Gillian Nelis: Simplicity is at the heart of Bastible’s spectacular fare
The seven-year-old restaurant on Dublin’s South Circular Road serves up a set menu that manages to defy all superlatives
Bastible, 111 South Circular Road, Dublin 8, 01-4737409, bastible.com, Chef: Barry Fitzgerald
I should apologise in advance for the fact that this review is going to be so gushing that Barbara Cartland’s editor would probably have turned it down for being a bit over the top. But even the late, great lady in pink would have struggled to keep a lid on it if she’d eaten the meal I did in Bastible last week.
First, the basics: this neighbourhood restaurant on a corner where the South Circular Road meets Clanbrassil Street was opened by Barry Fitzgerald and Claremarie Thomas in late 2015. In the years since, it’s generated a slew of great reviews, and earlier this year won a Michelin star, with the guide praising its use of “top-class Irish ingredients which are given the space to shine”, bold flavours and generous servings. “This is cooking that comes from the heart,” it said, going a little Cartland-esque itself.
The set menu is priced at €75 a head, with a veggie version also available. The wine pairing is €38, wine by the glass starts at €8, and you can opt for an extra cheese course for €14 a head – though you’d want to be very, very hungry to manage it.
We start with snacks. A plump, juicy Cromane oyster is lightly poached, then served in its shell with a drizzle of sherry vinegar infused with morita chilli, and some fennel pollen. A cube of confit potato is a little chip of heaven, with its topping of lovage purée and beef tartare; I’d eat these until they came out of my ears.
Our starter is asparagus that’s been charred beautifully, dotted with little bits of pork crackling and wild garlic flowers, then served at the centre of a ring of gloriously green parsley purée.
Think it sounds a bit abstemious? Think again – a little jug of Coolea cream is poured on top, before hunks of incredibly good bread arrive accompanied by smoked butter. This is dunking on steroids, and we mop up every last little bit of deliciousness.
The Bastible staple, the home-made crumpet, is as buttery and delicious as ever. We greedily pile on smoked trout, pickled gooseberry purée, smoked yogurt and trout, then polish if off in a frankly unseemly amount of time. I’m sure the kitchen team think we’re savages, and we do nothing to dissuade them by wolfing our main course just as quickly.
It’s chicken, that much-devalued protein, here treated so beautifully by senior sous chef Jonathan Farrell and his team – Barry Fitzgerald is round the corner in Clanbrassil House, his other restaurant – that you’ll wish they could come round and cook your Sunday lunch every week.
It’s from Feighcullen Farm in Co Kildare, and again it’s a dish that’s beguiling in its simplicity: roast breast, charred leeks and a celeriac purée on the side, a divine jus poured on top, and a crispy wing served separately.
You’ll understand why we couldn’t manage cheese, but we did do justice to a light chocolate cake topped with bits of buckwheat – or hipster Rice Krispies, as I like to call them – and a quennelle of sheeps yogurt sorbet. Petits fours of caramel with ginger, and an almond and rhubarb cake, keep the quality up to the last bite.
This was a meal which defied superlatives: perfectly paced and balanced, utterly delicious and incredible value at €75 a head. Bravo, Bastible, long may you prosper. Dinner for two, with two glasses of wine, two soft drinks and a double espresso came to €187.
BREAKING THE BANK
Tasting menu €75 per person. Cheese plate €14 per person. Wine pairing €38 per person. Dinner for two: €254
WATCHING THE PENNIES
Tasting menu €75 per person. Wine: Plaimont, En La Tradition, gros manseng/arrufiac, Saint Mont, Gascony 2018, €38. Dinner for two: €188
CATHAL MCBRIDE REVIEWS THE WINE LIST
With an Old World spine and an off-the-beaten track core, the list at Bastible is one that is considered and interesting, with a rustic refinement. A range of cocktails priced from €8.50 to €11 kicks it off, with each having a noticeable twist – the negroni, for example, features sparkling chardonnay.
Whites (€38-€88) are defined into sections like “round and nutty”, or “mineral and ”floral” in a novel way of categorising the options, with similar descriptors for the reds (€38-€125). While bottle prices veer toward the higher end, the selection of wines by the glass rotates regularly and currently there are 21 options priced from €8 to €18.50 to choose from.
A number of high quality, small scale and well-priced sparklings, dynamic skin contact wines and atypical rosés round out a list that ends in dessert and port wines including Ireland’s own Killahora Orchards apple ice wine.
For my pick of the white wines, the minimal intervention albillo real 2017 from Bodegas Verum Ulterior (€50) possesses the Loire-like fruit composition and minerality to pair well with the smoked sea trout crumpet.
For red, I’m going for the Greek Thymiopoulos Naoussa Alta 2019 (€11 a glass/€50 a bottle). With its juicy red fruits and balanced acidity, it would pair well with some of the richer dishes on show, while providing a balance to the lightness of touch shown in the food.