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Might as well have been a Philistine that walked into the old Greyfriars Church for the EAT Waterford Tasting Menu last Sunday afternoon. Oh, I knew about the multi-course lunch and the combination of local restaurants that had worked so hard to put it together and showcase their different skills. But I had no idea that the old church is now a gallery, has been since 2001.
But soon, one or two local enthusiasts were pointing me away from the tables, to the walls. I hadn't really noticed all the artwork hanging here. And so I started viewing before too many diners came in. “There’s a Yeats there,” I was told. And so there was, an oil on canvas titled While Grass Grows.
Greyfriars and Jack B. Yeats
And close by there’s a Paul Henry (Evening in Kerry), a Mainie Jellett (Virgin and Child), an Evie Hone (abstract), one by George William Russell, better known as AE, called Boy with Donkey on Skyline, a Louis Le Brocquy (Belfast Refugees at Mespil Road, Dublin, 1941), and quite a few more, thirty nine in all.
The 39 have been selected from the Waterford Municipal Art Collection by Patrick Murphy, director, Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin and were exhibited in the RHA in 2015. There is not much time left to see the current display in Greyfriars as it due to finish at the end of the current month. All the Greyfriar details here.
So back then to meet the strangers at our table - not strangers for long - and time to study the menu with a glass of wine in hand. Some pretty pictures soon on our plates, starting with the Colcannon, Leek compote and Bacon Crumb Amuse Bouche.
An amazingly juicy Heirloom tomato from the local Grantstown nurseries was the feature of our starter, a salad with ribbons of local vegetables. The next course, the fish, was possibly the highlight of the afternoon: Seared Dunmore East Hake “Chu-Chie”, coconut, Thai Spice Rub, Kaffir Lime Leaves and pickled veg, a perfect balance between the delicate fish and the spices.
Next up was the meat course: Honey mustard glazed pork neck, smoked bacon choucroute, home-made white pudding, and red wine apple purée. Another excellent balanced combination. I liked that choucroute and the purée went so well with the pork.
Tom Cleary popped up on nearly every table over the weekend but it was something of a surprise to some to see the well-known grower of salads and vegetables contributing to the dessert: Bavois of Tom Cleary’s organic beetroot, pistachio, wild blackberry glaze, lime and basil sorbet.
The Tasting Menu was the work of EAT Waterford, a collaborative initiative by the restaurateurs of Waterford City, that is aimed at helping food lovers to find the best places to eat in Waterford.
This year it was the turn of Athenaeum House Hotel, Bellissimo, L’Atmosphere, Loko, Momo, the Olive Tree, Sabai and the Tower Hotel, all ardent supporters of local produce to contribute their time and skills. No shortage of local drinks either at Greyfriars with beers from Dungarvan Brewery and gin from the Blackwater Distillery on hand. Wines too, of course, but we haven’t started to grow enough grapes to make our own yet!