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Great places to eat in Connemara, Galway or Clare?

Hi spli, I'm delighted you enjoyed the trip. I'll remember your recommendations for when I'm in that neck of the woods myself.

(Next time you have to promise me you'll go to Gregan's, though...!)

Jun 09, 2011
Diapason in U.K./Ireland

Paris report: Violon d'Ingres, Le Cinq, Regalade St Honoré

Hi all. We just got back from our trip to France yesterday, having spent 3 days in Paris and 8 days in St Jean Cap Ferrat, and here follows a very brief report on the Parisian restaurants we sampled. I never take notes or photograph food, so I'm likely to forget what I ate. Please forgive me if impressions are somewhat "general", rather than specifically detailing ingredients and dishes.

Le Violon d'Ingres
This was our first night, and we'd already been taken over by the magical feeling that a return to Paris always brings, so after our stroll to the restaurant we were thoroughly ready for dinner. Our table was at 7:30, which is earlier than I'd normally like to eat, but on this occasion I was happy. The only problem with starting so early is that we virtually had the restaurant to ourselves at the beginning, so we had to create our own atmosphere. Still, it gave me time to look around and let my surroundings sink in. The restaurant is comfortable enough without being fancy, although I'll admit that at this price point I prefer a bit more space between the tables. I'm old-school like that.

And the food? Well, here's where things get tricky for me. I really enjoyed dinner, genuinely I did, but I found the food somewhat unmemorable. Sufficiently unmemorable, in fact, that I can't remember a single course I had here. I wasn't even drinking much wine, so I can't blame that. Expectations are funny things, and I'd read a lot of glowing reports on Christian Constant's food both here and elsewhere, so maybe I was expecting too much. What I got was a thoroughly solid meal, very enjoyable to eat, but that to me was slightly overpriced. I left feeling that I can eat nearly as well at home for a lot less money. That reads a little more damning than it should, because we really did have a very enjoyable time at the restaurant, but there it is.

Another aspect worth noting is that 75% of the guests (if not more) were English speakers. While that obviously doesn't change the experience of the food at all, I was left wondering if this is just the place you go cos you're a tourist and you read about it on the internet? I fell squarely into that category myself so this isn't a complaint, and the fact that it was a Saturday night may have contributed to the "tourist central" vibe of the place, but I think for our first night in Paris we should have gone for something more Parisian, whatever that means.
All told I'm glad we went, but not glad enough that I'd make a beeline for the place next time I'm in Paris.

Le Cinq
Day 2, and it's time for the culinary highlight: lunch at Le Cinq. From the moment we walked through the front door to the moment we walked out again 3.5 hours later, this was pure heaven. I don't think pictures I've seen online really do the restaurant justice, it's far more comfortable in the flesh and, while it's no Louis XV, far more opulent. We were shown to a beautiful table beside one of the windows, and with glass of Billecart-Salmon rosé in hand and delicious and perfectly-seasoned squid tempura canapes being gobbled far quicker than probably polite, we perused the menus. As I mentioned in my earlier thread, I was genuinely concerned that many of the limited-choice menus of the moment seem to involve a lot of raw meats/fish/seafood which wouldn't suit my pregnant wife, and I'll admit I had a jolt of nerves when I first saw the lunch menu. I'm no longer in a position to contemplate eating a la carte in an establishment such as this (damn this recession!) so if the lunch menu didn't work we were snookered. Starters were a choice of veal tartare with oysters, or prawns done a variety of ways, including raw. Mercifully, the raw aspect of the prawn dish was small enough that my wife could easily work around it, and the upside for me was that I got to eat a starter and a half!

But I'm leaping ahead. First our amuses arrived, foie gras with grapefruit foam, a piece of eel (smoked?) with a very attractive glaze, and something else I've forgotten. All were delicious, the foie gras especially good. Interestingly, we were instructed to eat the foie first (which made sense given the rapidly-deflating foam) while the table next to us was later advised to eat the foie last. In any case, we were happy. Breads arrived in due course, first very simple, virtually tasteless slice designed to show off the olive oil on offer, with later breads accompanied by a strangely incredible seaweed butter (with good, ordinary butter also presented of course). Pacing was perfect for us, measured, relaxed, no hurry. We were really settling in.

For starters I went for the tartare mentioned above which was astonishingly delicious, again perfectly-seasoned as you'd expect, but so filled with flavour that I was actually blown away. My wife's prawns, prepared 3 ways, were also very delicious, the crunchy deep-fried heads providing the highlight for me, but I kept returning to the flavour of the tartare. I can still taste it now.

Service at all times was impeccable, but also incredibly warm and friendly, and the warmth grew as the meal continued. However, at this point we have the one and only minor mis-step of the day. When laying the cutlery for main courses, our waiter started to put the fish utensils in front of my wife, asking "the salmon for you, madam?" Admittedly, the salmon was the "girly" dish and the lamb the "blokey" dish, so I can understand the mistake, but in our case it was the other way around. Of course, this was easily solved with a laugh, and it's not the kind of thing that would ever bother us, but I know some who'd be unimpressed.

And so, onto the mains. I had ordered the salmon merely because it's the kind of thing I *never* order under normal circumstances. This was delicious, very lightly cooked, encased in a fabulously light and flaky pastry, flavoured with more than a nod to Asia, but again perfectly balanced. My wife's lamb was a far more rustic, rib-sticking dish, containing navarin of lamb, chops and sweetbreads, accompanied by a superb gravy.

Time and again I found myself marvelling at the perfect balance of flavours in both dishes, the spot-on seasoning, as well as the beautiful presentation of the food. It should also be said that while the food was cooked with a pleasantly light touch, these were *not* stingey portions. The amount of food offered was very generous, and I didn't feel at all cheated by choosing the lunch menu over the a la carte. A table beside us was eating a la carte and the food looked exceptional, but I couldn't justify €135 for asparagus. It was hard to believe that we were both eating our entire 3 course lunch for not much more than the price of a starter beside us.

We were drinking wines by the glass (unusual for us, but pregnancy and drunkenness isn't a great combination) and I had virtually finished my first glass by the time the mains arrived, as you'd expect from an Irishman. I had intended to order another, but before I had the opportunity the sommelier arrived unprompted and topped up my first glass. Again, the generosity surprised and impressed me.

At this point, it was time for cheese, and having seen the trolley making its way around the room earlier, I knew I was in for a treat. The selection itself isn't vast, but every cheese was perfectly chosen and in great condition. Once again, generosity was not a problem, as I ended up with 5 or 6 cheeses simply because it was obvious I was a fan, all washed down by a cracking (if expensive) glass of tawny port. On completing the cheeses, our waiter actually asked if I'd like to try any of the others. I declined.

Time was pressing on, lunchtime had long since turned into afternoon-tea time, the sound of live violin and cello now permeating the dining room as well as the area outside, but we still had our pre-dessert, dessert and coffee with petit-fours trolley to go. I'm sorry to report that my memory fails me here, so I can't tell you exactly what we had. All I know is that it was all fabulous! The banter with the staff was now at its peak, it felt like we were old friends, and all was well with the world. When a restaurant makes you feel this good, it's something special. I can easily imagine that you can eat better in Paris, but at that moment I couldn't really imagine feeling better. It was a magical afternoon.

We were the last to leave (why does that keep happening to us?!) and we basked in the warm glow of that meal for a day or two. Fabulous stuff.

La Regalade St Honoré
Having cancelled our lunch booking at Ze Kitchen Galerie in favour of a (decent) croque-monsieur in (very touristy) Montmartre, our final meal in Paris was dinner at La Regalade St Honoré. Again, our booking was on the early side and we were one of the first tables to arrive, but things filled up pretty quickly. Once again, the restaurant was filled, and I mean FILLED, with English-speakers. I don't know that I heard a single French patron all night, which surprised me a little, and to be honest disappointed me a little. The funny thing is, the menu is available in French only, this seemed to cause a bit of confusion and meant the waitress with the better English was kept busy. The (elderly, American) couple next to us seemed to be struggling, so we did our best to help them out with translations. Unfortunately, this opened the floodgates for a torrent of cross-table conversation that we struggled to stem. Has anyone figured out a friendly and polite way of suggesting that, while we're happy to chat as far as it goes, we'd prefer not to do it non-stop for the night? We haven't perfected the art yet...

Anyway, onto the food. It will be no surprise to readers of this board to learn that we started our meal cutting slabs from a communal terrine and eating it on crusty bread. What is it about such a simple combination that makes it so good? Once you start on this stuff it's pretty hard to stop, but we just about managed to curtail ourselves. I chose a starter of prawns on squid-ink risotto, and it was an absolute triumph. Chock-full of flavour, this was one of the highlight dishes of the whole trip. I can't remember what my wife had because the truth is I didn't care, I only had eyes for that risotto! If I had a tiny complaint it's that the flakes of (roasted?) garlic on the top were a bit much, but they were easy to work around. Other than that, it was a fantastic dish, exactly what I was looking for at a place like this. For mains I had the pork belly, and once again flavours were top-drawer. Some may prefer the fat to be rendered a little further, but I guzzled down the naughty white stuff and thoroughly enjoyed it. I can't remember what accompanied the pork (lentils maybe?) but I know that this was once again a top-notch dish. My wife may have had daurade, but I'm struggling to remember that too. One way or the other, we were both very, very happy.

Not being a huge dessert person at the best of times, I can't really remember what I ate to finish the meal, but I seem to recall there was a lot of it. Having grown somewhat weary of hearing what our neighbour's grandkids were up to, we drank a swift espresso and headed off into the late evening Parisian sun, happy with the world.

As you can see, we ate well in Paris, and we felt that we experienced a nice mix of styles and levels. There's only so much you can do in 3 days of course, and obviously there are many more places I'd like to try. As always, I can't wait to go back.

Jun 09, 2011
Diapason in France

ville france

Thank you so much for your recommendation of Le 35. It provided us with one of our best meals in the area, and also some of the warmest and friendliest service of our trip. I'd never have gone without seeing your comment, so as my wife said at the end of the meal "thank you, internet man!"

Jun 09, 2011
Diapason in France

Great places to eat in Connemara, Galway or Clare?

I think Gregan's Castle in Clare (near Lisdoonvarna, other end of Corkscrew Hill) is serving some of the finest food in Ireland at the moment. If you're looking for creative cooking married to top-drawer local ingredients, it's a must. In Lisdoonvarna itself, the Wild Honey Inn is a great gastropub and worth a visit.

I don't know Galway/Connemara so well these days, but I'm sure others can help there.

May 17, 2011
Diapason in U.K./Ireland

Eating in Dublin with children

Okay, I'm a bit out of my comfort zone here, but there are always lots of kids in Wagamama -- it's very child friendly (although Yamamori is probably better, and you should be fine with kids there too) and in a similar vein there's Cafe Mao. Gotham is good (especially for pizza, but they do other things), and Captain America's, while not exactly haute cuisine, is a favourite of many. Obviously there are the TGI's of this world, and a variety of other burgery places (Eddie Rocket's, for example) although I'm not sure if that's the kind of thing you're looking for.

To be honest, I've never in my life chosen a restaurant specifically with kids in mind, so I'm probably not being much help. Possibly worth looking at menupages.ie to get a flavour of menu options around the City Centre, although I'd take the reviews with a pinch of salt.

Enjoy the trip!

May 17, 2011
Diapason in U.K./Ireland

Eating in Dublin with children

Hi glimmerii. I don't have kids myself (yet) so I can't speak from personal experience, but at ages 7 and 9 you really shouldn't have too many problems, especially if you eat at the earlier end of the spectrum (and given the early bird deals in Dublin at the moment, that's not a bad plan anyway). What kind of food are you looking for, and at what kind of budget?

May 16, 2011
Diapason in U.K./Ireland

Paris weekend with pregnant wife

Yes indeed. I'll see whether I'm still hyperventilating after le Cinq bill.

May 14, 2011
Diapason in France

Paris weekend with pregnant wife

Thanks Oakglen, that's not a bad idea. Plus, I could tell everyone I ate at le Meurice... ;)

May 14, 2011
Diapason in France

Paris weekend with pregnant wife

Actually, my understanding of it is that unpasteurised cheese is fine if it's aged long enough to kill the relevant nasties, so parmigiana and comte etc. are fine. I'm certainly intending to include the cheese trolley in lunch at le Cinq!

May 14, 2011
Diapason in France

Paris weekend with pregnant wife

Good Lord. I'm not suggesting for a moment that they're exclusively raw fish restaurants, and I'm not freaking myself out at all, although I'm certainly starting to get exasperated with the chowhound experience! I'm aware of the difference between French restaurants and sushi restaurants, but it seems that quite a lot of restaurants are incorporating Asian influences, and I wanted to find out how far that stretched. I thought it a potentially interesting observation that in many of the reviews I read of currently recommended establishments, raw or very lightly cooked fish seemed to be mentioned. It caught my eye, I thought I'd share, it wasn't a definitive statement. Reviews of Spring seemed to mention it, reviews of Saturne seemed to mention it, reviews of Passage 53 seemed to mention it. One of my questions was whether these research findings were accurate, as this would be a pretty unusual state of affairs where I come from. Apparently my findings were not accurate, and that's great to know.

Perhaps you were confused by my manner of expression: by "chock full", I didn't actually mean completely full, it's just a vaguely humorous figure of speech in my part of the world.

Lest there be any further confusion, I fully intend to "relax and enjoy" my holiday, relaxing and enjoying myself being one of my specialties! However, I don't intend to eat at restaurants with no-choice menus, nor at restaurants where a large proportion of dishes are out-of-bounds to my wife, no matter how wonderful and healthy those dishes may be. You may consider that an unnecessary concern, and that's fine, but I don't. Hence trying to find out in advance where we're likely to have issues, rather than finding out when we're there.

If I were recommending a restaurant to somebody in Dublin, and they said "my wife is pregnant, does that change things?" then I might have some different recommendations. I wondered if the same was true with Paris.

I feel like I've gotten off on the wrong foot here, which is frustrating.

Edit: Parigi, I see you updated your post after I started typing, so thanks for the extra info. I also see that the comments we're referring to in the other thread have been deleted, so now I really don't know what to think about this forum. Very strange. At this point it may be best if I bow out gracefully and go back to lurker mode!! In any case, thank you again for your recommendations and comments, rest assured I'm really looking forward to the trip!

May 13, 2011
Diapason in France

Paris weekend with pregnant wife

Glutton, I *completely* share your views, but the fact remains my wife is erring on the side of caution. She'll certainly be having the occasional glass of wine (we are Irish after all!), and while she may indeed have a bit of pate (or foie gras) I imagine she'll be reluctant to eat runny cheeses, for example. We both know the whole thing is probably ridiculous, but she's happy to make the sacrifices and I'm not going to push the issue. In any case, I know she'd feel uncomfortable eating a meal that was heavy in these ingredients, and that would spoil her enjoyment.

All that said, I think the hysteria about listeria is ridiculous.

May 13, 2011
Diapason in France

Paris weekend with pregnant wife

Thank you all. For the most part, we have indeed just booked one meal per day, the exception being the last day. I must admit, I've had the experience before of wandering round Paris trying to find somewhere good to eat, and I've found it tricky enough, so I like to be prepared before I go. That said, if 2 restaurant meals on Monday looks like too much I may reconsider. Some picnic time appeals to me, and maybe Ze could be dropped in favour of a baguette. To be honest, eating out is generally the highlight of our day, and we're not good at figuring out what to do in the evenings if we don't have a restaurant to go to! We've been to Paris enough times to have done the touristy stuff, this time we're concentrating on food while we still can pre-baby, hence the tendency to overload perhaps.

I absolutely *don't* want a full-on meal after le Cinq, that's why I'm looking for other options. Is there a Paris equivalent to a tapas bar or something? The search function hasn't yielded many suggestions, especially given the Sunday night aspect. I had though Le Dauphin might be ideal, but it seems to be closed on Sundays. I'm happy enough to leave it to chance if nobody has any specific recommendations, but I just thought I'd throw out a feeler.

Irish pregnancy rules are broadly the same as UK/US (no raw meat/fish, no raw eggs, no young unpasteurised cheese, etc) but I have been told that, for the most part, these "rules" don't really apply in France. I've also been told that it can be difficult to explain this sort of thing to French waiters if your French is limited (as ours is) and besides, we're not the sort of diners who expect the kitchen to go over and above the call of duty to cater for our whims, so if there isn't much choice on the menu I'd prefer to just avoid the restaurant. Thanks for confirming my suspicions about Spring. As I mentioned above, so many recent reviews of currently "hot" restaurants (both here and on John Talbott's blog) mention raw fish or other no-go areas. Obviously, we need to avoid that!

Finally, thank you for responding. It was not my intention to ruffle feathers on the other thread, I had searched the forum and lurked for several weeks before posting, and I really wanted to avoid the "where should I eat in Paris" general question. That said, it genuinely is and was difficult to get a flavour for whether there's much menu choice suitable for pregnant women. A search for "pregnant" on the forum yielded very few results indeed! I genuinely appreciate the time taken to respond to this thread, and I also appreciate the multitude of posts and threads on this forum that helped me arrive at the list above.

So, sincerely to all posters on the French board, thank you.

May 13, 2011
Diapason in France

Restaurants in South Eastern France

I'm not the OP but thanks for this. I'll be in St Jean Cap Ferrat in early July and was looking for ideas in the area.

May 11, 2011
Diapason in France

a funny thing happened on the way to the bistro...

I'm sorry I missed that!

San Sebastian is quite possibly my favourite place in the world. You'd have to try really hard to eat badly there.

May 11, 2011
Diapason in France

a funny thing happened on the way to the bistro...

This would drive me absolutely bananas, to the level where I simply couldn't go out for a meal with those people again. I dunno, this can't merely be some sort of cultural divide, can it? Is there anywhere in the world where it's considered acceptable to go to restaurants without eating?

May 11, 2011
Diapason in France

Paris weekend with pregnant wife

For the sake of completeness of the thread I can report that we booked:
- dinners at Le Violon d'Ingres and Regalade St Honoré
- lunches at Ze Kitchen Galerie and Le Cinq.

The only loose end remaining is where to go on Sunday evening for something light (post lunch at Le Cinq). As always, any recommendations gratefully received.

May 11, 2011
Diapason in France

Paris weekend with pregnant wife

Yes, it's yet another "where should I eat in Paris" thread. Apologies in advance...!

My wife and I will be in Paris for Saturday, Sunday and Monday night at the end of May. I've been searching around the forum trying to put together a restaurant plan, but obviously the days we're there makes things a little difficult. Added to this is the fact that my wife will be 25 weeks pregnant or thereabouts, and our menu options will be somewhat more limited.

Now, I know that pregnancy food rules in France don't necessarily mirror our own (Irish) views, so I'm a bit worried that many of the "so hot right now" places seem to offer a) limited or no choice menus (Spring, for example) and/or b) menus chock full of raw fish and paté. I have a feeling that this rules out some of the more popular restaurants at the moment. Would this be a fair assessment?

Anyway, at the moment I'm thinking
- Wherever we find for Saturday lunch (we'll be just off the plane, so I'm not inclined to book a specific time)
- Le Violon D'Ingres for Saturday dinner.
- Le Cinq for Sunday lunch.
- Some sort of wine bar or restaurant with light nibbles for Sunday evening (any recommendations?)

Monday is still open to ideas, and at the moment I'm thinking one of
- Regalade St Honoré
- Saturne
- Frenchie (in the highly unlikely event I can get a booking), or
- Ze Kitchen Galerie

Any thoughts? Is there anything I should change? Should I move Le Violon D'Ingres to Monday night and go somewhere else on Saturday that isn't open on Monday? I'd be grateful for your opinions.

PS I promise I'll report back afterwards!

May 10, 2011
Diapason in France

uhockey's thoughts on Paris Restaurants - Part 1 - La Bigarrade, Le Chateaubriand, Le Cinq, Chez L'Ami Jean, Pierre Gagnaire

Thanks so much, uhockey. Your advice (and the entire thread) has been really useful. I'll start another thread in due course and report my decision and experiences.

Apr 28, 2011
Diapason in France

uhockey's thoughts on Paris Restaurants - Part 1 - La Bigarrade, Le Chateaubriand, Le Cinq, Chez L'Ami Jean, Pierre Gagnaire

And if I were to put you on the spot and ask which you enjoy the most...? Also, at this price we're into Gagnaire lunch territory.

I'm hijacking your thread here, sorry about that.

Apr 28, 2011
Diapason in France

uhockey's thoughts on Paris Restaurants - Part 1 - La Bigarrade, Le Chateaubriand, Le Cinq, Chez L'Ami Jean, Pierre Gagnaire

Thank you, I'll have a look at those other options as well, although I'm concerned that the weekend aspect will be problematic in some places. Funnily enough, when it comes to it neither of us are all that interested in desserts, but a good cheese cart is essential. Of course, my wife's cheese options are more limited than usual since she's pregnant, and she's really missing Epoisses!

We've only 3 nights in Paris (Saturday, Sunday and Monday) and I was so sure I was going to leave Michelin stars aside this trip. Apparently I'm not able to do that!!

Apr 28, 2011
Diapason in France

uhockey's thoughts on Paris Restaurants - Part 1 - La Bigarrade, Le Chateaubriand, Le Cinq, Chez L'Ami Jean, Pierre Gagnaire

Fantastic, thanks for that!

Apr 28, 2011
Diapason in France

uhockey's thoughts on Paris Restaurants - Part 1 - La Bigarrade, Le Chateaubriand, Le Cinq, Chez L'Ami Jean, Pierre Gagnaire

uhockey, thank you for this most excellent report.

I will be in Paris over a weekend at the end of May, and I had decided that on this trip I was going to forego the big powerhouses, but now I'm tempted to change my view! I've had a search around and I'm struggling to find recent definitive info, so at the risk of ruining this with price-taggery, can you (or anyone else) tell me how much the prix-fixée lunch costs? My wife is pregnant so won't be drinking, and I'm not inclined to drink quite so much as normal at lunch (!) so I'm thinking this might actually be an option even to a recession-plagued Irishman! Finally, I know the restaurant is open 7 days, but is the lunch menu available every day also?

Apologies if these are common questions, but a visit to the restaurant website hasn't answered them, and a search of the forum didn't yield recent results.

Once again, thank you for your report.

Apr 28, 2011
Diapason in France

Bray & Howth Ireland

There aren't a huge number of good options in Bray, but the Porterhouse does decent enough grub and also gives you the chance to sample a wide range of drinks from smaller and unusual breweries. You could consider Campo de Fiori for good seafood (Italian style), but I think standards have gone downhill a little bit recently, and prices remain high.

Actually, one of my favourite things to do in Bray is to order a batter sausage and curry chips from Henry and Rose takeaway and sit on the beach to eat them. Don't rule that out, although you might prefer to try the ray rather than a batter sausage.

If you tire of Bray, Dun Laoghaire is a short hop away on the Dart (along a pretty spectacular bit of track) and you can head to Alexis, one of my favourite sensibly-priced restaurants in the area.

Apr 21, 2011
Diapason in U.K./Ireland

Dublin - vegetarian friendly suggestions

It might be worth a lunch special at one of the Michelin-level restaurants around town. If you go to Thornton's for their lunch deal, for example, and tell them you're looking for a vegetarian option, they'll generally end up cooking something off the a la carte for lunch special prices. Basically what I'm saying is, don't let the advertised menus put you off in the better places.

Oh, and I second Pearl.

Oct 21, 2010
Diapason in U.K./Ireland