Show goes on at Seasons supper club

Less might have been more at a MasterChef supper club that tries too hard to please, writes CATHERINE CLEARY

Less might have been more at a MasterChef supper club that tries too hard to please, writes CATHERINE CLEARY

LET’S TALK ABOUT cheffy food. It’s what many of us want in a restaurant – food cooked in a way we could never manage at home. And as home cooks get more sophisticated, the restaurant chef has to employ ever-more elaborate tricks on the plate. Squeezy bottles, the splodge-and-swirl spoon method and the paintbrush are all tools of the trade. If there’s one food phenomenon that has brought cheffy touches to the heart of your dinner, it’s the MasterChef television franchise.

One wet summer Sunday earlier this year, I sat in an old brick warehouse on a building site in Dublin where the MasterChef Ireland kitchen and restaurant was set up. It would have made a great real restaurant, apart from the bomb site surroundings of hardcore, rubble, abandoned buildings and Portaloos. Fourteen of us sat for hours on the plastic chairs trying to judge if what was coming from the kitchen was good.

Then, months later, I sat on my sofa and watched the impressive people behind those dishes chop and fry and plate the food under the kind of pressure that would buckle the steeliest of spines. Throughout the series the biggest ingredient in the show was stress. Would the marbled chocolate wrap around the impossibly tricky dessert? Could anyone discern the flavour of Thai shallots in the palate test? Would Mary be able to perfect those bloody quenelles?


Stress makes for good reality TV. But does it make for good food in a packed restaurant on a Saturday night? We’ve arrived at Brasserie Le Pont on Dublin’s Fitzwilliam Place for Seasons Supper Club, a pop-up meal cooked by three of the MasterChef runners-up, to find out.

Tonight in the kitchen it’s Bridin, Conal and Richard. Conal has promised no turnip, a reference to the fact that I hated his confit turnip during the TV show recording. And so we begin. The first course, a wild duck croquette, is fine, as any deep fried ball of stew can be. The duck has been shredded, spiced, breaded and fried, four time-consuming things that didn’t need to be done to it. There’s a nice fig jam and some chestnut puree. Two pea shoots sit on top. It’s a little too cheffy for my tastes. I would have loved the duck sliced and served with the same ingredients. Less work and better results.

Up next is a superb soup. Of course it’s not called a soup but a velouté, and the busy staff have to pour the Jerusalem artichoke soup into the bowl, which comes with a small mound of hazelnut pesto topped with a seared scallop in it. The toasted hazelnuts give a perfect warm, nutty base to the creamy soup and the scallop has been seared expertly – a crust of brown butteriness on top and silken sweet white flesh underneath. A beautiful thing done beautifully.

The next course takes a long time. It’s crab crème brûlée, a classic rendition of the Paul Flynn recipe, even down to the pickled ginger. There are a couple of nice, but redundant salt cod and crab fritters (more deep-fried finger food) alongside, and some pickled vegetables, which are very tasty. Again there’s a lull, by which stage we can see how stressed staff are becoming as these complicated plates come out to the 80 or so diners.

A champagne jelly and plum granita arrives in glasses. It’s a blast of cold, boozy flavour. But again I could have done with just the granita.

There is another long pause. The restaurant is now full. There are an awful lot of plates to carry around. Wild venison loin comes with a spoon swipe of butternut squash, braised red cabbage and blueberries. It’s delicious, though mine features a rogue shoe-leather dry piece of meat that should have been edited off the plate.

A dessert of apple harvest is a complicated plate of deconstructed apple crumble. It’s a slice of Calvados crab apple parfait on top of a crumb, with cinnamon apple chunks on top. There’s a green apple sorbet and a paintbrush sweep of caramel, which isn’t nice. It may just be the idea of the brush, but it has more than a touch of varnish about it.

By the end, despite the delays and the slightly frazzled air of bedlam, the place is buzzing and people are having a great night. We have enjoyed a few key dishes that have the makings of a wonderful meal. The soup, the venison and a simple apple crumble would have had me smiling serenely. It would also have made for a cheaper meal than the €45 a head charged here.

I’d love to see these fine cooks dial down the stress and keep it simple. It would have made life much easier for the restaurant staff and cut down on the long gaps between dishes. For fans of the show, this is MasterChef on a plate. Now that they’ve got out of that kitchen and out from under the hot glare of that particular formula, a less is more approach would serve them well. See for details of their next event in January. The tasting menu for two with a bottle of Pinot Noir (€31.90) and two glasses of Sauvignon Blanc (€5.50 each) came to €132.90.

Brasserie Le Pont

25 Fitzwilliam Place, Dublin 2, 01-6694600

Atmosphere: Plenty of it

Facilities: Swish

Wheelchair access: No

Food provenance: Good, suppliers given plenty of mentions