Wednesday-Saturday 6pm-9.30pm, Sunday 12.30-4pm
The hugely successful (and hilarious)series of fantasy novels by Shane Hegarty begins with the following sentence:
Well in case you didn’t realise Darkmouth is a magical parallel universe version of one of Dublin’s prettiest seaside towns, Skerries — it is on the map but it always somehow sounded too far away for me to visit even if it is just two stops past Malahide on the train. Skerries has a beach, a sheltered harbour and has always had a few good restaurants and delis and it can boast a book shop, an excellent off-licence (Red Island Wines) and an ice cream shop called Storm in a Teacup. These are all solid indicators of a properly civilised place, I was willing to risk an encounter with any magical beasts.
Potager was opened just over a year ago by Cathal Leonard (former head Chef in Chapter One) and his partner Sarah Ryan. I decided it was finally time to visit and in fact it took me just over an hour to get there from Dublin’s Southside via bus and train. Of course I invited Shane Hegarty to be my guest, he has never lived anywhere else and I suspected he would know how to deal with any minotaurs I encountered lurking in laneways.
Potager is housed in the former Munster and Leinster Bank building and the rooms retain their classical proportions and stucco ceilings, the dining room is spacious and comfortable and also happens to be the perfect size to allow social distancing.
Potager sources locally where possible — vegetables from Jenny McNally’s farm just 10km away, violetta potatoes from Ballymakenny up the road and so on. The Mid-Week menu cost €45 for three courses with an option to match each course with wines for an extra €35, there was also an eight-course Dinner Tasting menu for €60 per head.
The wine list is long enough to offer plenty of choice and sourced from solid importers such as Wine Mason, LaRousse and Nomad Wines — the ‘by the glass’ list alone includes outstanding wines such as Llopart Corpinnat, Eric Texier Adele and Vertente from Niepoort. We began with a nutty rich Equipo Navazos single barrel La Bota Oloroso (€12.50) and as it was a warm evening opted for Monte Dei Roari Bardolino which was brought lightly chilled by our excellent attentive waiter Katie — the wine’s supple pomegranate fruits working well throughout the meal.
There is lovely attention to detail in the cooking in Potager and we experienced this from the bread through to the dessert. The brown bread had been fermented the caramelised onion potato bread was fluffy and intense and worked perfectly with a light pesto made from whipped ricotta and kale. Extra snacks (€3.50) of Irish grown padron peppers and a smoked haddock brandade in a fennel cracker also filled the senses — the padrons were nicely fiery while retaining a brisk green fruitiness, and both countered by a burnt lemon emulsion.
A starter of earthy sweet salt-baked beetroot had walnuts and ricotta to ground them and land cress and oak-chip smoked duck to lift them. Fresh Balbriggan Crab Salad had been enriched with a crab stock mayonnaise and braised artichoke, green beans, apple and sorrel added contrasts and complements.
Sean Ring Organic chicken from Kilkenny had a succulent and flavourful breast and a meaty textured leg wrapped in Alsace bacon — chervil and tarragon and a pleasingly rich jus lifted things further and swedes and turnip scapes added tempering touches.
Red Mullet is one of the finest of fishes and not seen often enough in my view. I adore its creamy oily flavour and here it flaked perfectly so the texture remained delicate and allowed the mineral meaty flavours to shine. Roasted cauliflower and cauliflower purée added bitter notes and a rich brown butter caper and raisin dressing added some welcome sweetness.
We both opted for the Chocolate dessert rather than the cheese plate — a rich velvety dark Chocolate Marquise with contrasting creamy and mildly sour Velvet Cloud Sheep’s Yoghurt Sorbet, some cocoa crumbs for texture, sour cherries to brighten things and purple basil leaves to give a background herbal anise kick — a tasty, layered, and beautifully constructed dessert.
Our meal for two including a pre-dinner drink, five courses and a bottle of decent wine cost a very fair €157.50. I didn’t meet any legendary creatures (just pretty legendary cooking skills), but I fully intend going back to Skerries soon to try again.