke crumb scattered on top.
Dessert is clever; a savoury/sweet tension, and the fact that ceps are involved in the chocolate ganache could go unnoticed except for the subtle hum of mushroom, balanced with Velvet Cloud sheep’s milk ice cream, Pedro Ximénez sauce and a crunch of buckwheat.
Brown butter cake soaked in whiskey syrup and topped with smoked cream, like an Irish version of madeleines, is the perfect finish to the meal, the smoke tying together everything that has been threaded through the evening.
This is not just confident cooking, it is also extremely clever and delicious. FitzGerald spares us the literal interpretation of how using a bastible influences the dishes on his menu, but emanates the importance of a hearth, a fire and the smoke that goes with it in a delicate weave of humble ingredients. If you have not been to a Michelin star restaurant in Ireland, this is the place to start.
Dinner for two with a bottle of wine was €194
- Verdict Delicious food with an Irish influence that goes deep
- Facilities Downstairs, smart with candles and a diffuser
- Music None that was discernible
- Food provenance Sustainable Seafood, Elmhurst farm, Iona farm, Artisan foods, McLoughlin's butchers
- Vegetarian options A stunning vegetarian menu which can be adapted for vegan diets
- Wheelchair access ★★★★☆ Room is accessible with a portable ramp but no accessible toilet