French, not so fancy
Modelled on parisian bistro cuisine, bleu's modern take on comfort food left us only lukewarm
Bleu Bistro Moderne is the little brother restaurant of One Pico which has for many years served some of Dublin's best value, high-quality French food. Bleu is a more relaxed version of One Pico with a stronger emphasis on comfort food.
The Bistro Moderne part of the title comes from a Parisian food movement of the 1990s when a number of ambitious chefs realised that their city could not support any more haute-cuisine Michelin-starred restaurants.
These chefs correctly realised that Paris (like any city) could, however, happily support more good-value bistros, provided the food was impeccably cooked and presented with flair and imagination.
To illustrate further: One Pico serves foie gras parfait while Bleu serves duck liver parfait and both are accompanied by pears and brioche.
I visited Bleu on a chilly mid-week night with my 11-year-old son, who has a particular penchant for classic bistro dishes, notably steak and chips and chocolate desserts.
When we arrived Bleu was half-full. It had a cool and slightly austere feel that was, thankfully, softened by welcoming waiters and the sound of chattering diners.
The boy had the excellent-value early bird menu (two courses for €21.95) and I opted for the à la carte in the interests of research. Both menus stick to bistro classics such as potted crab, pork belly and duck confit.
The wine list is short and rather expensive but has a relatively non-cliched selection of new and old- world wines, including many served by the glass.
My salad of rocket leaves with poached pears, Bellingham Blue Cheese and caramelised walnuts was rather lightly dressed, but the mildly peppery leaves worked well with the sweet pears and nicely contrasting salty raw-milk cheese. Sadly, the caramelised walnuts were far too sweet and overpowered the other flavours.
The boy's rib-eye steak was juicy and perfectly cooked. However, the "fat chips" were a little too chunky to be crispy. "What is the point of a chip if it's not crispy?" he rightly asked. Moreover the side order of "skinny fries" were very chewy and totally lacked any of the lightness or crispiness we were seeking.
Slow-cooked pork belly with scallops was much more successful with delicate sweet scallops, crispy unctuous pork and the creamiest of creamy mashed potato.
Warm chocolate cheesecake brownie was liked by the boy, but then, as long as it contained chocolate, he was never going to refuse. For me it fell between two stools -- tasting of neither cheesecake nor brownie. The dessert was saved slightly by the delicious tiny mounds of orange curd and the lemony fresh yoghurt sorbet.
My hazelnut and white chocolate pudding was tasty if rather stodgy. My complaint was that it didn't do what it advertised, with barely a hint of white chocolate and only tiny shards of hazelnut. The accompanying wild-honey ice cream was creamy and delicious, however, as was my glass of sweet Malbec.
So, in conclusion, Bleu is great value and does many things very well, but it is inconsistent.
Dishes are beautifully presented by helpful professional staff and there are many memorable flavours to be found -- it is just that the sum of the many parts left me rather underwhelmed.