When I was in Malahide a few weeks ago to eat at Bon Appétit, I wondered why I hadn’t been back in so long. The last time I was in the affluent Dublin suburb was 10 or 11 years ago, when I did a two-week TEFL certification course there. Malahide is a pretty seaside village just a short DART ride from the city centre or an easy drive off the M1 motorway, yet I never think to go there. Having been to Bon Appétit, that will now change.
Bon Appétit is headed up by chef Oliver Dunne and his brother, Graham, works front of house. Oliver is Ireland’s youngest Michelin-starred chef, which is even more impressive when you consider that he has no formal training. He rose through the ranks, starting at Gotham Café in Dublin and working his way up, eventually moving to London to work for such big names as Gary Rhodes and Gordon Ramsay. He took over Bon Appétit in 2006 and won a Michelin star in 2008 — and has kept it ever since.
Bon Appétit is located in a pretty townhouse across the road from the sea (perfect for walking off a Sunday lunch) and is actually three restaurants in one. Le Bon Vin is a swanky wine bar that serves small tasters such as olives, breads, pâté, smoked haddock croquettes or prawns pil pil to nibble with a glass of wine or a cocktail. At the opposite end of the spectrum is Le Restaurant, the Michelin-starred jewel in the Bon Appétit crown.
Sitting happily in the middle is the casual bistro-style La Brasserie, which is where I ate. The menu is a good mix of old reliables, such as fish pie or a burger (albeit one that’s glammed up with a homemade brioche bun, foie gras or pumpkin mayo), as well as more unique dishes, like citrus-cured salmon with fennel and pomegranate, a salt cod Scotch egg or herb-poached sea trout with cockles and mussels. At only €30 for a three-course set menu coming out of a Michelin-starred kitchen, it’s fantastic value (an à la carte menu is available as well).
Steak lovers will want to order off the separate Bovine Menu in Le Brasserie, with eight different cuts, seven sauces and 16 sides to choose from (the bone marrow fritters and crispy beef and onion gravy mash are a must). It’s also one of the few places where you can get a top-of-the-range, melt-in-the-mouth Wagyu steak, which Oliver sells to customers at cost price to give people the opportunity to try it (though at €49.50, it’s still not cheap, even at cost).
But what seems to be the best-kept secret about Bon Appétit is that on Sundays, a child can eat for free when accompanied by an adult in Le Brasserie. This means that for my family of four, we could have Sunday lunch at one of the top restaurants in the country for only €50. What’s more, in addition to a children’s menu, children can have a half portion of anything on the main menu — a welcome relief from the usual dumbed down chicken nuggets and chips. Check out this review from Nessa’s Family Kitchen to learn more about Sunday lunch. I can’t wait to go back with my family in tow.
For a restaurant of this calibre, I was surprised not to see any details of provenance on the menu, especially at a time when more people than ever are interested in and are buying local Irish food, and when many dishes are preceded by a long string of adjectives about where the food came from and who grew it or made it or raised it. Located on the doorstep of the market gardens of North County Dublin and next door to the fishing village of Howth, there must surely be a wealth of local suppliers to choose from.
But what no doubt keeps people coming back is the quality of the cooking and the interesting and exciting range of dishes on offer — my group of six had to send our waiter back several times because it was so hard to choose what to order. And what with a new branch of Avoca scheduled to open soon in the renovated Malahide Castle, I can see Malahide becoming a more popular day trip option for Dubliners, capped off with a meal at Bon Appétit before heading home. Or at least that will be my itinerary.
I was a guest of Bon Appétit and Presence Communications, with special thanks to Oliver Dunne and Graham Dunne for making us so welcome.