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I can never quite understand the rush of press critics to new restaurants. Some of them are hardly open a wet week and are winning awards. No doubt quite a few are well founded and will last the pace. Like twenty years. Thirty years. Maybe like forty years that the renowned reliable Jacques is now approaching.
We called there last week and, well, it is as good as ever, maybe even better. The food is top class as is the service. Jacques were one of the first to recognise and support local producers and you know quite a few of them, including craft drink beer brewers and gin distillers, and so on. Have to admit we were on the wine though, a delicious pair at that, a cracking Albarino and a gorgeous Muscadet (biodynamique).
The Barry sisters may be approaching that big anniversary but their menu is innovative, not the least bit old stuff. Sure you can have your steaks and black-puddings and so on but it is the way they vary the dishes, the differing accompaniments, that keep the customers coming back time after time.
For instance, in July, your hake will come pan fried, with lemon butter, crispy capers, parsley, Ballycotton queens and greens. The other night, a cold one, we enjoyed Fresh Hake, Seaweed, Fennel, Lemon Butter, Crispy Capers, Buttered Cabbage and Beans, Champ (23.90). A superb dish. Variety is the spice of life.
East meets ouest
That was CL’s main dish and speaking of spice, she had Smoked Morrocan Quail,Spiced Couscous, Apricot, Harissa (11.90) as a starter. Another brilliant combination, bang on up to date with the evolving local cuisine. Don't think you'd have got that here in the early 80s!
And that exciting mix that has come to our plates over the past twenty years or so was very much in evidence in my starter: Asian Miso Seafood Bisque, noodles, vegetables (9.50). An accomplished and warming dish with hints of Asia and the Med, expertly cooked and presented, perfect for the cold.
And that high standard was maintained with my main dish: Fresh West Cork Scallops, Winter Remoulade, Celeriac Puree, Crispy Pancetta, Potato Rosti and a Tomato Relish 26.90. Scallops and Pancetta are a terrific duo but all the other elements played a role too. I took my time with that one and absolutely enjoyed it.
Still room for dessert and this time we broke out and had one each, sharing of course! The Oranges, Mascarpone stuffed Medjool Dates, Almonds, Pomegranate (7.50) were excellent but the winner, on points, was their Tiramisu - The Classic (7.50).
So best of luck to all the new restaurants and cafes that have opened up in the last few months - there are some excellent ones around town - but every now and then it doesn't do any harm to blow the trumpet for the old reliables who have worked their way through recessions and booms and who still come up trumps.