I had been to Chapter one on two previous occasions but never for the Pre-Theatre and had really excellent experiences. And so,my friend Jenny and I looked forward to our visit on a recent Friday just after they reopened following their annual summer break. The Pre-Theatre menu is €36.50 for three courses and is thankfully free of the supplement charges on some of the more expensive dishes which can really push a bill out of 'bargain' territory (with the exception of what is now a pretty standard charge of €2.50 for the cheese plate).
After a very warm and theatrical welcome from the Maitre D, we were shown to our table, which was one of just a few occupied for the duration of our meal. For me, the bread basket is an integral part of a special meal out but I was disappointed with this particular selection which was very ordinary for a Michelin starred restaurant. They were stone-cold for a start and just not very exciting - a plain, slightly dry seeded loaf, a standard cob-style white and a regular wholemeal. I couldn't help but wonder if they had dropped their standards and that those visiting later would do better (that's not to say we didn't eat the lot - this is me and my Number One Partner in Eating we are talking about).
Unfortunately, we didn't enjoy this course to the same degree at all. It was just way too much - too caramelized, too buttery and too sweet and that is coming from someone who loves rich food. (In fact, I don't know if I have I have ever deemed something to be too rich before). It cried out for something fresh or sharp, maybe a green vegetable, to balance things out a bit. My piece of lamb was also very fatty, though Jenny fared much better with hers. Putting a sweetbread in my mouth is also something I will not be doing again any time soon.
Dessert was better. My Raspberries Compressed in Elderflower with Jasmine Tea Pannacotta and Lime Meringue, Créme Fraiche and Elderflower Bombe with Raspberry Sorbet (phew!) was refreshing and light but strangely bland and certainly not memorable. (In fact I had forgotten what I had until I uploaded my photos). Jenny had a chocolate pot with some bells and whistles which was eaten but certainly not raved about.
All in all, we had a nice visit to Chapter One but it seems to me that chance to enjoy the full experience of The Pride of Parnell Square for €36.50 might just be too good to be true.