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The SpitJack has hit the ground running in Washington Street and, with its first summer a success, has just announced its new winter menu. I took the opportunity to try it out in mid-week. The meats as you’d expect, as SpitJack is a rotisserie, are top notch but the real surprise was the new Cheese and Fortified Menu. Not too many of our top restaurants will match this magical list of possible combinations.
And the good news is that there is quite a local input. Near neighbours, Ardsallagh Goats and Johnny Fall Down, feature strongly. The inventive Glounthaune drinks outfit are doubly represented with a Pom’O Apple Port and a Rare Apple Ice Wine.
The Pom’O is based on the traditional Normandy pommeau (pressed apple juice with apple brandy) but the Glounthaune orchard has added a twist or two of their own to make this beauty. They used rare apples and then a combination of freezing and thawing, a year long fermentation and nothing at all was added to make the Ice Wine, the first Irish ice wine to be sold.
It is beautiful and rich and perfect with the cheeses that we had and with the Ardsallagh Ash Pyramid in particular. Ardsallagh have a much longer history in the East Cork area than Johnny Fall Down but Jane Murphy continues to innovate and this is her first ash pyramid. Made from pasteurised mild goats milk, it is formed into the traditional Valencay shape and sealed in ash. Got an early taste during the Culture Night but this is the first commercial batch and it won't be the last.
The Ardsallagh was served with Fig Compote. Our second cheese was a favourite of ours from our (too) few visits to the Basque country. It is a sheep cheese from Ossau-Iraty a area of the Pyrenees where we got “lost” once or twice. In the Basque country, they often serve it with a Black Cherry conserve (I use Loganberry jam at home!); last night, SpitJack’s Quince paste was excellent.
Then we finished with the Comte AOC from the Jura mountains, served with truffle honey. This 24 month vieux is a beauty, delicious, and enhanced by that honey.
Other cheeses on this impressive list include: Brillat Savarin, Camembert Bonchoix AOC, Cashel Blue Mature, Durrus Og, Epoisses AOC, Manchego 18 months PDO, Pont L’Évêque AOC, and Stilton PDO. There are three Quinta Seara D’Ordens signature ports on the fortifieds list while dessert wines include Chateau Camperos Sauternes and a couple of sherries, a Colosio PX and Orleans Borbon Manzanilla, plus the two Johnny Fall Down drinks.
The new menu, like the previous one, is well constructed, in the sense that, if you wish, you can avoid meat in the starters and that’s what we did.
Salted cod is an Atlantic tradition so I was delighted to see the House Salted Cod “Bunyols” (€8.5) Catalan Style Cod Fritters, Flaked Salted Cod, Fried Crisp Exterior, Soft Pillow Centre, Lime Chantilly, delighted too that I choose this tasty plateful.
Across the table, CL also made a good pick. The pickled Heirloom Beetroot Carpaccio (€7) with Ardsallagh Goats Cheese Foam, Candied Walnuts,
Tarragon Oil, Watercress, looked well and tasted well.
On now to the main event, as my Eight Degrees Sunburnt Red Ale sank in the glass. Time for the Rotisserie Pork Belly Porchetta (€17), Slow Roasted Pork Belly Stuffed with Sage & Garlic, Crisp Crackling, Kale Colcannon Potatoes, Braised Kale & Apple Compote, Sautéed Tender Stem Broccoli, Honey Mustard Jus. “Savage,” as we say around here. The word’s not the most sophisticated but, when pronounced with soul, means the meat (in this case) is rather good my dear.
And it also may be applied to CL’s earthy choice, a peasant’s pleasant pot in winter time of Brazed and Rotisserie Roasted Lamb Shank (€19.00), with Red Wine Glaze, Pearl Barley & Winter Vegetable Cassoulet, Crème Fraîche, Mint Oil, Braised Lamb & Brandy Jus. Local and seasonal, simple soul food, simple but superb.
So two very happy customers and that was before the cheese and Johnny Fall Down took us to a higher level!
There is something special about going into a restaurant for the first time, meeting people you've never met before and feeling right at home within a few seconds. That was the feeling I got at The SpitJack, the new Washington Street (Cork) restaurant. And that was before the beautiful food began to appear. Big credit here to owners Richard Gavin and Laura Sureda and their wonderful staff.
The owners have spent a lot of time and effort, not to mention money, in getting this place looking perfect, a place where once a medieval lane ran through. Lots of exposed brick in both downstairs and up. The highlight is perhaps the skylight, or at least, the area under it. The ground floor bar is lit by this light and its shelves extend upwards to the roof. You can see it at its best as you go to the upstairs dining room (or the lovely semi-private room, for 8/10, just off it).
Both the medium sized dining rooms are lit by light from the south and are bright and airy and busy and buzzy, even if they are still in soft opening mode (that may change this week). I’ll let Richard and Laura introduce their place: The SpitJack is a rotisserie concept and the first of its kind, offering only the highest quality Irish produce. All of our menus revolve around the rotisserie and we are opened from breakfast to bedtime.
We, and indeed all customers, were taken through the details of the menu and there were helpful suggestions as to what wine or side dishes go best with your order. And service continued in that helpful vein all through the meal. We were guests but could see and hear that all customers were getting the same treatment.
Goat Cheese Salad
There is a full bar so a great choice of spirits, including Dingle Gin and Vodka, Gunpowder Gin, lots of Irish (and international) whiskey, also tasting boards, local beer (including 8 Degrees) and the lovely Johnny Fall Down cider (my choice on the night).
Didn't get to try any of the many cocktails - they have their own mixologist. Here’s an intriguing one: the Barrel Aged Midleton Hip Flask (Jameson Black Barrel, sour malt and Chard reduction-recycled mash from our friends in Midleton, Lillet blanc and orange bitters. Just one of many.
Nothing gets wasted here; they are always conscious of sustainability, using surplus ingredients to make their own garnishes, infusions, purées, cordials and shrubs. “No ingredient gets left behind.” And they support local. Their meat, for instance, comes from O’Mahony's Butchers in the nearby market.
Down to business with Rotisserie Chicken Croquettes with a lemon and thyme aioli. Laura is from Barcelona and her influence was evident here in their tapas style opener. A delicious sign of things to come.
My starter was their Scotch Egg (soft egg wrapped in English Market Italian Sausage with a crisp crumb). Fifteen minutes is the cooking time but it is well worth the wait. Gorgeous and it comes with a beautiful salad as well.
CL went for a salad: the honey baked Goat Cheese Salad. It comes in two sizes! They use Ardsallagh cheese on crostini, carrot ribbons, cherry tomato, local mixed leaves and tarragon dressing, more or less the same salad that came with the egg. Another delicious combination.
My cider came into its own with my main course: Porchetta of pork-belly, stuffed with garlic and market herbs (sage mainly). And a tasty rim of crackling. Have had lots of excellent pork-belly since it came into fashion a few years ago but hard to beat this beautifully cooked effort. Great match with the cider!
You get one side (you may order more) with your mains and I was advised to take the classic potato and gruyere gratin. It was spot-on, a rich and cheesy delight. CL’s side - we did share - was another gem. The Rotisserie Roast Potatoes is a rather underrated description. The spuds, with little bacon bits, were roasted under the chicken, the juices falling down and working their magic.
The West Cork Rotisserie Chicken, by the way, spent 24 hours bring brined with Rosemary, Thyme and Lemon. And you get a breast and leg to enjoy at your leisure! Cooked to perfection and absolutely delectable. They’ve certainly mastered their roasting machine in the few weeks of the soft opening!
And, of course, there was a sweet finish, a shared one. The dessert list is short but excellent. I noticed the rotisserie had come into play in one: the Coconut Panna Cotta (with Rotisserie Pineapple and a rum and raisin shortbread). As with the previous plates, there was nothing not playing a part on this one. The Panna Cotta itself was excellent while the shortbread made the taste buds sit up and notice even at the end of a magnificent meal.
Very Highly Recommended! The SpitJack 34 Washington Street Cork Tel: 0212390613