Showing posts with label Irish food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Irish food. Show all posts

Monday, April 16, 2018

Mise en place saves your ass. Chatting with Oyster Tavern Head Chef Kate Lawlor


Mise en place saves your ass 
Chatting with Oyster Tavern Head Chef Kate Lawlor
Kate in her Fenn's Quay days with John and Sally McKenna (left). See Kate
on RTE 1 on April 18th (8.30pm) in Healthy Appetite

Kate Lawlor, for so long associated with Fenn’s Quay, is now enjoying her Head Chef role at The Oyster Tavern in Cork city centre. And the team there, quite a young one, have a great chance to learn from one of the hardest working chefs around but one who enjoys “teaching others the joy of cooking, taking raw ingredients and making wonderful dishes.  I also enjoy heading to the English Market and meeting suppliers”. 

Her aim now is make the Oyster and its food offering better known among the public. We caught up with Kate after a lovely meal in the Oyster and enjoyed this chat.



I know you were sad to leave Fenn’s Quay. But you’re still on familiar ground and things have worked out well?
 After a little break after closing Fenn’s, it felt right to take on the role in the Oyster with its history and of course its location on Market Lane into the English Market. It’s taken me a few months to settle into new surroundings but, with the support of Bob (general manager) Dee (restaurant manager ) and Chris Curtin (assistant head chef)  and team, menus are coming together nicely. 

What direction is cooking here at The Oyster taking? What can we expect in the near future?
It’s very much a simple approach to good quality produce sourced within the English Market with a few Fenn’s classics popping up such as the flourless chocolate pudding  and the warm chicken salad on the lunch. There is a big emphasis on steaks and fish which will continue to evolve with the seasons. 

How did you start in the business? Was there a good cook at home or other family inspiration?
 Having taken up Home Ec in Secondary School my first summer job was in a cafe kitchen aged 16. I really enjoyed it, the cooking, the creating, so it was suggested I apply to what was then Cert in Cork Institute of Technology and the rest you could say is history. In later years I returned to complete a degree in Culinary Arts. 

Do you shout in the kitchen?
I tend not to. I learnt early on I didn’t like being shouted at and therefore I shouldn’t shout at someone, it only makes the situation worse. 

The importance of prepping. Do you ever have enough time in the kitchen?  
Some days are easier than others. There is  a great saying “mise en place saves your ass “ and it’s true. Still, you do have days when you feel you’re never on top of it but, with a great team behind you, you get there in the end.

Sourcing and provenance is important to you?
For me it is. It may cost a bit more but it’s worth it as I like to know the person behind the products and learn about how it’s made 

Have you ever come up with a dish by accident, a fluke?
Specials for me are always a bit of a fluke as always last on the prep list. Recently I cooked some pearl barley with carrots onions and some fennel seeds, added cabbage & prawn & a dash of lemon served with turbot & butternut squash purée. It truly was a dish I was super proud of.  

Meat as back-up, not the main feature in a dish? Will that happen?
Attitudes to food are changing but still our meat sales outweigh the vegetarian at present so I can’t see that happening. 

What non-Irish cuisine do you like most?
At present Japanese. Its clean flavours in the broths and the precision is mesmerising .

What is the best meal you’ve ever had?
Hard to pick out one in particular. Really enjoyed Nathan Outlaw and JP McMahon's collaboration in Aniar, Purnell's in Birmingham , 1826 in Adare. But best in the last 12 months was when I collaborated with Derry Clarke’s menu at the Oyster last November. 

Kate is set to star, along with Donegal's Gary O'Hanlon, in the first episode of a new RTE cooking series called Healthy Appetite, which is all about good food.  Episode one kicks off on RTE1 on Wednesday, April 18th at 8.30pm. 


See A Specials Evening at The Oyster Tavern.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

A Specials Evening at The Oyster Tavern


A Specials Evening at The Oyster Tavern
Lamb

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.
Carpaccio

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.
Cheers!


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.



Monday, July 11, 2011

BLAIRS INN: A TOP SPOT


BLAIRS INN
Corned Beef and Cabbage. As a starter! Yes and it proved a really tasty beginning to an excellent weekend meal at Blairs Inn.

What a menu they have there. If you combine the pages from the bar and restaurant menus, I reckon you could be eating there for a year and still have combinations to explore.

And then there are the drinks. There is an excellent wine list, for sure. But also lots of local (and international) drinks including craft beers from Dungarvan, Carlow, Eight Degrees (North Cork) and the new cider sensation Stonewell by the Nohoval Brewing Company.

After a big welcome and a chat with Richard we sat down in the cosy restaurant – they also have a lovely garden dining area – to go through the menus.

My starter was a Warm Tian of O’Crualaoi’s Corned Beef and Cabbage with a creamy Parsley dressing (€7.70). If you get out there, you should really try this. The beef, supplied by the well known Ballincollig butcher, was spot-on as was everything else in this well presented cylinder shaped offering of good local food.

Then on to the main course: Pan fried fillets of Sea Bass on a Chorizo mash with a sundried tomato and rocket dressing and a side plate filled with vegetables and another with gratin potato, both done to perfection. Again, another excellent plateful.

And a big plateful. Indeed, both starter and mains were quite substantial, so much so that I had to forego the dessert.

They helpfully suggest, on the menu, various drinks with each course; the tips for me were a wheat beer with the starter and a dry cider with the fish. I was in the mood for wine and settled on a bottle of their highly recommended an excellent Hopler Gruner Veltliner (Burgenland, Austria) 2009 (€26.95).

You get a great welcome here and also help and advice. Quite a few tourists make their way here and they must be impressed with the local knowledge that the owners and staff so freely dispense.

Lovely food, lovely place and lovely people. A return visit is on the cards. And not just for me.