Thursday, July 27, 2017

Superb Evening Meal at Pier One. And So Much More at Kinsale's Trident Hotel

Superb Evening Meal at Pier One
And So Much More at Kinsale's Trident Hotel
Three sails power this boat to harbour. View from the Trident bedroom
Pier One is the main restaurant at the refurbished Trident Hotel in Kinsale and we enjoyed a lovely evening meal there recently. If you'd prefer something more casual then downstairs at the Wharf Bar is the spot to go, a lovely room with food all day long. And drink too, of course. 

Indeed, if you’re one of the many that likes a drink outside these summer days then, between car park and the harbour, the Trident have their self contained Foredeck Bar with some seating for your comfort.
Duck confit

There was a coach load of visitors dining in Pier One when we arrived. But it was no bother to the efficient well practised crew on duty and the service at our table was top notch all through. We had menus, breads and water as soon as we seated and then got on with the “work” of making choices!

And we had plenty to choose from. Here, they buy local “as much as possible” and we could see that, from the breakfast in the morning to the drinks at night. Drinks featured included Blacks of Kinsale, Franciscan Well, Stag Ban, Killarney Brew, Stonewell Cider, lots of Irish whiskeys, gin by Dingle and Kinsale and also Kalak vodka. 
Crab

I enjoyed a Crested Ten (one of Ireland’s most under-rated) in The Wharf, excellent service here too by the way, and they too were busy with people dining and drinking, some watching the British Open. The bar has a nautical feel – designed by local yacht designer, Rob Jacob, to resemble elements of an old sailing ship, it is complete with portholes, decking, vaulted panel and beam ceiling and rope-wound galleon masts.

But back upstairs to Pier One. Once we took our eyes off the collection of Knuttle on the walls and the activity on the water outside, the boats coming and going, we made up our mind. My mains would be Roast Crispy Duck (a half!), with wild berry, apple compote and citrus jus while CL went with the Seared Monkfish with carrot crisps and a Vermont Cream Butter Sauce. 
Duck

The duck was surrounded by orange segments and I certainly enjoyed this more exotic style, very well cooked by the way. And so too was the monkfish, a more simple dish though with a most gorgeous sauce, and another excellent combination. The side dish, of lovely vegetables, included courgette, celery, carrot and leek on the side. And all the while I was sipping my Kinsale Pale Ale by Black’s.

The starters had been excellent also. My Pan fried crab claws, with garlic and coriander, were as good, if not better, than any I've come across previously. And The Trident style Duck Confit was dispatched, with no little pleasure at the other side of the table.
Monkfish

The high standard was maintained with dessert. This time there was no sharing as we each picked the delightfully presented Rosscarberry Strawberry Shortcake, Crème de Menthe cream, Vanilla and Raspberry Sauce. Quite a plateful and a great sweet way to finish.

We would be back in Pier One for breakfast. They lay on quite a spread here, with real cheese and ham included. Loads of fruit too, plus breads and cereals. And a choice of hot dishes of course, including the full Irish (and any variation you wish) and a fish option. We both went for the Eggs Benedict and, with the local Barrett rashers and the eggs by Riverview making a lovely impression, that set us up for the day.
Dessert

The 75 newly refurbished bedrooms include an executive wing comprising 30 rooms and a penthouse floor of 9 luxury suites, all with breath-taking views of the harbour and enchanting town of Kinsale. The hotel has a private marina, onsite parking and a wide range of state of the art facilities for conferences and is an unforgettable venue for family occasions.

We stayed in one of those refurbished bedrooms and, with the sun obliging both in the evening and morning, we had splendid views of the harbour. The decor is restful and the spacious room had all we needed, including hairdryer (well, I didn't need that!) and tea-maker.
The Foredeck Bar, with some of Trident rooms on far right

The hotel is three-sided (the water's edge completes the square) and all rooms  have a view of the harbour. While walking along the corridors, I was struck by the restful colour combination, mainly white and grey on the walls, blue and grey in the carpet, and a little extra colour in the curtains. All very peaceful throughout. A really lovely place to stay, good rooms, good food, and just about four minutes from the very heart of the town.
Room with a view


Lots to visit here, most notably Charlesfort. But don’t forget the wine museum in the smaller Desmond Castle. One of the new attractions is the Old Head Signal Tower and Lusitania Museum, a community effort alongside the Old Head itself. Good stories here and also splendid views over the ocean and the land, especially over the old head itself.
The Old Head of Kinsale, with Lusitania Memorial Garden in foreground

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Orschwihr: Hard to spell, easy to drink!

The Wines of Chateau d'Orschwihr: Hard to spell, easy to drink!

The Celtic God of Fire is associated with the warm hillside vineyard of Bollenberg in Alsace. That Celtic god was Belen or Belenus and he was also associated with pastoral life. The Mont de Belen is said to be an ancient place of sun worship and indeed it still enjoys “an exceptional amount of sunshine.”

The general timeframe of grape growth and wine production is about five or six years. The aim at d’Orschwihr is to develop a sustainable and environmentally friendly viticulture which produces a raw material that in turn produces remarkable wine. This is achieved by applying certain principles and you may read about the château’s philosophy here

Chateau d’Orschwihr Riesling Bollenberg Alsace (AOC), 13%, €19.30 Karwig Wines


Colour is an appealing light gold. There are white fruit aromas, with citrus prominent. The palate is mouth-watering and flavourful, well structured with a balancing backbone of acidity, well balanced all the way through to the long rich finish. This gorgeous golden wine is Very Highly Recommended. Try with seafood and fish, not forgetting freshwater fish, pork and poultry too.

Chateau d’Orschwihr Gewürztraminer Bollenberg Alsace (AOC), 14%, €21.85 Karwig Wines.

Again, we have a lovely gold colour. Intense aromas, fruit, hint of honey. Intensity of fruit on the palate also, a terrific mouthfeel too, and a rich finish.  Some sweetness too. After all, the residual sugar count is 9.3 gr/l, about twice as much as the Riesling. But it is pretty well camouflaged by the other elements. Very Highly Recommended.

Match, they say, with spicy Asian dishes of fish and meat, especially Japanese food.
My tip, tried and tested: Try it with Citrus White Chocolate Truffles by Skelligs Chocolate.











Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Taste of the Week. Raw Honeycomb from S Bees

Taste of the Week

Raw Honeycomb from S Bees

Stefan
Raw honeycomb is a real delicacy of nature and our Taste of the Week. It is also one of the most efficient ways of storing the honey and I picked up my most recent honeycomb at the Killavullen Farmers Market. It is delicious plus any superlative you’d like to use.

Stefan Buzoianu was the man selling them. Based in Fermoy, he is the man behind S Bees and also sells hive products and gives beekeeping advice and may be contacted at stefan.buzoianu@gmail.com

While he was selling me my honeycomb, he was also feeding bits of another one to a box of bees he had on display on his market stand. This was to compensate them in some small way for the fact “that they were missing a good day's foraging.”

Stefan supports “healthy common sense living” and is worried, like many of us, about the decline in the bee population. Life would be better if we take better care of the bees and encourage them. What happens if the bees die? Check out this video here

Monday, July 24, 2017

Jacques. High Standards Since 1980.


Jacques. 
Style and High Standards Since 1980.
Kidneys

The warmest of welcomes. An evening meal of outstanding quality. An exemplary service. An evening to savour. Where? In Jacques Restaurant of course, where the Barry sisters, Jacque and Eithne, have reigned - morning, noon and evening - since 1980.

Back in the 80s, you had hair to the skies and shoulder pads not far behind and the guys had big and obvious gold chains. Those fashions have long gone but the high standard at Jacques endures.
Crab

In early 2015, after an previous outstanding meal there, I wrote: For 35 years now, Jacques has been setting the standard for restaurants in Cork. With the Barrys' unswerving commitment to local produce and high class cooking, it looks as if the calm and comfortable Phoenix Street venue will be the benchmark for years to come. No need to change an iota!

Just as well we four had booked well in advance for our Friday night out. The main restaurant was full and there was a lively buzz too coming from the new-ish tapas section which fronts onto Oliver Plunkett Street. You can access both areas from either that street or the original Phoenix Street door.

No delay in bringing the menus and water, breads too, to the table. The A La Carte is quite extensive and we were immediately filled in on the specials. Quite a choice. 

That Lambs Kidney tempted me but in the end I picked the Fresh crab mayonnaise, new potato, mint, and the Busby strawberries from West Cork. Hadn't seen that combination before and it was delicious. CL enjoyed her Roast beetroot, quinoa, Knockalara cheese, saying the caramelised walnuts included were “divine”. Got enthusiastic reports too on the Kidneys and also on the Fried Ardsallagh Goats Cheese Gnudi with cured egg yolk.
Monkfish

Some excellent wines (and craft beers too) on the list. Indeed, the wine quality is very evident in those listed as house wines including a superb Anselmann Riesling Classic 2012. A pichet of Argentinian Malbec also went down well as did a bottle of Steininger Grüner Veltliner from Austria’s Kamptal.

Now, for the main event. The Cork Lamb Cutlets were enthusiastically dispatched while the two ladies were very happy indeed with the fresh Hake, pan fried, lemon butter, crispy capers, parsley, Ballycotton queens and greens, a lovely plateful indeed. 
Lamb

I went a little exotic: Fresh monkfish, Malaysian noodles, pancetta, chilli and black pepper jam and julienne of vegetables. I think I hit the jackpot with this one. It was perfectly cooked and the fish was superbly enhanced by the accompaniments. Just like my crab and strawberry starter, I would highly recommended this one!

No big decision required for dessert as two sharing plates appeared. And soon disappeared! We four would soon head off into the city night, all talking about the marvellous meal and hospitality in a lovely place. I think we’ll be spreading the good word for a long while.

Jacques, 23 Oliver Plunkett St and 9 Phoenix Street.
"Whether you come in the front door or the back door,
you're more than welcome."
021 427 7387
Opening hours:
Mon 10am to 4.00pm
Tue-Sat 10am to 10pm.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Chef Greg Expands Brook Inn Repertoire After Kerridge Stage


Chef Greg Expands Brook Inn Repertoire After Kerridge Stage

The Brook Inn in Sallybrook (Glanmire) has recently been included in a couple of national guides but Head Chef Greg Murphy is not resting on his laurels. Every year he seeks to improve the offering and this year is no exception as he completed a stage* with Tom Kerridge of the famous Michelin two star “Hand and Flowers” pub in London.

Greg supports local suppliers including Tom Durcan, Gubbeen Smokehouse, Carrigaline Cheese, Rathcooney Fruit Farm Strawberries, and the Green Field Farm. And he is a big fan of the English Market.
Glazed Omelette

I met Greg when I was back in the Brook last week to check out the new menus and straight away noticed the Glazed Omelette “Tom Kerridge”, smoked haddock, with aged Parmesan cheese. Well, that was my starter and an excellent one it was.

But regulars needn’t worry. It is not all Kerridge. You’ll still have your steak, lamb, chicken and fish and other dishes for which the Brook is well known. There are a whole range of menus here including A La Carte, Set Dinner, Early Bird, Tapas, Breakfast/brunch, Finger Food and, this time of year, BBQ!
Hake

Tom Durcan’s spiced beef featured on CL’s starter, a superb plate that came with pickled Enoki mushrooms, baby potatoes, olive oil, pea cress and red cabbage purée. Looked well and tasted even better.

Quite a wine list here too, many of your favourite countries and varieties listed. I enjoyed a fresh and interesting Pecorino, an organic wine from Italy that matched well with the fish.

A grilled fillet of hake was my main course, accompanied by a spinach and basil velouté, charred lemon gel, mussels, brown butter gnocchi, and hazelnut. Well cooked, well presented and every ingredient played a role in a superb dish.
Dessert

CL’s pick was the Grilled breast of chicken, southern fried leg, leek, onion dressing, salt baked celeriac, purée Tarragon cream. The fried leg added an extra dimension to another excellent combination. By the way, there are a number of sides available and, yes, those Triple Cooked Chips are outstanding! 

After all that, we decided to share a dessert: West Cork Cream, with honeycomb and a champagne sorbet. Easy to dispatch and delicious! And a lovely end to a lovely meal. Excellent produce, top notch cooking and a friendly and efficient service from start to finish in a very comfortable room.
Chicken

The Brook Inn is easily found, on the road from Glanmire to Watergrasshill. It will be on your left, a well maintained building with lots of flowers at this time of year. There are a few parking spaces in the front while the main car park is at the rear. See the map here

* A stage (French word) is an unpaid internship when a chef works briefly (usually for a few weeks), for free, in another chef's kitchen to learn new techniques and cuisines.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Amuse Bouche

All he had to do was drive to a fish warehouse in Oakland, hand a slip of paper to a Chinese kid who worked for Fariq’s organization, and throw the squid into his van. From there, he’d take it to Fremont, put it on the ground, and come back the next day, when it had thawed. Then he’d open it up and pull out the vacuum-sealed loaves of drugs. I used to love squid, he told them later. I can’t eat it anymore.


from Every Man A Menace by Patrick Hoffman (2016). Highly Recommended.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Back to the Garden for Maryborough Chef. A Delicious New Summer-time Menu at Bellini’s

Back to the Garden for Maryborough Chef
A Delicious New Summer-time Menu at Bellini’s

Sea Bream

Hotel dining rooms are improving all over the city and Bellini’s at the Maryborough is at the forefront thanks to Head Chef Gemma Murphy and her team.

Gemma is renowned for her presentation skills. But there is substance galore behind the style on your plate. She is well able to source good produce, with the emphasis on local and seasonal, and cook it to perfection.

Macroom Buffalo Cheese, Goatsbridge Trout, La Rousse Fine Foods, Keeling’s Fruit and Vegetables, Matt O'Connell Seafood, the English Market and Ballinwillin Boar and Venison are among her sources.

And it's getting even more local! She has developed a vegetable and herb garden “so she can ensure only the best will be used in her cooking”.
Breads

Delighted to get the chance to try the new menu. After a warm welcome, we were seated comfortably and starting to make the choices. Not that easy as all the dishes appealed.

I was looking at the starters and found it difficult to get past the first two. Eventually though the Ballinwillin Wild Boar (Pea and Watercress Pannacotta, Apricot Mustarda) “won” against the Grilled Mackerel. The boar and venison coming from the Mulcahy's in Ballinwillin is top notch and this superb dish added another dimension.
Wild Boar


CL too had a difficult choice toying with the Assiette of Summer Vegetables (with Macroom ricotta) before settling on the Scallops (Bacon Dashi, Compressed Pineapple, Picked Shimeji, Cubanelle Chilli Oil). Another winner. The dashi was poured on at the table and the little umami mushrooms, like everything other element, played a tasty role. 

No big creamy sauces for the chef here. We both went for fish in the mains and each of us was very happy. CL enjoyed the Sea Bream Fillets (Grilled Asparagus, Charred Onion, Salt Baked Fingerling Potatoes, Shellfish Bisque, Squid Ink Dressing) while my Pan seared fillet of Cod (Braised Beluga Lentils, Fava Beans, Heritage Tomato, Grapefruit and Saffron Puree) was another delight.
Scallops

And of course there were sides; the House Fries and Market Vegetables (a substitute on the night for the  carrots) were our choices, both well up to standard.

So how about dessert? Some excellent choices here. Was looking at the Coconut and Yuzu Pannacotta before settling on the Pimm’s Jelly (Foraged Elderflower Scented Mascarpone Strawberry Sorbet, Shortbread). That was shared, our server diplomatically placing it centre-table. Service was excellent throughout. And another empty plate went back!

There are some fantastic wines on the list here, including quite a few by the glass and also a selection by the half-bottle. Once we decided on the fish, we ordered a glass of white each. One was the  German Eins-Zwei-Dry Riesling, smooth and fruity and dry for sure. The other was the Ara Della Valle Pinot Grigio, smooth and persistent. Both feature on the house white list, along with a few more.
Cod

If don't want the full menu of the restaurant, well take a look at the Bellini bar daytime menu here.  Here too, you’ll see Lots of cocktails on offer and you can also sample the local craft beer by the Franciscan Well Brewery.

And they also do Afternoon Tea in the Garden Room. And if the kids come, well there’s even an Afternoon Tea Menu for them. If you need to be pampered at any time, just follow the sounds of flowing water to the spa. And I'd better mention, they also have a gym!
Dessert