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Irish Independent
Irish Independent
Katy McGuinness

Laurel restaurant review: ‘A neighbourhood spot aiming to keep everyone happy, this will be popular with Blackrock locals’

Laurel in Blackrock, Co Dublin

Alan O’Reilly is probably sick of being described as a ‘veteran’ chef but the fact that he’s still turning out great food after a career spanning more than three decades warrants the accolade. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed his cooking at Clarets and Morels, the still-missed Alexis in Dún Laoghaire, and Wildeside in Cabinteely Village. I last ate his food at the short-lived Del-Fino on Camden Street, a collaboration with the people behind China Sichuan in Sandyford. It never really hit its stride and closed in 2019.

Since the end of last year, O’Reilly’s been back in the ’burbs over Kelly & Coopers pub — also his — on Blackrock’s Main Street, a building which has seen its fair share of incarnations over the years, home at various times to The Mad Hatter, Ouzos and, for one brief moment, a SoCoDu outpost of Joe Macken’s Jo’Burger. And probably a few more I don’t remember.   

While the pub downstairs is visually underwhelming, the restaurant upstairs is smart, with dark walls, comfy banquettes, upholstered chairs and a dramatic, double-storey void over the front entrance. On a bitter evening, however, the space isn’t as warm as it should be. 

Seared Kilmore scallops, arancini, fennel and apple

There are linen napkins and tablecloths — a good sign. Another statement of intent is O’Reilly’s hiring of Paula Patz, formerly of Pichet, Glas and Forest & Marcy, as his head chef. By the end of the evening, I reckon I can spot her influence.

Laurel is offering a short à la carte menu with five starters, five mains (plus one additional special) and three desserts, plus cheese. O’Reilly is playing things pretty safe, aiming to appeal to a conservative demographic, with smoked salmon, beef fillet, duck and chicken all featuring.

The same goes for the wine list which, though reasonably priced, features little of interest to those favouring the natural or low-intervention end of the spectrum. Disappointingly, there are no ABVs listed, and the lowest of the reds turns out to be 13pc. (We order it, a Chateau Ramafort 2015, €58, from the Medoc, all ripe fruit and juice.)

The vegetarian starter, a base of flaky pastry topped with roasted celeriac, pickled shimeji mushrooms and roasted hazelnuts, turns out to be our favourite, an exciting explosion of umami

Two types of warm bread, made in-house, served with a savoury miso butter, get us off to a good start. Next, an amuse: a little tart filled with rolled Japanese omelette and topped with pata negra under a flurry of micro-planed truffled Pecorino, quite the tasty mouthful.  

Seared scallops, three large ones, aren’t as hot or as caramelised as they should be, but it’s a well-thought-out plate with tiny arancini sitting on fennel purée and a fresh salad of fine juliennes of fennel and apple for contrast and to cut through the sweetness.

Beef tartare with a tiny quail’s egg in the centre is well-flavoured. There’s mustard mayonnaise, pretty slivers of radish and micro-leaves, and the accompanying ‘crispbread’ is not the decorous Scandi-style thing we’re expecting but instead delicious strips of sourdough that taste as if they may have been fried in rendered bone marrow — there’s definitely bone marrow in the dish somewhere.

The vegetarian starter, a base of flaky pastry topped with roasted celeriac, pickled shimeji mushrooms and roasted hazelnuts, turns out to be our favourite, an exciting explosion of umami. 

Roasted celeriac, pickled shimeji mushrooms and roasted hazelnuts

A main course of braised black sole with leek and langoustines (one poached, one wrapped in kataifi pastry) is a tad bland, as is the roast free-range chicken, a far cheffier version — of course — than the one you or I might make at home, the leg deboned and re-assembled, the breast impossibly juicy. Bland, that is, save for the accompanying salted goose liver, something I find impossible not to order when I see it on a menu. It’s sensational.

Fillet of Hereford beef with smoked onion and horseradish is served rare (we weren’t asked how we’d like it cooked), and the horseradish cream lacks oomph, but there are plentiful layers of flavour going on in the dish as a whole, with cavolo nero and a little breaded bon bon of slow-cooked beef, too. Cubed roast potatoes come with two of the mains, and mash with the other, and the portions are more than generous, so there is no danger of anyone going hungry. 

Braised black sole with leek and langoustines

Desserts, one of banana and peanut with earl grey ice-cream, the other a chocolate cremant, are uninteresting and too heavy, but a selection of French cheeses in perfect condition with fruit, crackers and chutney is excellent value at €10. There are petit fours to finish and the bill for three, with two bottles of wine and an Irish coffee, comes to €274 before service. The young women on the floor are delightful; Laurel will be popular with locals looking for a neighbourhood spot aiming to keep everyone happy.

A vegetarian could have a starter and main for €31.50​.

A three-course dinner for two could cost €105 before drinks or service.

​The rating
8/10 food
8/10 ambience
9/10 value


Laurel​, Upstairs @ Kelly & Coopers, 39 Main Street, Blackrock, Co Dublin, A94 C7W0, 

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