Lucinda O'Sullivan

SEVERAL IRISH restaurant reviewers won’t be on Jamie Oliver and Gerry Fitzpatrick’s Christmas list this year, having written some naughty and not very nice reviews of their newly-opened Chequer Lane restaurant.

The exception is the Sindo’s Lucinda O’Sullivan, whose glowing review stood in stark contrast to the much harsher ones given by her fellow scribes in the Business Post, Irish Times and Indo.

The critics were at odds before they had even touched a morsel of grub.

While Lucinda “loved the vibe” and “stunning” decor, the Indo’s Katy McGuinness wasn’t impressed with “too many colours” in the decor and the “dreadful” acoustics.

Corinna Hardgrave of the Irish Times, winner of the Food Writing Award at the Irish Food Writing Awards in 2021 and Restaurant Writing Award in 2022, wasn’t entranced by the restaurant’s “tasteful but nondescript decor.” The Business Post’s Jordan Mooney reckoned she would “probably have a better chance of a decent chat in Coppers, so loud is Chequer Lane.”

Katy’s review included complaints about dishes being unavailable, lacking flavour or being overcooked, and Jordan experienced service issues and confusion around her gluten-free requirements. Both women ordered dishes that didn’t show up, and Corinna’s overall verdict was “Irish produce ruined by operations procedures.”

Interestingly, both women mentioned being sent to “Siberia,” aka being seated away from the main action. The sidelining didn’t enhance their experience.

Lucinda admitted in advance to being unimpressed by celebrity chefs arriving on these shores, with the exception of Marco Pierre White and Jamie Oliver. She wondered if their successes were due to being involved with members of the Fitzers Catering family – “seasoned, hands-on pros who know their own market.”

She certainly seemed favourably disposed to Chequer Lane, which is co-owned by a celebrity chef who has already passed muster with her and a member of a catering family that impresses her.

While Corinna declared that the restaurant’s coffee-rubbed lamp chops to be “a crime against lamb,” Lucinda was impressed by the “tender” dish.

They also disagreed on the citrus trifle dessert, which Lucinda declared to be “scrumptious.” Corinna felt the trifle and its “slick of barely set jelly” were unimpressive and “would not be out of place in the chilled section of Tesco Finest.”
There were various elements that Katy, Corinna and Jordan all agreed on, such as insufficient garlic butter in their Chicken Kievs.

Katy’s found aspects of her meal to be “unremarkable” “overly sweet” and “horrid,” while Jordan was unimpressed by“bland, “lumpy,” “bizarre” and “woolly” food items.

Hardgrave found various elements of the meal to be “dull,” “perfunctory,” “sad” and “soggy.”

Lucinda was the only Grinch not stealing Christmas as her review found her dishes to be “stunning,” “sublime,” “glorious” and “magically cooked.”

Such effusive praise marks it as the prime contender for the review most likely to be found framed in the restaurant’s window