With views overlooking St Stephen’s Green, Kevin and Muriel Thornton’s renowned fine dining restaurant enjoys a central location on the top floor of the Fitzwilliam Hotel. You can take a lift up from the hotel lobby but for an appropriate sense of occasion it’s best approached through its own entrance on the Green and up its wide, deep-pile carpeted staircase.
The spacious and salubrious restaurant is split into three spaces: a reception area with smart bar and canapé lounge where comfy sofas allow guests take an aperitif while enjoying a bird’s eye view into the busy kitchen (a chef’s table can be set up here too for groups of six); a semi-private dining room for exclusive hire; and, to the front of the restaurant, a main dining room.
Here deep carpets, generous tables, pale walls, starched linen and a dramatic floral display in the centre of the room set a stylish and understated tone. The recent addition of a curved inner ceiling has made the room more intimate and more contemporary and it now works really well as a dining space.
But the star of the show here has always been the food and Kevin Thornton’s cooking is as original and spectacular as ever. One of Ireland’s most talented chefs, he uses impeccably sourced ingredients to create hugely imaginative culinary delights. Kevin is also a gifted photographer, his arresting shots featuring in clever ways throughout the restaurant’s décor. Given his eye for detail it’s no surprise that each dish is a visual treat.
Fine dining can never come cheap but, giving an opportunity to experience the cooking of one of Ireland’s top chefs at an accessible price, the set lunch menu for €35 offers outstanding value - and Kevin also offers exceptional evening value, in both the pre-theatre menu (€47) and an exceptional offer on Tuesday and Wednesday nights only, when you can enjoy a relaxed 3 course menu with a glass of bubbles for just €50.
The main dinner menus are a full-on gourmet affair with prices starting at €76 for three courses, while the the 5-course tasting menu, €90 (with wine pairings, €150), must be ordered by the whole table and may include extravagant treats like a mi-cuit of foie gras rolled in black truffle with warm brioche or perhaps wild Irish salmon three ways (sashimi, tartar and fillet with wild asparagus and lemongrass-ginger consommé).
But those hoping for the ultimate culinary experience should surrender themselves to the expertise of the kitchen, and order the 8-course surprise menu. Kevin will even prepare a different menu for each table, taking into account requests by vegetarians, for example, and any dislikes or allergies. The result will be a feast of flavours and unexpected ingredients, including unusual combinations like wood pigeon baked in Tipperary hay, or thyme and nettle sorbet with Bombay Sapphire gin. Desserts are always a triumph and Thornton’s petit fours are legendary for good reason.
This 8-course extravaganza costs €120 per diner, but rates as one of Ireland’s most spectacular dining experiences. The attention to detail is outstanding and you’ll be wowed by the sublime flavours and Kevin’s impressive attention to detail.
Casual diners can also experience the creativity at play by dropping in at night to more relaxed canapé lounge. Reservations aren’t necessary to sample these miniature creations – perhaps foie gras rolled in toasted almonds or John Dory with truffle with aubergine chips – which can be individually ordered to accompany some exceptional wines by the glass.
As one would expect of dining at this level, the wine list is extensive, featuring many great marques and a tempting choice of wines by the glass.
Service has always been professional if, in recent years, perhaps rather too formal. But a new wave of enthusiastic, polished staff now engages warmly with customers and gives this stylish dining room personality and charisma - a front of house team to match the spectacular food it serves.