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Think I’d need a stack of superlatives to describe a recent dinner at Sage on Midleton, the home of the 12 mile menu. I could easily go over the top as Kevin Aherne’s kitchen is easily ahead of many around the country. But I’ll try and not bore you, just to say here at the start that the place, in a courtyard just off Midleton’s main street, has never ever disappointed.
Sage and its junior sister, the Greenroom, cater for a variety of tastes and budgets and the recent addition - the semi-open courtyard itself - is a lively food and drink venue and was indeed booked out on the night we visited. Sage too was full by the eight o’clock mark so the advise is to book ahead.
Then you can relax. Everything will be fine: the fresh local food, the very friendly efficient service, the drink (much of the wine is organic) and the beer is craft and local as you'd expect. You can spot the crew cooking in the kitchen as you sit back in a lovely simple room, one of whose walls honours the many suppliers from within that 12 mile radius.
We, subsidised by the last of the gift vouchers from Christmas, were on the A la Carte but I spotted much of the same menu on the Early Evening offering (three courses for thirty euro!). Breads were delivered to the table as we studied the menu. We also thought about the drink and, with steak in mind, I settled on the regular stout from O’Hara’s. Regular but excellent, a bottle for 6.00. Soon we were nibbling on the amuse bouche of Apple rings and Ardsallagh Goats cheese.
Great choice of starters, and mine was magnificent: Mackerel, oyster mushroom and samphire (10.00). It was a great combination, the warm soft flesh of the mackerel, full of flavour, perfectly complemented by the supple mushroom, the peppery crunch of the radish and the salty bite of the samphire.
Hard to guess sometimes what you are going to get on your plate when you read the brief description, as CL did: Beef cheek ravioli, horseradish, parsnip (9.00). Well, the beef was contained in one big plate-filling ravioli and the parsnip was a crisp. But it all worked so well together, another delicious interesting starter. I'm sure the other four on the list would have been of the same standard, each perhaps with a little surprise.
So, surprised and happy, we moved on to the mains. No big ambush for me: Beef Fillet (Charlie Terry), horseradish, shallots and spinach (30.00). I've long maintained that if a chef looks after the little things, that he will also come up trumps with the big items. In this case, for example, the shallots were outstanding, sweet and good and the spinach was fresh and tasty. The fillet? Add any meaty superlative you wish. As good as you’ll get and better than most.
And was the other side of the table jealous? No, not a bit of it. She loves her hake and that affair was enhanced by Sage’s: Hake, pasta, mussels, chorizo, samphire (24.00). A lot on the plate but another winning combination, well cooked, well presented and well served.
It is strawberry time in Ireland so we both finished with a Strawberry and Marshmallow Posset (8.00). The two glass bowls were well stripped, as indeed were all the previous plates, when the servers came to take them away. We like good food and there’s no shortage of that in Sage. Very Highly Recommended!