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The Oyster Tavern may have been established in 1792 but while nostalgia for the (more recent) good old days (and nights) will gain you some goodwill you've got to keeping putting quality on the table. And in April 2018, The Oyster is doing just that. During our visit last week, we enjoyed two of the best main courses that we've come across in a long while. Working under renowned local chef Kate Lawlor, the team’s Pan-fried Halibut and Rack of Lamb were absolutely outstanding; and neither of the evening’s specials needed a heavy sauce.
That rack of lamb, like much else here, comes from the English Market next door. And Tom Durcan's rack was perfectly cooked (pink) with pearl barley, cabbage stew and turnip purée, Irish food at its best. Great flavour from the tender meat and I reckon I'd have eaten a bowlful of the accompaniment on its own.
I enjoyed every bit of that but think I was beaten to the line by CL who hardly spoke, just purred now and then, as the fish disappeared. The Halibut, a lovely piece of fish lovingly handled in the kitchen, its delicate flavours respected, was served with charred tender stem broccoli, pickled beetroot and oyster sauce. And there was a tasty side of crushed potato with dillisk and tarragon.
The main choices also included a range of steaks (from Tom Durcan), baked sea-bream, two vegan friendly dishes Cauliflower Steak and Char-Grilled Aubergine Charlotte, a Chicken Cordon Bleu (from the market's Chicken Inn) and more.
We began our guest visit with a couple of lovely cool draught beers, both by Franciscan Well, the Chieftain Ale and Rebel Red, and a look at the menu. No shortage of starters: soups, chowder, oysters (of course), scampi, a Knocklara Cheese Salad included.
CL enjoyed Durcan's spiced beef carpaccio, with cracked black pepper and sea salt on a bed of rocket leaves while I was also impressed with the flavours and textures in the Pork and Onion Croquettes (Clonakilty black pudding and apple sauce).
We were in early on the Tuesday after Easter Monday and had a chance to have a “good look”. Great welcome by the barman downstairs, a bit of chat and then he guided us to the lift, and that kind of service continued right through upstairs, and at the very end when the same friendly fellow engaged us again in a bit of banter. The restaurant looks fantastic, the island bar a feature as is a secluded area off to your right as you enter (great for a large private party). The main area has lots of booths with very comfortable seating, some lovely chairs around the bar as well (see Oyster pic below).
This gorgeous dining area gets lively at weekend nights, with some of the musicians known to strut their stuff on the counter! Mightn't be the best time for fine dining then but you may still eat here as platters are part of the late night service. There is a separate weekend menu (including steak and eggs) and also a Pre-Theatre menu.
We finished up though with a couple of desserts, a Sherry Trifle and a Tarte Tatin and a lovely chat with Chef Kate Lawlor who joined last October and is very much enjoying her new challenge here. Earlier, we met up with restaurant manager Deirdre Caldwell.
Check a previous visit (last September) to the Oyster here. And keep an eye for our chat with Kate Lawlor - coming soon.