I dined here once before and made a brief report about it. I decided it was time to return and had no trouble reserving a table for two at 7:30 on a Friday evening and I only phoned at two in the afternoon. Two years ago scoring such a last minute booking was impossible, I know because I tried.
There are two entrances to Ananda and we came into it from the Main Street rather than pass through the plastic pastiche of the Food Court. Instead of taking the lift up to the restaurant we chose to climb the carpeted stairs and thus burn a calorie or two in advance. When we entered the main reception area we were greeted promptly and shown to a table. I snatched a quick glimpse of the kitchen and noted that there was an awful lot of staff working there. There was also a lot of staff working the floor too.
Within seconds of sitting down we were supplied with a plate of crisp, hot and oil free poppadoms along with a selection of four relishes – none of which were explained to us. There were the usual mango based ones, a chilli one and a lovely marbled pink/white one. When the waiter came to remove these I asked what the pinkish one was. It was, as I had suspected, a beetroot and yoghurt mix. The relishes were very tasty indeed. We were also offered water ‘still, sparkling or ordinary’. We chose ordinary and it was poured promptly from an elegant silver looking jug.
We studied the menu and made our choices. I chose Tandoori Guinea Fowl (Free-range guinea fowl supreme in kashmiri chili & carom seeds pomegranate, avocado raita with parmesan rubbed parsnip) and himself chose Shammi Kebab (Pan seared hand pounded Wicklow lamb cakes flavoured with smoked cloves cardamom & star fruit salad). For mains I opted for Murgh Lazeez Korma (Free-range Irish chicken breast stuffed with courgette, peppers & smoked pistachio with sandalwood korma) and hubby chose the Hatti Ka Khargosh. (Wild rabbit tikka steeped in cardamom & cream cheese marinade served with Butternut risotto & plum Chutney). We also ordered some naans and pilau rice and a couple of Cobra beers.
Once we had given our orders we were presented with a little amuse bouche. It was a miniature potato dumpling with a ceamy mint sauce. It was pretty and tasty. Our starters were served. The guinea fowl was beautifully cooked, the spices having infiltrated the flesh rendering it most delectable. Surprisingly the parmesan dipped parsnips were pretty amazing and counteracted the heat of the guinea fowl. I tasted the lamb cakes too. The meat was ground so finely it was almost like powder. They were a little too spicy for me.
The mains were served and, in my opinion, a faux pas was committed by not serving the mains simultaneously and by serving the man before the lady. My chicken came deeply scored , sitting on a bed of leaves (perhaps lime?) and surrounded by sauce. I failed to notice any stuffing of pistachio, courgette and pepper. (I can’t believe that I didn’t notice it at the time as I would have queried it). I’ve had much better pilau rice than what was served but the peshawari naan was the best I’ve had. I tasted the rabbit and the risotto. The risotto was really excellent and I liked the idea of merging Italian and Indian cuisine. It worked well on this occasion. The portions were huge and we ended up taking some naan home in a doggy bag.
We were that replete that we couldn’t contemplate taking dessert or coffee so we asked for the bill. However I saw desserts that were delivered to the adjacent table and the chocolate parfait plate looked absolutely fabulous.
It is interesting to note that on my last visit here I remarked on the dirt on the menu. The new menus are in wipe clean pockets so that’s an improvement, although the dessert menus are of the old type and were stained. The staff didn’t rush us along too quickly either, another improvement. However, the food failed to impress us as much as it did on our previous visit. There were other signs of slippage too. There is a lovely hanging screen that divides the room but someone, for whatever reason, decided to knot up a length of it. This doesn’t look good in a place that gets mentioned in Michelin star brochures. There are spare dining tables stored on the landings of the stairwell which could have been prettied up a bit with tablecloths or ornaments. I’m nit picking now but this restaurant is trading on its good reputation and the prices are not cheap.
I’m not fully convinced that Ananda merits its listing in The Dubliner – Top 100 Restaurants.