In a basement restaurant on Kildare Street, that until recently was Town (Bar & Grill / Kildare Street), you will now find Saison. The restaurant was refurbished and opened in May this year. Head chef is Graeme Dodrill and Saison is owned by Ali Barker (Bodega Tapas, Ranelagh). Saison is ‘French Inspired’ with menus designed around foods that are in season. My parents had visited shortly after it opened and kindly bought us a voucher for Saison while they were there.
Basement restaurants have to work harder at their entrance to attract people in, Saison do it very well, sophisticated signage, foliage, lanterns.
The entrance leads you into a small bar / lounge area – always a nice addition to a restaurant to have this space for a pre or post dinner drink. The decor is in shades of turquoises, greens and greys with some exposed brickwork and beautiful chandeliers and lighting. The limitations in the space are also clear as its a long, reasonably narrow room. In its Town incarnations and now as Saison, I’m still not entirely sure I like it.
The food though, I liked that, a lot and it’s definitely the reason to visit and why I’ll be back. We visited early Friday evening so had the option of their pre theatre menu which is very reasonably priced at €25 for 2 courses. Thought has been put into the wine list here, including a selection by the glass. However our overall feeling was the wine list is over priced – we ordered a bottle of Corbieres (€36). It was a 2013 (despite the wine list stating 2012 – given Saison only opened in May, seems strange) and while it was perfectly fine, I have had far nicer Corbieres for a similar price or less in other restaurants in Dublin.
While looking at the menus, we ordered a Gin & Tonic to tide us over. And there was homemade breads also served. The pre-theatre menu offers a choice of 3 starters & 3 mains. I chose the Whipped Goats Cheese with Celeriac, Apple and Horseradish Salad, Candied Walnuts to start while S went for the Spring Pea and Bacon Soup. For mains, I chose the Hake, with gnocchi, smoked bacon, red pepper and S picked the Charred Sirloin of Beef. The amuse bouche of chicken liver parfait was so flavorsome and a welcome start to our meal; a sign of the good things to come.
My starter was really excellent, creamy, smooth goats cheese, small cubes of celeriac and apple and the zing of the horseradish. What was missing was some thin toasts or bread. I see now on their menu online it says it comes with rye bread so maybe thats feedback others gave also. His soup was equally good, although very light on the bacon.
The sirloin beef was a stunning dish, particularly given that its on the pre theatre menu with no supplement. Juicy beef, cooked perfectly, it was devoured! The hake was also excellent – slightly crispy outside, flaky white fish inside, and strong flavours of the smoked bacon elevating it with the mandatory foam on top.
We deliberated over dessert before eventually decided to share a cheeseboard. The sommelier at Saison, Justin, recommended a sweeter white wine to go with the cheese. He offered us a taste of a couple before we chose a wine from Montrachet. It perfectly complemented the cheese and crackers. 5 cheeses, of very decent size, and crackers with grapes and the quince (which remained on the board, neither of us like quince!). The cheese and wine of this course were a highlight for us both and I recommend saving room for the cheeseboard if you go to Saison!
The food at Saison is incredible. Far better than I had anticipated, perhaps thinking back to what the restaurant was before which while perfectly good was not at this level. Service was good, attentive and friendly. Its the place itself, the atmosphere, I’m just not sure about. It could very well be because it’s new and these things can take a while to bed in.
But I will be back for the food…on their website that they have a ‘Taste of Saison’ a Prix Fixe Menu €100 for 2 Monday to Wednesday 5:30 to 10pm which is 5 courses, a bottle of Sommelier suggested red or white wine, a bottle of mineral water and tea/coffee. This seems like a good deal but regardless I recommend visiting to taste the incredible food being produced from Saison’s kitchen by Head Chef, Graeme Dodrill.
Saison | 21 Kildare Street, Dublin 2 | firstname.lastname@example.org | 01 6624800 | @EatatSaison