Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bantry Bay

Beautiful Bay, Beautiful Days

Enjoyed a few days in this brilliant September weather in Bantry, staying at the well located well run Maritime Hotel on the harbour side.

There is a cluster of eating places at the start of the square just a couple of hundred yards up from the hotel. Don’t miss the Brick Oven Pizzeria and Bistro. Yes, it has a genuine brick oven and you won’t find that in every Italian pizzeria.

Being in Bantry, we went for the Bantry Bay Mussels served in a Provencal style sauce, a beautiful “sauce” that required a big spoon. Salad and Fries accompanied the €17.95 main course version of this dish – you can also get it as a starter. Wine was a Blue Ridge Blanc from South Africa; this refreshing tarty blend of Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc cost €20.00.

The meal, including a couple of decent desserts, came to €68.00, more or less what we paid the previous night at The Snug next door. In the Snug you will get what we Irish call a “good feed”, not always the same as good food.

We had heard quite a bit about the Snug and, frankly, were very disappointed. Again, we went for a fish main course. If you can't get a goof fish dish in Bantry, it is bad news. Battered Cod, served with a salad and fries, was the other order.

I got a plate full, plus the chips in a bowl. The salad didn't impress. The potato salad had been plonked on the plate along with half a carton of coleslaw and a few leaves. The batter used was the old type heavy duty flour batter that smothered the fish, which was a pity as the cod itself, the forgotten about main ingredient, tasted fresh and good. They use the lighter beer or lager type batter in the Brick Oven.

The style of presentation was also evident in my starter, a crab meat salad (€10.00). Again a few lettuce leaves, undressed, were laid in the bowl. Then what looked like half a jam jar of meat was plonked down on it and it was finished off with a spoon or two of mayonnaise. Again it was a pity as the crab tasted very fresh and nice, aside from a few bits of shell that had not been picked off.

The wine list is limited, consisting of four quarter bottles (two red, two white) and four full size bottles. The meal consisted of two starters and two mains. It was a poor opening night but the Brick Oven made up for it.

We took advantage of the fine weather to visit two of the three nearby peninsulas. First trip was to the end of Sheep’s Head. There is a lovely little cafĂ© there, everything homemade and we had two generous bowls of a well made soup (along with two brown scones), all for ten euro.

On the Mizen, we visited the cafe in the visitor centre where we got good quality and good value. Two chicken wraps, served with a nicely dressed salad (The Snug could take a lesson here) and a little bowl of relish, along with a big pot of excellent tea, came to about €13.00.

By the way, breakfast in the Maritime is top class; there is a big choice and good quality as you’d expect in a four star hotel. Their main restaurant is at the top end price wise but the bar serves good food at reasonable prices (less than what you’d pay in the nearly square) up to nine o’clock.

Thursday, September 18, 2008



Back in the last decade of the last century, the Boothouse Bar in Whitescross (just a few miles from Cork City) won a string of awards for its food and drink.

The smallish thatched establishment is still going strong, still serving food. The only trouble is that the menu rarely ever changes and since variety is the spice of life, I don't go there that often.

Maybe it is a case of if it is not broken, don't fix it. But if that was the case, we’d still be going around on horseback. In food, you just have to have variety, have to take a chance.

I was in the area yesterday and called in and, yes, the blackboard had the old familiar look to it. There are soups, two or three meat dishes, a fish dish, various sorts of open and toasted sandwiches and a few desserts.

I had a decent vegetable soup (€4.00) and took my usual choice there which is stuffed roasted chicken with vegetables and potatoes. All very reliable but nothing out of the ordinary.

The cost for two came to €32.00 and that figure rang a bell. A few months back, I was in Rome and had an evening meal in a small restaurant just off the famous Piazza Navona. Cost for the two courses, including a €10.00 bottle of wine and a bottle of water, came to €32.00! Yes, €32.00 for the two of us, exactly the same as yesterday’s fare in the Boothouse. And I can guarantee you that the meal in Rome wasn't soup and chicken!

Still, in fairness to the Boothouse, the €12.00 main dish at lunchtime (it was €11.00 last November) is more or less the standard in the local Cork restaurants. You will pay more or less that in the Rising Tide, the Elm tree, The Killumney Inn and in many of the places in town. Most people accept it but are we really getting value here.

If you are around town and on shopping expedition, you could do worse than call into the old Riches Stores cafe (now by Debenhams) in merchants Quay. You have quite a choice here but two veteran lady shoppers advised me that there is an excellent salad bar where you can have a fine plateful of meat (chicken or turkey usually) and leaves, pastas, potato and other salads (pick what want) for about €6.00. A glass of iced water costs nothing extra.
* Another bargain at the moment is the early bird in the Imperial Hotel on the South Mall. One of my pals was there last Sunday evening (I'm not sure is the offer is there every evening) and had a starter, main course and tea or coffee for €20.00 and she was delighthed with the meal and the value.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008



Just a little note to say that Aisling, Mary and Amy from the 'Recipe for Success' production team will be at the West Cork Food festival in Skib this Sunday.
We are there to promote the show and canvas for applicants so please feel free to drop by, ask questions or pick up an application form!


Tuesday, September 16, 2008



Do we foodies look down on Dunnes Stores? Could be guilty myself. Mistake!

Take last weekend. Called in and picked up a tub of crayfish tails for less than €1.99. Add some leaves and mayo and you get much better than your average prawn cocktail, more to get your teeth into and certainly tastier.

Main course? Picked up a half leg of lamb, cost €6.49. Top class traceable meat and very enjoyable, made even more enjoyable by a red from Bordeaux (Chateaux Fonfroide) which Dunnes were selling at half price (€6.99), in a promotion that is still going on.

I didn’t realise it at the time but the dessert I picked up, a Chocolate and Raspberry combination (€2.96), was from Heinz Weightwatchers. It was quite good, a crumbly chocolate base topped by the pureed berries in a jelly.

Good quality all round and good value, made even better value by the fact that there was ten per cent off everything at the checkout.

Monday, September 8, 2008



The latest visit to Gambieni’s Restaurant in Carey’s Lane started well. We each had the Spicy Meat Balls, Tasty & Juicy Meat Balls in a Hot & Spicy Sauce. They lived up to the billing and we had no worries ahead of the main course.

The advisor ordered Pollo Alla Romano, a dish we’ve had on several occasions here before. It is Grilled breast of chicken topped with red onion, roasted peppers, mushrooms in tomato & red wine sauce. She tucked in but soon discovered a very salty taste indeed.

I had chosen the Pollo Alferado, Grilled chicken breast with mushroom, red onion, scallions, garlic in a creamy white wine sauce. Very salty also. So salty in fact that I thought they had mixed in salty rashers among the strips of chicken. I even checked it out in the dim light but no, the salt taste was coming from the chicken itself.

We advised the staff and they were astonished, didn't know where the salt had come from. They checked behind the scenes but no answer. We were offered free desserts but instead settled for a cup of coffee each on a rare disappointing night at this city centre venue.

Monday, September 1, 2008



Marks & Spencer had a “Dine in for Two” offer, the weekend before last. I suspect it’s finished now but keep an eye out in case of a repeat as it was good quality and good value.

For €12.50, you got a main course, a side dish (veg or potato), dessert and bottle of wine. When my four parts were totted up on the register, they came to about €23.00, so the saving was substantial.

The main course in our case was an excellent Mousaka. The tasty Dessert was a Summer Berry Terrine (easily enough for four) while the wine was a totally adequate good quality Dolphin Bay Shiraz from South Africa.

I’ll repeat it, if they do. Well worth it!