Showing posts with label Oyster Tavern. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Oyster Tavern. 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.



Thursday, November 30, 2017

Winning Blas Producers at Bank of Ireland Food Series

Winning Blas Producers 
at Bank of Ireland Food Series
Rosscarbery producer Avril Allshire with moderator Joe McNamee

Bank of Ireland Startups, who helped get the successful Backyard feature off the ground during this year’s Blas Awards in Dingle, hosted a number of follow-up events last Tuesday, including one at their premises in Patrick Street, Cork. Joe McNamee was the moderator for the evening and the principal speakers were Artie Clifford of Blas and local chef Kate Lawlor.

Lia Boyland was involved in setting up the latest Workbench Food Series Event and she welcomed us to the Workspace at the bank, explaining that the digital progress in the banking sector has freed up the space for “events like this evening”. Work spaces are available during the day - bring your laptop - and you'd never know who you might meet.

We knew though we were going to meet Artie as not alone was he a panel member but he also launching the 4th edition of the Blas na hEireann Buyers Directory.  Artie, involved in the founding of the Dingle Food Festival eleven years ago and in setting up Blas a year later, was delighted to launch the book here.

“Thank you all for coming. Eight thousand inserts (from the 10,000 copies) will be coming with your Shelflife magazine. It makes it easy for buyers and chefs to find good Irish produce. There is no charge for inclusion - it is something we want to give back. We hope this is a useful guide for sourcing Irish products and that many of the producers listed here will become your suppliers of tomorrow.”

There is a lot of work going into the new Blas website and it will include a searchable catalogue of producers, and will be ready soon. “Next, we want to do a roadshow during the year to build on it, to talk among ourselves, producers, buyers, chefs, and to get our own solutions.”

We would soon find out more about Artie, the face of Blas, as Joe McNamee asked the questions before the discussion proper (which would include quite a few producers) began. Artie, from Dundalk, was a commercial fisherman, then a ship's engineer and a skipper. In 1992, the work was in Dingle so that was where he went, his family still in Dundalk before they eventually joined him in Kerry.

Later, Artie worked in a  fish factory, most of the output for export. When the MD retired, Artie took over and looked at adding value: smoked fish, paté, chowder and so on for the home market. But costs went up, prices didn't and eventually, in 2010, the company was sold. By then Blas was just a little baby and Artie was making a few bob at Farmers Markets.

And his future then began to take shape. He told us about the first food festival in Dingle and the start of the famous Taste Trail there. “People came back year on year. In the second year of the festival, the awards became part of it and we worked hand in hand.” 

Chef Kate Lawlor was the other main guest on the night and, like Artie, she too has had her ups and downs and is fully committed to using Irish produce. An early visit to Brussels with her CIT class inspired that commitment. They were there to promote Irish food and a belief took hold that it was as good as any. She joined Fenn's Quay in 2001 and that “amazing journey” included taking it over in 2008. 

“We built a bond with local producers. I enjoy food, it should be fun and that was why I used some of the local slang on the menu. Sad to let it go this year but the producers are still talking to me.”

Artie Clifford

After the closing down of Fenn's Quay earlier this year, she took a much needed two month break - “I had run out of ideas, though there was a sense of satisfaction as well as sadness. I enjoyed the two months off and a highlight was the weekend in Dingle. This year I had the time to relax and enjoy it.”

Immediately afterwards she joined the newly reopened Oyster Tavern and the aim is to get it back to its “iconic status”. There are great young chefs there and Kate is just the person to help them. It is right alongside the market so she is back in there buying local again. “The connection  between chef and producers in very important. It leads to personal relationships and a better understanding of the product.”

After the introductions, it was time to meet the producers and we’ll cover the interesting exchanges in the next post, now available here.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Oysters Galore on the Cork Gourmet Trail


Oysters Galore on the Cork Gourmet Trail
How many did you eat?


“I had nineteen oysters last night,” claimed a London visitor to the weekend’s Cork Oyster Festival. And that “last night” was just the official launch. I’m still wondering how many she managed during the Gourmet Trail on the following day. 

The trail visited five venues and some had up to three restaurants combining. There were so many opportunities to indulge in the delicious crustaceans she must surely have doubled the tally from the previous night!
Gin cocktail in a cup at Cask

And there were even more plates of the tasty oysters available at the after party as the various groups found their way back to the ballroom at the Metropole Hotel, the Festival’s headquarters. Oysters, more drinks and music. Well done to instigator/organiser Sandra Murphy and her crew.

Sandra was with our group on the trail and our be-hatted leaders were Kylie from the International Hotel and James from the Imperial. We were last to leave but our intrepid guides had us back good and early to join the after party.
Sushi at The Met

Lord Mayor Tony Fitzgerald had opened the festival on Friday night and the oyster event added to the terrific buzz around town as Culture Night drew the crowds. Guests at the launch were treated to oysters (included cooked versions) by Haven Shellfish and there was also some tempting sushi available with bubbles and wine and, of course, Murphy’s Stout from the sponsors.

On Saturday at noon, the ballroom was full but, after a Kinsale Gin and Tonic, we were divided into groups, met our leaders and headed off on the trail. More gin, part of a cocktail in a cup, at our first stop, the stunning Cask, just across the road. Lots of tasty bites here too and time also to begin to get to know our fellow trailers.
Cornstore were displaying their Himalayan salt (used to age their famous steaks).

Next stop was the Oyster Tavern, another lovely venue where I enjoyed an excellent meal recently. The oysters here were provided by the Electric Fish Bar, great spot to visit. The Oyster Tavern themselves came up with delicious sliders and bowls of chips. 

Amicus were also feeding us with Tom Durcan beef, including carpaccio and teriyaki versions, and more, though their seasonal desserts, Kitchen Garden Rhubarb Fool and the Foraged Blackberry Fool, were irresistible.

Down the stairs then and out into the lane for another group photo before winding up Patrick St and visiting the Bodega where Rachel’s and Cornstore were also lining up with their offerings. The Bodega sushi (one pickled vegetable, another was smoked salmon) went down a treat. 
Sandra rallies her troops as the rain arrives

Mike Ryan of the Cornstore - terrific dinner there recently - was the oyster “supplier” and he had a welcome variation called Angels on Horseback (the dish is typically prepared by rolling shucked oysters in bacon and baking them in an oven). 

That was excellent though I noticed quite few voicing a preference for the battered prawn version! Rachel’s had a couple (at least) of show stoppers, including a shot of Tomato Water and a shot glass packed full of lobster.

So back to the Imperial Hotel (for the second time in a  couple of days) and they had help from Jacques and Arthur Mayne’s.
Imperial desserts

Loved that Medjool Date from Jacques plus the superb desserts by the hotel itself. The savoury bites by Arthur Mayne’s (Avocado mousse with prawn, Caprese Bites, and the Chorizo and Chickpea Ragu) were outstanding.
Caprese minis by Olivo

One more stop and soon we were enjoying Margherita time at the newly opened Tequila Jacks. The drinks were eagerly awaited and easily downed. Food too, of course, hot stuff by our hosts and some cooler bits from Olivo, the Italian restaurant at the Cork Airport Hotel.
Margarita?

Tacos Mechados, Roasted Chicken taquitos and Shrimp Rellanos were among the Jacks offerings while the cool bites from Olivo included a lovely mini Caprese and also a Parma wrapped asparagus. 

More food anyone? No! A second round of Margaritas was coming to its conclusion and, suitably fortified,  it was time to brave the rain and the wind that had arrived midway though the trail and traipse back to the Metropole. 

And if you did wanted to increase you oyster headcount, there were trayfuls of opportunity to do. I did see the visiting London couple but didn't get a chance to check her final oyster tally! 

The Prosecco and wine flowed (enjoyed a Rioja blanco, well maybe two!), and then a final chat or two before saying goodbye and heading to the taxi. 
Tasty dips at Tequila Jacks

Once again, well done to Sandra and the crew and here’s to seeing you all and more in 2018!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Return of the Oyster Tavern. Les Bons Temps Rouler.

Return of the Oyster Tavern.

Les Bons Temps Rouler.

I look at some of the old black and white pics in the new Oyster Tavern and am transported back to my days in Winkle-pickers (shoes), Slim Jim (tie) and DA (hair). But that “good old days” reverie soon evaporated as the delicious dishes arrived on the table. Some terrific food here now, well cooked, and well served by one of the friendliest front-of-house teams around.

The history of a tavern on the site dates to 1800. The new two-storey building owes it current existence to the Capitol development. It is comfortable - there’s even a lift - and beautifully decorated. 

The food menu, from breakfast to dinner, is based mainly on ingredients from the adjacent English Market, and the drinks menu, again illustrated with some of those old black and whites, contains a good deal of Irish craft beer and local spirits. Our opening drinks were a mix: a Chieftain Ale from Franciscan Well and a Hemingway Daiquiri.

Fish Hot Pot

We were in for dinner and studied the menu, all on one large card. They happily fill you in on the specials and help with any questions. For starters, we could have had Scampi, Chowder, Soup of the Day. And oysters, of course. 
Steak!

My pick though was Tim’s Ham Hock (€6.00), served with Hassett's sourdough bread and West Cork Relish. The ham was packed into a jar. There was a lot of it there and it packed a lot of flavour as well. And that West Cork relish was a tasty bonus, really good.

Meanwhile, CL was thoroughly enjoying her Caprese Salad (7.50): Toonsbridge Mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and olive oil. This has become a local standard and was top notch.
There wouldn't have been a blogger in the old Oyster.

Quite a decent wine list here too and I ordered a glass of Finca Florencia Malbec (8.00) to go with my steak. This was my second Tom Durcan steak in quick succession and again it was very impressive, tender and with outstanding flavour. The 8 ounce fillet (29.00) was cooked to order, and came with straight cut chips, English Market seasonal vegetables, Roast Shallots in a red wine peppercorn sauce. The included veg by the way, mangetout, broccoli and cauliflower, were also cooked to pin-point perfection, which is not always the case.
Hemingway enjoyed his daiquiris in la Floridita in la Habana in Cuba.
 The Bodeguita del Medio is just down the street.  
Muchas gracias to Mark Deane(ex Mayfield) for the pic.

CL choose the fish special, a Prawn and Mussel Hot Pot with chorizo (18.00). No shortage of flavour there and a warming dish you might well see more of as the autumn comes in. Other main course choices included Tim O’Sullivan’s Black Pudding Burger, Oyster Haven Mussels, Chicken Inn’s Supreme of Chicken, Warm Chicken and Bacon Salad, and a Risotto. There was also a lamb burger special.
Upstairs at the spanking new full-colour Oyster Tavern. (Oyster pic).
After all that, we thought it best to share a dessert from the short yet tempting list. Sherry Trifle was probably top of the list when the old Oyster was in its heyday and that was our pick and we enjoyed sharing the Sherry soaked sponge, raspberry jam, custard topped with Chantilly cream and served with a shortbread biscuit. All for a fiver. You might well have paid close to that back in the day!

The main restaurant area is upstairs though they do serve lunch in the downstairs bar. We had started early and weren't around to see the transformation that takes place later in the night. Then the plates are cleared away, and we were told there is a generational change as well, as the live music - you might even see a saxophonist on the counter - takes over. Oh, those awful Rock and Rollers! (Note to myself: Must try that sometime).