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Richard Milnes' cooking fuses the avant garde with the classical in Dillon’s Restaurant in West Cork.

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There are 2 chefs to be discovered in Richard Milnes, of Dillon’s Restaurant in little Timoleague, in West Cork.
One is Richard Milnes, Modernist. This guy likes to throw curve balls at everything he gets his hands on. He reinvents brandade as a smoked haddock and salt cod creation, served with pickled carrots and tarragon. He gives the treatment to ham hock terrine by working some ox tongue in there to shake it up. The dude serves celeriac: as a steak.
Then there is Richard Milnes, Classicist. This dude makes a dish of pork belly with lentils as if he had learnt it straight from Fernand Point back in the ’50‘s. He will send out a black Angus sirloin with garlic butter as if we were still in the days of Escoffier, or serve mashed potatoes in the style of that old Cordon Bleu classic: duchesse potatoes.
Mr Milnes' singular achievement is to unite these two chefs and bring their work together, without any tension whatsoever. The food he is serving in Dillon’s, a simple yet legendary West Cork space, is so seamlessly wrought and elegant that he makes everyone else look like they are trying too hard.
Part of the brilliance of Dillon’s is the way in which simple things are shown ultimate respect – brussels sprouts, for example, served in a warm salad with potatoes and hazelnuts and Milnes’ own riff on a Caesar dressing. It’s the kind of dish where disaster sits cheek by jowl with triumph – get it wrong by even a fraction and it’s going to be an awful starter. But the Dillon’s dish is sublime, with every element just right, from temperature to texture to taste. And that confident mastery of texture is shown again in the celeriac steak, a dish that leads you to ask just one question: how does he do that? How do you get celeriac to taste so savoury, and sanguine?
Four of us ate dinner, and every dish was bang on the money, from celeriac soup with wild garlic pesto to cod with sauce vierge, and wickedly good puddings of affogato and panna cotta. Antje Gesche runs front of house and does so with effortless panache, making Dillon's yet another star turn on the Wild Atlantic Way.
Mill Street, Timoleague, West Cork 023 886 9609 dillonsrestaurant.ie

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