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It had been a sunny day in Mayo but an autumnal cold had settled in by the time we arrived at The Tavern in Murrisk for evening dinner. We had been looking forward to the special menu, matching local foods with the fabulous Mescan Belgian style beers from a working farm on the nearby slopes of Croagh Patrick. We would not be disappointed. Far from it!
After a chat with host Pat Kelly, we began to study the menu. The Warm Silverhill Duck and Smoked Bacon Salad looked tempting as did their Award Winning Atlantic Seafood Chowder. But we each went for the Tavern Wild Atlantic Way Tasting Board.
This consisted of Cleggan scallops with Kelly’s Gluten free black pudding, bacon dust, rosette of Connemara Smoked Salmon, with Velvet Cloud Yogurt and home pickles, Galway Farm Goats cheese bon bons and homemade quince jelly. You couldn't get much more local than that and you'd travel a long way to get something better. Five star grub in a roadside pub. All washed down with the recommended Mescan beers, the Blonde and the White. A match made in Westport.
On then to the main event. The menu offered Fillet of Angus Steak, an offer hard to resist but resist we did on this occasion. CL went for the Trio of West Coast Pan Fried Seafood: Clare Island salmon, parma ham wrapped monkfish, fresh hake with lemon and dill butter, chive mash and mixed leaf salad.
That piece of salmon alone would have made someone a fine dinner as would the monkfish. Quantity but more importantly quality. And the small things were well taken care also. The dressing with the salad was one of the very best we’ve come across. And to cap it all, the Mescan Saison was a perfect match.
Trio of fish
I had been looking forward to the Game Pie since I first saw the list. The mega mix included rabbit, pheasant and venison with a horseradish and cheddar mash and the pie was surrounded by a tonne of roasted root vegetables. And then there was a bottle of Westporter Stout to help it down. A memorable meal.
We should have had stopped then! But, easily persuaded, we shared a selection of desserts, with the Mescan Kriek: Sticky Toffee Pudding, the Tavern’s Homemade Brown Bread and Bailey's Ice-cream and, the star of the trio, Pauline’s Fruit Crumble with Irish Mist Anglaise. Before that, we had enjoyed a wee chat with busy Head Chef Pauline McGovern.
Quite a meal then, one that necessitated a walk in the cool, calm evening air before we called the taxi to return us to Westport and the lovely Clew Bay Hotel. And, by the way, if you in the Westport area and looking for a reliable friendly taxi-driver then try Conor at 087-2413722.
Think I’d need a stack of superlatives to describe a recent dinner at Sage on Midleton, the home of the 12 mile menu. I could easily go over the top as Kevin Aherne’s kitchen is easily ahead of many around the country. But I’ll try and not bore you, just to say here at the start that the place, in a courtyard just off Midleton’s main street, has never ever disappointed.
Sage and its junior sister, the Greenroom, cater for a variety of tastes and budgets and the recent addition - the semi-open courtyard itself - is a lively food and drink venue and was indeed booked out on the night we visited. Sage too was full by the eight o’clock mark so the advise is to book ahead.
Then you can relax. Everything will be fine: the fresh local food, the very friendly efficient service, the drink (much of the wine is organic) and the beer is craft and local as you'd expect. You can spot the crew cooking in the kitchen as you sit back in a lovely simple room, one of whose walls honours the many suppliers from within that 12 mile radius.
We, subsidised by the last of the gift vouchers from Christmas, were on the A la Carte but I spotted much of the same menu on the Early Evening offering (three courses for thirty euro!). Breads were delivered to the table as we studied the menu. We also thought about the drink and, with steak in mind, I settled on the regular stout from O’Hara’s. Regular but excellent, a bottle for 6.00. Soon we were nibbling on the amuse bouche of Apple rings and Ardsallagh Goats cheese.
Great choice of starters, and mine was magnificent: Mackerel, oyster mushroom and samphire (10.00). It was a great combination, the warm soft flesh of the mackerel, full of flavour, perfectly complemented by the supple mushroom, the peppery crunch of the radish and the salty bite of the samphire.
Hard to guess sometimes what you are going to get on your plate when you read the brief description, as CL did: Beef cheek ravioli, horseradish, parsnip (9.00). Well, the beef was contained in one big plate-filling ravioli and the parsnip was a crisp. But it all worked so well together, another delicious interesting starter. I'm sure the other four on the list would have been of the same standard, each perhaps with a little surprise.
So, surprised and happy, we moved on to the mains. No big ambush for me: Beef Fillet (Charlie Terry), horseradish, shallots and spinach (30.00). I've long maintained that if a chef looks after the little things, that he will also come up trumps with the big items. In this case, for example, the shallots were outstanding, sweet and good and the spinach was fresh and tasty. The fillet? Add any meaty superlative you wish. As good as you’ll get and better than most.
And was the other side of the table jealous? No, not a bit of it. She loves her hake and that affair was enhanced by Sage’s: Hake, pasta, mussels, chorizo, samphire (24.00). A lot on the plate but another winning combination, well cooked, well presented and well served.
It is strawberry time in Ireland so we both finished with a Strawberry and Marshmallow Posset (8.00). The two glass bowls were well stripped, as indeed were all the previous plates, when the servers came to take them away. We like good food and there’s no shortage of that in Sage. Very Highly Recommended!
Cream is a new donut, coffee and ice-cream place in town. Its first base, open just two weeks back, is at the corner of Daunt's Square and Paul Street and a second outlet, in Oliver Plunket Street, is due to open any day now.
Donuts are popular in Cork, always have been. But are now much different, more colourful, than the basic jam and cream filled bullet of a few decades ago. I'm thinking in particular of one, by Cream, the Caramel Donut, our sweet Taste of the Week.
It is not the most spectacular donut on display here but it is amazingly popular, already established as a best-seller. Take a taste of the outside and its good but get those teeth in a little deeper, into that luscious lake of caramel in the middle. Death by caramel!
When you walk into the Roadside Tavern in Lisdoonvarna, you see the normal beer dispensers on the high counter. But then, in the middle, you see something totally different: three unusual taps labelled Gold, Red and Black.
Owner Peter Curtin has his own brewery here, “the smallest micro-brewery in Ireland”, and the taps, designed by a local artist, dispense his lager (Burren Gold), ale (Burren Red) and stout (Burren Black). And very tasty they are too, as we discovered after a tasting of the three.
The brewery, just over 12 months old, is upstairs and Peter showed us up his stairway to heaven! It is all neat and compact. He has got some very good gear here and a great love for the task as we found out. And the pub is the only place that you can get these beers.
The pub itself, just a few miles from the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher, has a very long history, in family hands since 1893. But the Curtins were also bakers and that history goes back even further, hundreds of years. Nowadays the pub is also noted for its food and, this year, was voted “Best Gastro-pub in Munster” by the Restaurants Association of Ireland.
Timing wasn’t quite right for us to eat there but the menu is filled with delicious dishes such as traditional Irish bacon, Cabbage and Parsley sauce and a slightly less traditional rendition of Irish stew (featuring local Burren beef in place of the more typical lamb).
Pride of place is given to several dishes featuring Smoked Fish and Eel from the family's award-winning Burren Smokehouse, run by Peter and Birgitta Curtin. Try the Burren smoked fish platter which is served with organic leaves from nearby New Quay. The Burren Smokehouse is literally a few yards down the road and well worth a visit. And they have a great shop there too with local products from other producers. You may also buy online.
And don’t skip dessert in the Tavern. Peter says they are fabulous, homemade by Fabiola's Patisserie in Doolin. Fabiola has worked in Michelin starred restaurants and you may also sample her pastry delights at the Cafe in the Doolin Crafts Centre.
Food and good beer. What more do you want? Well, you get much more in this bar as there is a fantastic music programme throughout the season. That series is drawing to a close now but not before paying a massive tribute to Micilín Conlon (who played in the pub for all of 57 years) over three nights (26th,27th,28th of October). And, on the Saturday and Sunday (4.00 to 6.00pm), there will be a tasting combining the local beers, breads and cheese. Sounds great.
If you like a laugh, you’ll never be short of one with Peter and his crew in the Roadside. His sense of humour was seen at its sharpest recently when he more or less hi-jacked the Thursday set aside for Arthur and instead designated it Peter’s Day with pints of Burren Beer selling at three euro.
The beers are very popular with tourists. They are good, really good. So why not call in if you are in the area. Worth a detour, as they say in the best guides.
Hard to believe that Nash 19 is just 19 years
“old”. It is so much part of Cork City that we assume it has been there for
The name was almost accidental. Claire Nash had to
come up with a name for company registration purposes in double quick time. She noted the street
number on the paperwork and was inspired to add it to her own name and hence
Little did she know that 19 Princes Street would go
on to become one of city’s favourite restaurants. The esteem in which Clare,
her staff and her restaurant are held was very evident on Friday night at the
19th anniversary bash, attended by our 200 people including Lord
Mayor Cllr Terry Shannon.
restaurant has seen a big increase in size since its opening day and other services
(eg shop, food to go, catering services and so on) have been added. Read all
about it here
Despite the place being packed, we had a terrific
night, with some great little dishes, starting with early season Galway Oysters.
Many of her local producers(who are grateful for her encouragement) were
The English Market is a regular call for Nash 19
and representatives from here included O’Connell’s Fish and Tom Durcan. Kanturk’s
ebullient butcher Jack McCarthy was in top form, kept on his toes by son Timmy,
an able dealer himself and well able to match the rapid fire quips from Jack.
Spoke too to Evening Echo editor Maurice Gubbins, there
with a party from Fermoy. Kinsale PR ace Jackie Dawson, daughter of the famous
international Ronnie, was looking forward to the rugby game on Sunday.
Speaking of internationals, had a terrific chat
with Sinead Gunnigan who recalled her trips to soccer internationals (when Jack
Charlton was in charge) with her late uncle John, a great man for local soccer
in Cork and well known in the drinks business in which he worked.
Sinead was attending the event with her husband Gerry,
the Mayoman who heads up the Liberty Wines operation in Ireland, and he was obviously very
happy with the way their Ca dei Frati (Lugana)
was flying. Some good wine in Nash 19 and before we left, Claire treated us to
a glass of smashing Turkey Flat Butchers Block (Shiraz/ Grenache & Mouvèdre)
from the Barossa – great stuff.
No need for any major formalities on this happy occasion. Claire, who was supported on the night by
family members, spoke as did local food pioneer Myrtle Allen. Rory Allen was
another Ballymaloe man at the party and he was in top form as was restaurateur
and photographer Joleen Cronin from Crosshaven.
While we were enjoying
the party, the Nash 19 staff were busy, busy. As always, their usual efficiency
and courtesy shone through. Claire herself regularly praises her team and they are
a credit to her. I did have time for a small chat with key staff members Mairéad
O’Brien and Pamela Kelly. Both were in top form.
All good things come to
an end. That was true of the party but Nash 19 itself looks like going on and
on. Let’s raise a glass of Ca dei Frati or Butchers
Block to another 19 years.
As its 19th birthday approaches, Nash19 would be forgiven for slipping into a routine. And, yet, there is a routine here: top class food and excellent and friendly service.
The ingredients are familiar, local gems such as Jack McCarthy’s beef, Crowe’s bacon and Durcan’s beef. Quality is assured by this policy and variety is ensured by the imagination of the chefs. You won't be bored with what comes out on your plate.
The policy works. Just look at the customers coming through. We were in early for lunch today (Friday) and, sure enough, the place was more or less full shortly after one and they were still coming in at two.
Started off with a couple of cups of soup (you may also get bowls). Sweet potato has really shot up the popularity charts in recent years and the Roast Sweet Potato and Cumin soup was tasty, spicy and excellent. I went for the Tomato, Bean and Bacon blend and this too hit all the right boxes, plenty of tasty bits, eating and drinking in it!
Main course for me were the Tuscan Style Meatballs (Durcan’s Beef) in a rich tomato sauce on organic spaghetti. An excellent combination of the three main ingredients, well balanced, light yet substantial.
No shortage of substance either on our other main course: Crowe’s farm reared Bacon Loin with Apricot chutney. This was a tempting combination of excellent tender meat matched by the sweet fruit though the accompanying sauce was a bit on the piquant side.
Christine was looking after our table (it isn’t every day you get served by a Master Chef contestant) and was quite proud of their new wine list. CL had a glass of the Amador Parreno Organic Tempranillo, a nice bit of spice and fruit quite typical of the grape and an attractive price of €4.50 a glass.
With my main course having an Italian slant, I picked the Masseria Pietrosa Malvasia Nera. This comes from the south of Italy and has lovely black fruits with hints of spice.
At this point, we could manage just the one dessert between us and the Strawberry Victoria Sponge with a rich vein of cream was well up to the task. Two cups of classic Bewleys coffee brought the total to a little over €57.00.
Enjoyed a classy Cork on a Fork meal at
the ever reliable Fenns Quay this week. This good value menu, even better now since
the VAT reduction, includes mostly local food, such as spiced beef, and the
menu card itself is “spiced “ up with some local lingo.
You are encouraged to have a starter by “Give
it a lash boy” and a dessert by “Era, go on so”.
The food too is served with a smile and certainly
put a smile on my face. Enjoyed my starter of Spiced beef and shredded beetroot.
On the other side of the table, her regular Warm Chicken Salad lived up to
Mains for me was one of the evening’s
specials: Baked Hake with herbed basmati rice, sautéed French beans, courgette
with fennel and salsa rossa. A terrific combination, light and satisfying.
The other mains was Braised Irish Lamb
Shank with Green Saffron Spiced Potatoes. The lamb was cooked to perfection and
the spiced potatoes really added to the dish. As they say around here: “Savage
We agreed on dessert: Lemon pudding
served with Baldwin’s Ice-cream and a tiny jug of chocolate sauce. Presentation
was inviting and the combination – that ice cream is gorgeous – went down a
Wines were Pazos de Ulloa DO Ribeiro
2009 and Domaine d’Angayrac Costieres de Nimes 2008, each at €5.50 a glass.
Cork on a Fork: 2 courses €22.50; 3