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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!
Visited Blarney’s Square Table during the week and delighted to see venison on the menu - it is that time of year! And it would be hard to get a better dish than that served up by Chef Martina Cronin.
The full description was Roast Loin of Venison (braised venison, parsnip purée, chestnut, smoked bacon, Brussels sprouts). The meat was tender and delicious and the vegetables and jus were also brilliant. Not to mention the sides, especially that creamy puréed turnip. Cost €26.95.
Sisters, Chef Martina (left) and Tricia
It is a small restaurant but one with a big heart and they manage to pack so many good things into a short menu list. We were warmly greeted by Tricia, Martina's sister, and she soon had us seated and studying the menus. And she also took us through the specials which was where the venison popped up.
CL started with a special. The sisters support local producers and the salad special was based on leaves from Annabella’s Farm: the leaves came with roasted and pickled carrots, artichoke, chervil root, butternut squash, pickled Ballyhoura mushrooms, Crozier Blue cheese and Velvet Cloud yogurt (8.95). Quite a combination and a delicious one.
Crispy egg, Ballyhoura mushroom, smoked bacon and Hollandaise sauce (€8.95) all featured in my excellent starter.
On then to my venison while CL picked the fish dish: Pan-fried fresh Hake, Jerusalem artichoke and mussel velouté, Gubbeen Chorizo (22.50). The fish was perfect and the chorizo added an extra and very tasty dimension. Superb.
They have quite a good, if shortish, list of wines here, ranging from €22.95 for the house wines to over 40 in the whites and reds. Some tempting Albarinos and Rieslings along with an organic Tempranillo and a Croze Hermitage caught the eye.
But, with another call to be made later on, we confined ourselves to a glass each of the house. I very much enjoyed my Domaine de Bosquet (France) blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc while CL was more than content with the Valle Andino Chardonnay from Chile.
If you want to get an excellent idea of the top class food on offer here, why not try their Early Bird menu where you can get two courses for €24.95, three for €28.95. * The Cronins support local and number Annabella Farm, Ballyhoura Mushrooms, Tom Durcan, Old Millbank, O'Connell's Fish, Ardsallagh Goats, The English Market, Gubbeen, Michael Twomey Butchers, East Ferry Free Range, Carrigcleena Poultry Farm, Hegarty's Cheddar, McCarthy's of Kanturk, Coolea Cheese, Macroom Mills, and more, among their suppliers.