Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Pandemic or Recession, the Blair Boys never shirk a challenge

 Pandemic or Recession, the Blair Boys never shirk a challenge 

The Blairs Boys never shirk a challenge. Their family owned country inn near Cloghroe has, like many restaurants, been ambushed and battered by pandemics and rising costs, yet Duncan and Richie have come up fighting, still cooking and serving the good stuff, seasonal comforting food these bleak December days.

But leave your bleakness at the door, as they do. Lots of smiles and chats in here as regulars know. And of course they have craft beer, a full menu of it. Indeed, they were one of the pioneers (not the kind with the badge) of local beer, matching it with their local produce. On the current list, brewers such as West Kerry, Blacks of Kinsale, West Cork Brewing and 9 White Deer are highlighted.

The Stag Gluten Free Stout by 9 White Deer has been a big hit here over the years and was one of our drinks during the visit. The other was their Kölsch, a summer favourite of ours. Not summer now but the Blairs fire was warm and the beer went down a treat. Also spotted the new 9 White Deer Export Stout 7.4% (Stout Aged in Blackwater whiskey casks in West Waterford) and that came home with us. We were advised to hold on to it for a while!

We had arrived just as they opened at 1.00pm last Thursday and so did quite a few others and Christmas was very much in the air when a large group of customers came together. And there was plenty of warming food to choose from.

Starters included Soup of the Day with Potato Flatbread; Tartlet of Ardsallagh Goats Cheese, creamed leeks and a beetroot chutney; and Garlic Wild Mushrooms with potato flatbreads. Our pick, available in small and large portions, was the West Cork Whiskey Wings with a Cashel Blue dip and potato flatbreads. Superb flavours from a warming dish ideal for the zero degree weather outside in the valley.

Mains on offer included Roast Half Chicken with all the trimmings including roasties; Angus Beef Burger with cheese, gherkins and house sauce and with skin-on wedges; Roast stuffed loin of Timoleague Pork with all the trimmings with roasties of course!; a seasonal Veggie Pie, topped with Cheddar cheese mash; Thai Green Chicken Curry with steamed rice.

My pick was the Cottage Pie of ground beef topped with creamy mash and a side salad, another comforting warm blast against the cold! But I think, on the basis of a spoon or two, that CL was the winner here with a tempting looking Fisherman's Pie of fresh fish topped with smoked Hegarty’s Cheese and dill mash. It looked tempting mostly because, unusually, the chunky fish pieces were floating around an island of the tasty mash. Something different but very satisfying indeed. Just like everything else on the menu, this was comfort food at its best, perfect for the weather this time of year.

This one came home!

Finished off with a chat with the brothers and wished them luck for the months ahead. But those two know you make your own luck where the main ingredient is hard work. Their loyal local customers know that too and, combined, that’s a solid foundation for whatever pestilence or economic woe that may (or may not) lie around the corner.

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