Anyone who thinks fine dining is dead should visit this chic basement restaurant in a lovely 17th century building off St Stephens Green.
Its' recent history is long enough, going back to the 1970s when the wine merchants Mitchell & Son occupied the building and their cheery restaurant was the hot spot for Dubliners to meet at lunchtime.
There have been many changes in the meantime, but it has always been a talked about venue and current owner Alison Barker is bringing it right up to the top rank in the French style, with the help of Head Chef Graeme Dodrill (formerly of the excellent One Pico) and a talented team expertly managed by Dermott Jewell.
The smart refurb divided opinion (the gorgeous deep turquoise walls may not be to everyone's liking), but there's a welcoming bar and the series of well-lit dining spaces that make up the long interior is elegant and very comfortable, with original artwork, fresh flowers, well-spaced linen clad tables, deeply upholstered banquettes and high backed chairs all conducive to a relaxed meal.
Which is just as well, as this is not a place to be rushed.
The amuse bouche 'compliments of the chef' and all the other little niceties of fine dining transform dinner here into an occasion - and, despite the inevitable time constraints, lunch or pre-theatre meals should be equally memorable for Graeme Dodrill's excellent cooking and impressive attention to detail in the service.
As the name of the restaurant suggests, seasonality is key here and Graeme's menus celebrate Irish ingredients with flair. There is no supplier list (which is a shame) but key name checked ingredients such as Peter Hannan's wonderful Hilmalayan salt beef (from Moira, Co Down), are sure to impress and the attention to quality is obvious on the plate.
Classically trained chefs are hard to come by these days, so well executed classics like chicken and ham hock terrine (offered on lunch and pre-theatre menus and served with on-trend pickled vegetables) and seafood like lobster bisque or bouillabaisse (with summer vegetables, saffron rouille and crouton) are a reminder of just how good these old favourites can be - especially when lifted by imaginative modern presentation.
Fashionable slow cooked meats feature - in a starter of 36 hour slow cooked veal breast, perhaps, or a main course assiette of rare breed pork, but overall there's a fresh tone to the cooking, especially in seafood dishes such as seared Irish scallops (with green apple & cucumber, dill, Dublin Bay crab, mayonnaise) or simple pan fried fillet of plaice (with gnocchi, braised lettuce and Crozier Blue cheese from Tipperary.
And vegetarian dishes are taken equally seriously here, so vegetarian diners should be delighted with house specialities like pan fried hazelnut spatzle with butternut squash, roast garlic & thyme, new season cavolo nero.
Pretty desserts include some welcome dishes based on seasonal fruits (along with the chocolate confections and other rich favourites that are de rigeur when dining out) and the cheeseboard is, of course, a combination of the best available from France as well as Ireland.
With little to choose from in the €20-30 range, the wine list may demand deep pockets, but the cooking really is spot on at Saison and it's a pleasure to see such outstanding food backed up by an equally good front of house team.
One for the 'must-visit' list.