Showing posts with label Restaurant Forty One. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Restaurant Forty One. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Summer Days in Dublin. Capital Food and Fun

Summer Days in Dublin
Capital Food and Fun
View of Dublin Castle and surrounds from rooftop garden of Chester Beatty Library

 Just back after a terrific trip to Dublin in the sunshine. And I enjoyed every minute (almost!)  of the three sunshine filled days. On the fourth day, it rained and we met our one and only grumpy taxi-driver of the break, but we were then starting on our way home. Before that, we had very courteous humorous taxi-drivers and the fares seemed reasonable throughout.

Our first trip though was by Luas and that took us close enough to our base, the Trinity Lodge. Didn’t know much about it when we booked a few months back. It is very convenient for the city centre, situated on Frederick Street (just off Nassau Street), next door to Dunne & Crescenzi.

Dublin Castle and State Apartments yard
It is spread over four Georgian houses. There was no lift in our building and the breakfast room was across the street. But everything was up to scratch. Very welcoming and helpful with city information (including maps and taxi calls), a good choice at breakfast (no buffet here - cooked from scratch), there is free Wi-Fi and security is excellent and an Air Coach stop is just 50 metres away.

That afternoon we headed for the Teeling Distillery (€14.00), a new operation in the heart of the Liberties where we had an excellent tour and tasting.
St Patrick's
Next stop was at the nearby St Patrick’s Cathedral. Admission here is five euro. The present building dates from 1220. The Cathedral is today the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland (a church of the Anglican communion) and also serves as a popular tourist attraction in Ireland.

No shortage of history here as you'd expect and there are busts of Douglas Hyde and Erskine Childers (both Irish presidents) and Jonathan Swift ( dean of the cathedral). There too you’ll see the Boyle monument, erected by Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork, in 1632 in memory of his second wife.
Queue for Book of Kells
 Then the mood lightened as we reached Grafton Street and its entertainers. This became a daily stop such was the high standard on offer. All kinds of fun on the street including music, magic and acrobats. You know you're in a capital city when you have to slow down to stroll through the crowds. Later, that evening we had a capital meal, and a great welcome from Cork chef Ross Lewis, at Chapter One .

The sun continued to shine on day two. After a stroll around St Stephen’s Green, we entered Trinity College (€13.00) to see the Book of Kells . We took the general tour - you sign up just inside the main door. It costs just a few euro more than the Book of Kells admission and is well worth it. Our guide, Johnny, took us around the grounds, explaining the buildings, the place and its people (past and present) with no little humour.

Arnaldo Pomodoro's 'Sphere Within Sphere' at Trinity
We had to join a “five minute” queue tour for the book itself. And it was crowded inside as people squeezed in around the display. Might be better to come here in the off-season! The famous Long Room in the Old Library is also part of the tour. Here some 200,000 of the library’s oldest books are stored, the heaviest on the bottom shelves, and all are overseen by a great collection of busts that include Mr Swift again!

The afternoon was spent at the Chester Beatty Library (free). Here the emphasis is very much on the Middle East and Asia, the source of the world's main religions and, in the permanent displays, you'll see a massive collection of related books and other materials (including the “armour” of a Japanese warrior) illustrating the religions and the cultures of that part of the world.
Grafton Street

The current exhibition is Damsels for Dinner: Tale of Oeyama. The Chester Beatty’s mid-17th- century version of the story, produced in a set of three magnificently illustrated scrolls, is on display in the ‘Arts of the Book’ gallery until January 2016.  

Downstairs, you'll find the highly rated Silk Road Café which offers a range of mouth-watering menus from Afghanistan, Greece, Italy, Jordan, Morocco and Palestine, as well as Ireland. You will, of course, pay for your meal but there is no admission charge for the library itself.

Ely Dessert
That evening, on the way to the 3 Arena, we called to Ely at CHQ for their fabulous Early Bird. Great value too at €22.95 for two courses. The restaurant - they have another one in Ely Place, off Stephen’s Green - is noted for using local produce (much of it from the family farm in Clare)  and its fabulous wine list. Highlight was the main course of Braised Beef Cheek with a vegetable tagine and butter beans, tender and delicious. Very convenient for the arena, and other venues, but well worth a visit in its own right.

There was a great buzz there on that Friday evening, packed upstairs and downstairs. The vaults downstairs reminded me of the old bond in Cork. Wonder would Ely be interested in taking that over?

Diamond's forever
Off then to see Neil Diamond. Think I'd have been better off if I had booked dinner, rather than Early Bird in Ely. But I must also say that mine was very much a minority opinion. The place was packed with fans and he told them they loved him and they enthusiastically agreed. Good finish with Sweet Caroline but lots of the earlier songs, even those from his new album (one of which, Art of Love, took five years to write!), sounded old. Glad to get out in the fresh air.

Got a taxi up to the fantastic Botanic Gardens (free) on Saturday morning and had a great couple of hours there. Read the account here. You can walk through a gate from the gardens to the Glasnevin Cemetery and Museum. Here we saw the graves of many famous Irish men and women. We’ll call again as there is much to take in. Time was running out for us, otherwise we'd have taken a guided tour.

Tower marks grave of Daniel O'Connell
 After getting the bus back to the city and working our way through a protest march, we felt we deserved a beer. And we got a very good one from the micro-brewery in Sweetman’s Pub on Burgh Quay, just at the south side of O’Connell Bridge. They have seven of their own beers on offer but I settled for the outstanding Pale Ale. Great buzz there and very highly recommended. Oh, by the way, they do sell other craft beers and some ordinary beers as well!

Another call to Grafton Street and its entertainers on the way back to the Lodge before heading out that evening to a splendid finale at Restaurant Forty One where we absolutely enjoyed the meal and a little chat with chef Graham Neville. A great way to finish a fabulous few days in Ireland's capital city.

Glasnevin grave of O'Donovan Rossa
Chapter One Restaurant
National Botanic Gardens

Monday, July 13, 2015

Dinner of Delights At Restaurant Forty One

Dinner of Delights
At Restaurant Forty One
The sun was out and so too was the red carpet as we arrived at Restaurant Forty One in St Stephen’s Green the weekend before last. Could it get any better, we wondered, as we sat down in one of the rooms in this splendid Georgian building. It could and it did, as course by course, Head Chef Graham Neville’s exquisite cuisine (no butter, no sugar!) took us on a delightful journey of delicious food, most of it based on local produce.

This evening, we decided to go A La Carte. Which wine though? Fish dominates our food choices and so we are down to a “contest” between a Gruner Veltliner and an Albarino. A quick word with the sommelier and the Gru-Vee is chosen; incidentally we enjoyed a glass of the same wine a few days earlier at Chapter One! It is the Heinz W, Joseph Gruner Veltliner, (Kamptal).
After a tasty lobster Amuse Bouche, we were ready for the starters. Not really! Not prepared for the two outstanding creations that they set down on the table. Mine was Roast Scallops, Truffled Garden Onions and Coral Bisque. An amazing symphony of flavours and textures - the bisque added notes of rich flavour - that had all the taste buds fighting to head the queue.
CL’s colourful starter was Annagassan Smoked Salmon, Clogherhead Crab and Granny Smith Apple. Granny Smith Apple? Yes, indeed; the little strips from the orchard played a delightful role in another superb dish. Both starters by the way, were superbly presented, the salmon ringed by capers, salmon roe, egg yolk, egg white, and red onion.
Before the mains, we were treated to Dublin Bay Prawn, pea coulis and fennel. And I just have to mention a side dish that came with the main courses: the most gorgeous pairing of white and wild asparagus! A simple, yet amazing, example of what happens when quality produce meets a quality chef.
Mine was the Wild Turbot, Bobby Beans, Peach and Elderflower, yet another delicious combination, enhanced by the asparagus and the fluffiest ever mash potato. Fish too on the other side of the table with CL delighted with her arresting and perfectly cooked Fillet of John Dory that came with a Courgette flower stuffed with Prawns. To make it even better the fish was topped with beautiful Girolles and Beech-tree mushrooms.

New Season Strawberries, Basil and Yoghurt may not sound the most promising of desserts but again the kitchen came up with a sweet surprise, the basil in olive oil, the yoghurt frozen. And my Glazed Millefeuille, Praline and Butternut Squash, Roast Lemon Purée was another classy effort, that roast purée a brilliant touch that further elevated the combination.

The welcome here is excellent, service in the lovely comfortable dining room is faultless and the cooking is at the highest level. And all through this, from Graham himself at the top, there runs an effortless friendliness that adds to the pleasure of eating here.
Chapter One Restaurant
National Botanic Gardens

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Square Table Launched

The Square Table Launched
Big Night for Coolea Sisters

Top left: Graham Neville (l) with Lucy and Mark of Ballyhoura Mushrooms.
Top right: Cheers! Martina and Yours Truly.

“I wish the two sisters all the best. They have shown great courage,” said Michelin Star chef Ross Lewis as he helped officially launch The Square Table restaurant in Blarney last night. The two sisters are Patricia and Martina Cronin, both originally from Coolea and now well experienced in the restaurant world. Patricia is front of house while Martina (who has worked with Ross) is the head chef.

Martina has also worked with Graham Neville, Head Chef at Restaurant Forty One, who also spoke at the opening. Graham is rather modest and it took Ross to step in and remind us all that Neville is the reigning Food and Wine Magazine Chef of the Year.

The two girls also spoke and their first priority was to say a big thank you to the people of Blarney for their support over the past few months. Martina said they simply wanted to present good well sourced Irish food and had big thanks for three mentors in particular: Kieran Scully (Bayview Hotel), Ross Lewis (Chapter One) and, of course Graham Neville.

Their suppliers too came in for praise as did their local staff (“absolutely fantastic”), all their friends, family, especially Mum and Dad.

Ross Lewis, from Cork himself, said he knows the Cronins well! “The heroes of today are those who employ people. I started in 1993 and I know that success will come.” But he warned that staying power was needed to deal with the special demands of being an employer, including PAYE, PRSI, banks, teaching employees.

“The complexities are enormous. It is a very daunting task. But I know the Cronins are determined. Martina has the doggedness of a lion. It is amazing and great to see people that we’ve worked with get out on their own”.

The sisters were hardly on their own last evening. There was a terrific turnout. Suppliers present included River Wines, Ballyhoura Mushrooms and Pat O'Connell. The media and blogger world was well represented by Joe McNamee, Jack Power, Caroline Hennessy, among others. And no shortage either of fellow restaurateurs, including Nash 19 and Jacques.

The family were naturally up in force from Coolea and customers were also among the attendance. And, after the speech, Matina was back in the kitchen sending out a stream of gorgeous little bites including Durcan’s Spiced Beef, Ardsallagh Goat Cheese, Liscannor Crab, Michael Twomey’s Wagyu Rib-eye, Ballyhoura Mushrooms, and Old Millbank Smoked Salmon.

On the sweet side there were Macaroons, Poached Blackberries, Chocolate Brownies and a Lemon Cream and Blueberry meringue, all gorgeous. And no shortage of wine to wash it all down.

Thanks for the invite ladies and the best of luck in Blarney!