This place is the haute-cuisine class act in this busy intriguing little city. It’s north of the river, off Parnell Square, in the basement of a literature museum (hence the name). The food is terrific, but it’s the service that sets Chapter One apart: completely professional and reassuringly knowledgeable, but also wonderfully informal and full of Irish humour. I don’t think we’ve run into anything quite like it before.
Descending into a small entry foyer, we were punctual for lunch and welcomed pleasantly without ceremony. The decor is modern but muted. Taken to a seat in one of four or five rooms that was obviously going to be next to a big table, we requested, and got, a more secluded place in a smaller room. Our server was a French young lady, slim cheerful and charming: attractive without being glamorous. She told us she was from Chorey in Burgundy and listened politely as we told of visits to the region.
We started with a foie gras ravioli which was perfectly prepared but could have tasted a bit more of foie gras. The other starter unfortunately escapes me, but it was even better than the ravioli. Braised neck of lamb with pickled garlic and courgetti, and a “salt marsh” duck with smoked black pudding, beet, and pear were the mains. These were both just wonderful, the lamb meat succulent and full of slightly sour lamb flavour, the duck tender and the black pudding contrast just what it needed.
We confessed to being bargain-hunters in respect of wine, wanted a low-end Burgundy, and settled for a Santenay premier cru for about C$80 which way outdid itself. I don’t have the bill but I think we were out of there for about C$200. Or less…
There were three main characters attending us, and at least a couple of others bussing the food. Everyone was relaxed and there was in spite of the décor, professional conduct of service, and really great food, never a hint of any pretension. The main front-end man for example finished up with our lovely server standing right beside him saying, “Sorry about the service…” Everybody laughed.
Highly recommended. For a special meal in this town where informal dining is mostly pub fare, Chapter One is as far as we can tell as good as it gets.
Food 9.3, service 9.7, ambience 9.0, value 8.8, peace and quiet 9.1.