Ciara McQuillan recalls her first visit to Chapter One almost 30 years ago, and recounts a recent memorable lunch at the relaunched restaurant, now led by Mickael Viljanen …
Never before has there been a more talked about restaurant in Dublin than the inimitable Chapter One on Dublin’s Parnell Square. The 2021 relaunch set tongues wagging and resulted in a buzz surrounding the hospitality industry that had been sorely missed, for obvious reasons. The result was the birth of Chapter One by Mickael Viljanen, a new era in fine dining for a new generation of avid restaurant goers.
My first experience of Chapter One was in the 1990s with my mother who has since passed. I was still a teenager, but had always had a penchant for salubrious restaurants, pleading to tag along with my parents whenever the opportunity presented itself. When her dinner guest cancelled at the last minute, I jumped at the chance to accompany her and I still remember the experience clearly. The Irish coffee trolley concept wowed me and at my recent lunch, I was excited to revisit this memory all over again.
But the Chapter One by Mickael Viljanen experience is a sum of many parts. Like any exceptional fine dining establishment, lunch or dinner at Chapter One turns any day into an occasion with the exquisite combination of stunning interiors, the affable yet thoroughly professional staff, the wine selection and of course, the all-important food. Lunch at Chapter One has been lauded as the best €65 you can spend and it’s difficult to disagree. The menu consists of three courses but before you are presented with the first, there are the canapés. And what canapés they are. Bite sized morsels of perfection that encouraged even the pickiest of eaters at the table not to question, just to enjoy. A perfectly formed sphere of pea soup with marjoram and Iberian ham that exploded with flavour and freshness, ethereal whipped taramasalata and a celeriac taco that was a treat for the senses. Such joy-inducing canapés imparted a sense of enthusiasm for what lay ahead, while the bottle of Laurent Perrier, “La Cuvée” (€99) only added to the sense of fun and celebration. Incidentally, the mixologist was very obliging and happily created a non-alcoholic ‘sour’ style cocktail with Seedlip Gin for those who were not imbibing.
For our first course we dined on smoked haddock and scallop quenelle, duxelles and mushroom veloute which was both light and fulfilling in equal measures, and pâté en croute with apple and liver cream. Accompanying bread was a flaky laminated Guinness and treacle brioche that I have had daydreams about ever since. Our main course choices were cod with razor clams, peas, bonito, citrus condiment and beurre Nantais or Normandy yellow chicken with kohlrabi, wild garlic, morels and Riesling. Both dishes were a resounding success with each element a work of art in its own right, yet combined, they created a masterpiece. As were the bowls of luscious creamed potatoes replete with butter that appeared on the side. We enjoyed a bottle of Picpoul de Pinet (€47) with our main courses and there were no complaints about that whatsoever.
Our final course was dessert and we enjoyed tiramisu with cumin and strawberry tart, pistachio with violet ice cream, both of which were so pretty it seemed a shame to eat them. But eat them we did, before kindly being given a whirlwind tour of the kitchen by the thoroughly attentive general manager Juba Paridi, much to our collective delight.
Chapter One has been a force on the Irish dining scene for over 30 years and it appears to be going from strength to strength. For €65 (or €135 for dinner, €170 for the tasting menu), you will enjoy a near faultless dining experience, with staff that have perfected their craft and work tiresomely to make every guest’s individual encounter a memorable one. It certainly was for us. And of course, there were the exquisite Irish coffees to end the meal – and yes, I am still obsessed.
Chapter One by Mickael Viljanen is open for lunch from 12.30 to 2.00pm Thursday to Saturday, and dinner 6.30pm to 9.30pm Tuesday to Saturday. www.chapteronerestaurant.com
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