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There is something special about going into a restaurant for the first time, meeting people you've never met before and feeling right at home within a few seconds. That was the feeling I got at The Spit Jack, the new Washington Street (Cork) restaurant. And that was before the beautiful food began to appear. Big credit here to owners Richard Gavin and Laura Sureda and their wonderful staff.
The owners have spent a lot of time and effort, not to mention money, in getting this place looking perfect, a place where once a medieval lane ran through. Lots of exposed brick in both downstairs and up. The highlight is perhaps the skylight, or at least, the area under it. The ground floor bar is lit by this light and its shelves extend upwards to the roof. You can see it at its best as you go to the upstairs dining room (or the lovely semi-private room, for 8/10, just off it).
Both the medium sized dining rooms are lit by light from the south and are bright and airy and busy and buzzy, even if they are still in soft opening mode (that may change this week). I’ll let Richard and Laura introduce their place: The SpitJack is a rotisserie concept and the first of its kind, offering only the highest quality Irish produce. All of our menus revolve around the rotisserie and we are opened from breakfast to bedtime.
We, and indeed all customers, were taken through the details of the menu and there were helpful suggestions as to what wine or side dishes go best with your order. And service continued in that helpful vein all through the meal. We were guests but could see and hear that all customers were getting the same treatment.
Goat Cheese Salad
There is a full bar so a great choice of spirits, including Dingle Gin and Vodka, Gunpowder Gin, lots of Irish (and international) whiskey, also tasting boards, local beer (including 8 Degrees) and the lovely Johnny Fall Down cider (my choice on the night).
Didn't get to try any of the many cocktails - they have their own mixologist. Here’s an intriguing one: the Barrel Aged Midleton Hip Flask (Jameson Black Barrel, sour malt and Chard reduction-recycled mash from our friends in Midleton, Lillet blanc and orange bitters. Just one of many.
Nothing gets wasted here; they are always conscious of sustainability, using surplus ingredients to make their own garnishes, infusions, purées, cordials and shrubs. “No ingredient gets left behind.” And they support local. Their meat, for instance, comes from O’Mahony's Butchers in the nearby market.
Down to business with Rotisserie Chicken Croquettes with a lemon and thyme aioli. Laura is from Barcelona and her influence was evident here in their tapas style opener. A delicious sign of things to come.
My starter was their Scotch Egg (soft egg wrapped in English Market Italian Sausage with a crisp crumb). Fifteen minutes is the cooking time but it is well worth the wait. Gorgeous and it comes with a beautiful salad as well.
CL went for a salad: the honey baked Goat Cheese Salad. It comes in two sizes! They use Ardsallagh cheese on crostini, carrot ribbons, cherry tomato, local mixed leaves and tarragon dressing, more or less the same salad that came with the egg. Another delicious combination.
My cider came into its own with my main course: Porchetta of pork-belly, stuffed with garlic and market herbs (sage mainly). And a tasty rim of crackling. Have had lots of excellent pork-belly since it came into fashion a few years ago but hard to beat this beautifully cooked effort. Great match with the cider!
You get one side (you may order more) with your mains and I was advised to take the classic potato and gruyere gratin. It was spot-on, a rich and cheesy delight. CL’s side - we did share - was another gem. The Rotisserie Roast Potatoes is a rather underrated description. The spuds, with little bacon bits, were roasted under the chicken, the juices falling down and working their magic.
The West Cork Rotisserie Chicken, by the way, spent 24 hours bring brined with Rosemary, Thyme and Lemon. And you get a breast and leg to enjoy at your leisure! Cooked to perfection and absolutely delectable. They’ve certainly mastered their roasting machine in the few weeks of the soft opening!
And, of course, there was a sweet finish, a shared one. The dessert list is short but excellent. I noticed the rotisserie had come into play in one: the Coconut Panna Cotta (with Rotisserie Pineapple and a rum and raisin shortbread). As with the previous plates, there was nothing not playing a part on this one. The Panna Cotta itself was excellent while the shortbread made the taste buds sit up and notice even at the end of a magnificent meal.