Just off the main street of Blackrock, there’s a little lane that leads to Blackrock Market. On a Thursday evening, you can follow the lane past the stalls, closed for the night, that usually house businesses such as Kiddy Knits, Fish Shop and The Bean Bag Shop. Following the lane, you turn a corner and are greeted by a little bistro inviting you in for a bite to eat.
This is Canteen at the Market, run by Soizic Humbert and James Sheridan. They open for lunch Wednesday through to Saturday and welcome evening patrons on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights for dinner. Humbert and Sheridan both count Thornton’s among their Michelin Star-spangled resumés. ‘When we found this premises, we took it on the basis that we could garner the experience and build a reputation,’ Sheridan explains. ‘Markets are, after all, incubators for small business.’
What once was a greasy spoon now serves as a cosy setting for a set tasting menu. There are four courses for €42 and the menu changes weekly. It’s hand-written in large letters on a brown piece of paper that hangs in the middle of the restaurant. Tonight the menu reads well; we’re to have scallops, brill, venison and raspberries.
The scallop starter is rather impeccable. I can’t think of where I’ve had scallops better cooked. The perfect sweetness of this marine delicacy was cut through perfectly by pickled raisins and astringent vinaigrette. The accompanying florets of beautifully blackened cauliflower and crunchy chicory made this a delectable starter that was a proud celebrant of the turn of the seasons.
The main course of venison is similarly relished, the pink meat sprinkled with a walnut crumble. Sweet pears, softened, work well with the venison while roasted Jerusalem artichoke add their usual earthiness to the proceedings. A moreish sauce is drizzled over soft gnocchi dumplings and a dehydrated sliver of pear topping the whole dish off. Dessert comes in a delicate little glass so that we can see tiny donuts, pieces of crunchy cake, meringue and raspberry granita mingling with beautiful Irish raspberries.
There was a little bump in the road throughout all of that success. The brill, braised with ceps, butternut squash and fregola (a lovely couscous style pasta) promised all the joys of autumnal cooking; big, fat mushrooms on top of the glistening fish, cosying up to the moist and plump fregola. But this dish just didn’t quite deliver. Though a touch of self-applied seasoning helped somewhat, the subtle depth of the other dishes was sadly missing in our second course.
Coffee and macaroons add €3.50 to the bill but they’re worth it; my macchiato is a great combination of creamy and tart while the toffee-hued macaroons are gooey and crispy in just the right way. With a bottle of sparkling water, two glasses of wine and four courses each, the total bill comes to €105.45.
Sheridan tells me Canteen at the Market is a “pilot project” and the pair clearly have their eyes on the future. It feels a bit special to catch this team’s journey as they serve their ambitious food in this sweet, informal setting. These two are definitely ones to watch.
Canteen at the Market
Blackrock Market, Blackrock, Co Dublin
Words: Aoife McElwain
Photography: Mark Duggan