Leslie Williams is bowled over by Peter Clifford's subtle cooking in Stanley's, on Dublin's St. Andrew's Street.
Pork; fennel; nettle; and strawberry – flavours few of us would put together but, roll them round in your head, and you realise someone should have thought of this before.
Next add in some caramel and moscatel scented Palo Cortado Sherry, and citrus and almond flavoured, salty dry Amontillado (plus a touch of that old furniture aroma) and the string quartet becomes a chamber orchestra.
Chef Peter Clifford is young, just 23, and the son of the late, great Michael Clifford. Peter’s first cookbook Clifford & Son, which he wrote with Joe McNamee of this parish, was published last year and a few weeks ago he took over the kitchen of Stanleys Restaurant and Wine Bar, on Andrew Street, just up from the Trocadero.
Stanleys is a compact but fine space over three floors and another venture from Patrick and Stephen McArdle, who also operate the Arch Bistro in Churchtown.
Since Stanleys opened I have yet to have a bad experience here – and have enjoyed simple things from classic mushrooms on toast to finely judged caramelized scallops with pearl barley, cauliflower and smoked bacon. But Peter’s arrival seems to have moved things up another gear, and adding in sommelier extraordinaire Morgan Vanderkamer, means this is a place you need to visit.
Morgan’s natural skin contact (orange) wine flight (with Peter’s duck pâté) was voted the best tasting experience at the recent Dublin Wine Fest. Her wine list changes constantly and she is now serving intriguing Sherry based cocktails - e.g.: dry Oloroso, cardamom syrup and Calvados.
The sherry pork combination mentioned in the first paragraph was tasted at a lunch hosted last week by the excellent boutique Sherry house Bodegas Tradicion (imported by The Celtic Whiskey Shop/Wines on the Green).
We forget sometimes just how good Sherry can be with food, but expect to see more of it. Salty camomile and baked bread flavoured Fino is of course an obvious partner for fish (Tio Pepe and Fish and Chips is a classic). The Bodegas Tradicion Fino Viejo however needed more subtlety, so Peter offered fresh mackerel, apple, sea lettuce and horseradish foam – the ingredients once again picking out flavours in the wine and amplifying them.
The more weighty and textured dry Oloroso Vors was matched with creamy sweetbreads, spring onion, buttermilk and hints of coffee; and an incredibly delicate foie gras mousse (with some cocao nib crackling and rhubarb) came with their floral, sultana-scented sweet cream sherry.
Pedro Ximenez is intensely sweet and difficult to match but Peter’s blood oranges with sour cream ice cream fought it valiantly and brought out the latent citrus elements.
This is super-confident cooking and I suspect regular visits will be needed to keep up with Peter Clifford's work in Stanleys.
Stanleys Restaurant and Wine Bar, 7 St. Andrew’s Street, Dublin 2
Tel:01-4853273 - http://stanleysrestaurant.ie