Belfast Telegraph

Restaurant review: A classy touch of Gallic flair that won't cost the earth at Pichet

Pichet, 14 Trinity Street, Dublin, Tel: 00 353 1677 1060

Pichet helps you get away from the Dublin crowds
Pichet helps you get away from the Dublin crowds
Joris Minne

By Joris Minne

The advisor and I frequently compare the restaurants of Belfast with those of Dublin. The conversations usually end up in the same place: both cities have a proportionately unusually high quota of Michelin stars and both have direct access to some of the world's best produce. We agree we are blessed with great restaurants at all prices.

But we also agree Dublin is more expensive, doesn't have as broad a mid-range selection of brasseries and bistros as Belfast and, sure, there's always a Boojum if it's just Brown Thomas you're going to and maybe a pint in Davey Byrne's or McGlade's.

Dubs used to be astonished at the prices and quality of our restaurants. The Enterprise would be full of day trippers to Belfast with table reservations for lunch. The Sunday Business Post, Irish Independent and Irish Times frequently sang the praises of our repertoire and the value for money it offered.

Now the tide is turning. Dublin and Belfast are more closely aligned in terms of range, price and quality of restaurants than they have ever been. Prices in the north have gone, er, north while in Dublin they are heading south.

Lunch in Pichet just off Dame Street last week is the clearest evidence yet of this alignment. Pichet is a French style bistro, tucked away beneath a multi-storey carpark in Trinity Street. If you think this sounds unprepossessing, do not be put off. It's as charming and compelling as any bistro on Paris's rive gauche.

A very simple menu with choice of four starters, four mains and four desserts at flexible prices (one course for €17, two for €23.5 and three for €30) is appealing. It's not until the actual dishes arrive that we realised how fabulous the quality to price ratio is.

Roaring Water Bay mussels with nduja, sweet corn, white wine and a farmer's wedge of toasted and mildly charred sourdough are even more exciting than the French west coast special mouclade which features a curry sauce. Here the heat of the nduja and white wine liquor is perfectly balanced with the rich and creamy mussels. The bite of the sweetcorn (sliced fresh from an ear) and the sourdough offer up some textured crunch and the whole thing works so well I declare it to be the best mussels dish ever created.

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The advisor's dainty ham hock terrine with quail egg, potato crisp and jalapeno is a classic.

The terrine is not overwhelmed by too much jelly or chunkiness; it is well judged and the jalapeno replacing the traditional cornichon adds a welcome glow.

Seabream for the advisor is crispy, golden and juicy, pearly fresh. A little broccoli on the side and a fabulously squelching and crunching rocket salad hidden under a blizzard of angel-haired parmesan form a perfect lunch for her. She is content. We have a bottle of chilled Pouilly Fume (which doubles the bill) and we are super content.

Pichet helps you get away from the Dublin crowds
Pichet helps you get away from the Dublin crowds

Chicken with bacon jam, chanterelles, cavolo nero and the creamy, smooth and airy, champ-style mousseline is another perfect lunch, light yet substantial, tasty and textured and brings great calm and serenity.

Pichet's back dining room up a few stairs behind the wine and cocktail bar at the front is intimate, cosy, warm and inviting. Service is quick yet unhurried. It strikes that particular note of relaxed vibe which you will only ever find in a busy, bustling, capital city centre where all the urban noise and rush in the streets are left outside the bistro door and replaced with slower-breathing, smiling wellness, smugness and self-satisfaction: a rare moment. Watching a busy world go by is hard to beat.

If you're a fan of Belfast's top bistros, you'll love this.

The bill

Ham hock terrine............................€6.50

Mussels.............................................€6.50

Seabream............................................€17

Chicken................................................€17

Rocket salad....................................€4.50

New potatoes..................................€4.50

Bottle Pouilly Fume...........................€48

Total:..................................................€104

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