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Blasket Lamb Buzz at Market Lane. Also at ORSO, Castle Cafe and Elbow Lane
There’s always a buzz when Market Lane announces that its annual allocation of tasty Blasket Lamb has arrived! Well in case you haven’t heard, now is the time for 2017. Just a short window during which you may get it at Market Lane and its associated restaurants: ORSO, Castle Café and Elbow Lane.
Grabbed an opportunity to taste it last week, had it in both starter and mains, and enjoyed every little bit. The Oliver Plunkett Street venue was indeed buzzing as we arrived to a warm welcome and lots of info on the lamb. We had no other interest on the night, well dessert maybe, so that made it easy for our enthusiastic and well-informed server.
Time perhaps for a bit of background.
This story begins with small holder, Donnacha O Ceileachair, who raises a small flock of sheep on the Great Blasket Island. When the April-born lambs are ready, he brings them by ferry from the Island onto the mainland. Award-winning Dingle Butcher, Jerry Kennedy, selects out the premium meat for the Market Lane Group.
“The impeccable provenance of this product is reflected in its quality and flavour; we are proud to be the only restaurants in Ireland to serve it to our customers. This truly is a farm to fork experience with everybody in the supply chain really respectful and excited about the product.” – Pamela Kelly, Head Chef, Market Lane. And we met Pam on the night and delighted to be able to congratulate her and her team on a job well done!
The starter was Spiced Blasket Lamb croquette with Velvet Cloud sheep’s yogurt, crispy mint and pomegranate. All the ingredients, including the mild spice, the chickpeas in the croquette, the smooth cooling yogurt from Mayo, each played a role in a lovely plateful.
Server Yuliyan was coming up with some excellent drink matches but we were keen to renewacquaintance with their own Elbow Lane beers and so he recommended the Wisdom Amber Ale with the starter. He was spot-on with that as he was when suggesting the sharper Elbow lager would do well with the mains.
And, if the starter was five star, then the mains was all of that but even more outstanding, hors catégorie as they say in the cycling world. I’ll give you the full description: Blasket Lamb Rack and pressed lamb belly with fondant root veggies, Elbow beer vinaigrette, and buttermilk mash. This was a duo of lamb to remember, tender and tasty, perfectly cooked and served.
Would we like dessert? Well, we’ll look. Yuliyan recommended the Marmalade and vanilla bread and butter pudding. “The massive one?”, I asked (having had previous). He confirmed with a smile. We decided to share and loved it.
It is just one of about a dozen desserts here. Lots of starters too and the same applies to the mains; here you’ll see the names of local suppliers such as Coolea, Goatsbridge, St Tola, Ballinwillin, Tom Durcan, and Toonsbridge. But, at present, the Blasket Lamb is the star of the show. You’ll need to get in soon as the limited supply won't last for very long!
The Market Lane Group Celebrates Blasket Island Lamb
Across all their Restaurants in October
Jerry and Donnacha
Cork’s Market Lane Group of restaurants will celebrate the unique, award-winning lamb from the Blasket Islands on all their food menus from Wednesday 11 October 2017. This highly anticipated event is now in its 8th year, and given the popularity of this delicious, rare meat, the chance to experience it usually only lasts until the end of the month. This celebration of Blasket Island Lamb is exclusive to the Group.
Chefs in each restaurant (Market Lane, Orso, Elbow Lane and Castle Cafe) create special lamb dishes that reflect their own in-house style of cooking and the full range of cuts will be used. These will be carefully partnered with drinks recommendations from the group’s wine and beer experts.
The habitat on the islands is what makes this product so special and gives it such a great reputation. The animals graze in a marshy meadow full of heather, natural grassland and wild herbs such as rosemary, sage and thyme. The grass is salty from sea spray which gives the lamb its highly valued pre-sale flavour. The animals are free to roam so the lamb is leaner creating a perfect fat to meat ratio.
Pamela Kelly Gough, head chef of Market Lane, who has been working with Blasket Island lamb for many years now says “We are delighted as a group to shine a light on this very special organic Autumn lamb, which is different in many ways from the more usual Spring lamb” she says. “The impeccable provenance of this product is reflected in its quality and flavour; we are proud to be the only restaurants in Ireland to serve it to our customers. This truly is a farm to fork experience with everybody in the supply chain really respectful and excited about the product.”
Lamb Shank at ORSO
This story begins with small holder, Donnacha O Ceileachair, who raises a small flock of sheep on the Great Blasket Island. When the April-born lambs are ready, he brings them by ferry from the Island onto the mainland. There, they are rested for up to a week on Donnacha’s farm in Dun Chaoin, to recuperate from their choppy journey across the Dingle Sound. Award-winning Dingle Butcher, Jerry Kennedy, then picks out the premium lambs which are sent for slaughter. When the annual Market Lane order is delivered, the remaining lamb is sold to the public directly from Kennedy’s Butcher Shop on Orchard Lane, Dingle or via www.dinglebutcher.com
Diners at The Market Group can look forward to dishes such as;
‘Elbow Lager lamb pie, pommes anna and glazed heritage carrots’, “Blasket lamb leg in fish sauce with seaweed gratin’, ORSO ‘Moroccan braised lamb shank with ras-el-hanout cous cous, preserved lemon, pomegranate and red onion pickle’ and ‘Anchovy and rosemary leg of lamb steak, creamed polenta, with caponata and crispy shallots.’
At Market Lane
Check out the new menus, drinks, specials, menu changes and availability of lamb dishes on the social media channels for the restaurants within the group including www.marketlane.ie and facebook; Market Lane.
Some go to Blackrock Castle to learn about the Universe, extreme life forms on Planet Earth and to explore life in outer space! Some go to explore the local food on their plate in the Castle Cafe. And it is very good food indeed as we discovered on last week’s visit where we enjoyed a delicious meal in a delightful venue.
The iconic Cork landmark dates back to the 16th century but the Caste Cafe is much younger than that. Indeed, the Market Lane group (which includes the cafe, Market Lane itself, Elbow Lane and ORSO) is celebrating ten years in business. And congratulations are in order!
It may be in a castle but the café is an easy-going informal place catering to locals and visitors alike. Service is friendly but very much on the ball. You have quite a selection of menus to choose from including A La Carte, Early Evening Offer, Set Lunch, Set Dinner, Children's Menu.
We were on the A La Carte, with quite a lot of choices. For the mains, I skipped the normal courses and the selection of salads and, for a change, went for a pizza.
From five, I picked the Goats Cheese, charred aubergine, soft egg, pecorino, spinach and truffle oil. Each and every element, even the baby spinach that had been added at the last minute, looked well and tasted well. And it was excellent overall.
CL’s choice was the Lamb tagine, sweet potato, pearl couscous, tzatziki and homemade flat bread. It was another excellent combination and she loved it but the portion was very large indeed.
One good thing about the cafe is that they have their own Elbow Lane beers and I enjoyed a pint of the Wisdom Lane Pale Ale. No shortage of wine either and plenty of soft drinks too, including home-made lemonades.
We enjoyed two excellent starterss. CL especially loved the broth that came with her mussels, full description: Local Mussels, Rosscarberry Black Pudding, shallot, cider and cream broth.
Mine was the Bresaola, olive and anise tapenade, Gorgonzola and pickled kohlrabi. Delightful mix of textures and flavours, especially the kohlrabi.
Just room for a shared dessert: Mango and passionfruit sorbet with fresh fruits. It was a lovely finalé, not least because of the excellent mix of fruit. So it was two happy diners who took a lingering look at the castle as we strolled down to the nearby public car-park.
Best of goods in small parcels. An old Irish saying beloved of mothers.
And like many old sayings, there is some truth in it. Take the Elbow Lane Brew and Smoke Housein Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork. The brewery here is so small, they call it nano rather than micro and the restaurant area, which can accommodate 25, is one of the smallest if not the smallest in the city. But you certainly get good stuff here.
Got the tour from Gerry O’Sullivan (you'll know him from the Castle Cafe) yesterday morning and you can see he enjoys his work here (he is also a home-brewer!). But then you realise that all the crew you meet here are on the same level of enthusiasm. Take a look at the top right of the menu and you’ll read: We’re really round of the beers that we make here. This is not marketing speak. It is true!
Perhaps, that enthusiasm has rubbed off from their beer guru Cuilan of White Gypsy. Elbow Lane folk are loud in their praise of the help and advice give by the pioneering Templemore brewery, especially Cuilán and Jamie.
The new Cork brewery is divided into two floors. The brewing and fermentation takes place downstairs while the conditioning takes place above. To save space, Gerry explained that they have an initial multi-purpose tank replacing the mash tun and lauter tun that you see in bigger breweries. Everything starts here and then the spent grain is neatly removed in its perforated container by a small hoist and no need for anyone to pop into the vessel with a shovel!
Gerry explained that hops can be added at different stages to the wort but with different effects. In general, hops added early in the boil will contribute more bitterness, but at the expense of flavor and aroma. Hops added at the end will have a more pronounced flavor and aroma, but will not contribute significantly to the bitterness of the beer.
Gerry, Conrad and brewer Russell
Hygiene is all important and is given the highest priority here. And Elbow Lane have also invested in temperature control, a key element in helping the brewer. Patience is also required, especially with lager. A German style lager can take up to six weeks while an Ale or Stout will be ready in 12 to 14 days.
There is a set of conditioning tanks upstairs - again you’ll see much bigger ones in other craft breweries. They are also known as Bright Beer Tanks. But the beer goes in cloudy. “All our beers here are unfiltered,” Gerry tells me. “They are naturally cloudy.”
The Cascade hop is one of the most popular and indeed, Gerry tells me there could well be a shortage of this particular type in the near future. They use it sparingly here, in pellet form. All the Elbow Lane beers are relatively lightly hopped, mainly because of food matching considerations. You don't want an over-hopped beer destroying the food flavours.
Indeed, the new brewery owes it existence to the food produced in the restaurants, Elbow Lane itself and big brother Market Lane next door, nearby ORSO and the Castle Cafe in Blackrock Castle. Owner Conrad Howard says they wouldn't have started a standalone “retail brewery”. But this one fits really well with the company's four food outlets, each with its own style. The Brewery has kegging and bottling facilities but that is to distribute the beers to ORSO and Blackrock. Market Lane is piped into the system!
And what kind of food do they do downstairs in the Elbow Lane Smokehouse? Well, very popular stuff by the looks of it. You'll find it difficult to get a seat after 7.00pm. Head chef Stephen Keogh is the man in charge and his pride and joy is the wood grill imported from the US.
Virtually everything you get on your plate here has been through the in-house smoker, the smoke coming from apple wood. Oak is used under the grill and here the T-Bones, the duck and fish (last Thursday night it was Sea Bream), is finished off.
And it really is going down very well. “There is a great feedback from all age groups”, says a delighted Gerry. “What’s your favourite?”, I asked. “Oh give me a T-Bone with that smoked Béarnaise butter and I’ll be a happy puppy!”
Sounds very good indeed. Pity it was early in the morning when we met! Must go back and try the cooking, the ribs are also highly rated. And it is a very different menu. Even the desserts! Where else would you get Passion Curd, eucalyptus and tamarind jelly?
At present, there are some five beers in the Elbow Lane range: Elbow Lager, Wisdom Ale, Liberty Porter, Angel Stout and Jawbone Pale Ale. Check them out here. Oh yes, you may also drink wine here, even tea and coffee!
Elbow Lane 4 Oliver Plunkett Street Cork 021 239 0479. email@example.com
The sky cleared as we arrived at Cork’s Blackrock Castle this week for lunch in the Castle Café. and, from the bright front room - there is also an inner room - we had a close-up view of the 16th century castle under a beautiful blue sky.
It is a very popular spot for lunch. We had arrived rather early, about 12.30pm, last Wednesday, but had to wait in line for a table. After a short spell, during which we studied the menu, we were led to our table. The menus are already there as they use them as table mats, just as they do in Market Lane, a busy city centre restaurant run by the same firm (ORSO is also under the same umbrella).
The Elbow Lane Brewery, soon to come onstream if reports are correct, is also part of the group. For the moment, at least in the Castle, you can sample the craft brews of Dungarvan Brewing and Eight Degrees Brewing in bottle. On draught, they have a White Gypsy red ale and I sampled, and very much enjoyed, a glass of that (€2.30) with the meal.
Service was pretty good here, even if all tables were full. Presentation and delivery of the food was fine and what was supposed to be warm was warm and water was refilled without having to make a request.
We had two good salads as our mains. One was the Slow cooked ham with honey glaze, roast sweet potato, watercress, sundried tomatoes and grapefruit dressing (€10.95) and the other a Caesar Salad with Romaine Lettuce, classic Caesar dressing, parmesan shavings and croutons (€8.50) enhanced by the addition chicken and Bacon (€2.50).
But it was the starters that had us talking, as both were superb. Mine was the Seared Escalope of venison with leek and thyme risotto (€8.50). The strongly flavoured meat was well matched with the soft and gorgeous risotto.
Homemade crab fish fingers with lemon cucumber pickle and quince jelly (€7.95) was another gem, a well cooked main ingredient enhanced by the pickle and jelly. Big marks for each of these. Curried prawn dauphine with a seafood sauce and watercress salad was another starter I'd have liked to have tried. Next time! ++++++++++++++++++++++ Castle Café, Blackock Castle, Cork.