CUTTING THE CHEESE IN IRELAND
Ah, Ireland. It’s everything you would expect.
Unutterably lovely scenery, impossibly friendly people and unspeakably bad food.
I know, I know, Ireland has some of the finest raw ingredients in the world. That’s why I was over there in the first place for EAT MY GLOBE. But, as in England, so little of it seems to be enjoyed by the locals who, instead, prefer to dive head long into bowls full of processed, well, crap. I also know that there are beacons of edibility as one travels through Ireland, particularly in Dublin and other large cities. But, the day to day High St offerings are, if possible even worse than their English provincial counterparts.
The small towns I stayed in on my visit to Milleens Cheese and Cashel Blue (which you can read about soon on EAT MY GLOBE) provided little except a wide variety of deep fried food with chips or mashed potatoes. Indeed, in one case, I was presented with both as mashed potatoes were the “Vegetable of The Day” This seemed to phase the locals not one jot as they tucked into huge plates of very bad food indeed with enormous gusto.
Only two half decent meals in three days. One was a bowl of lobster chowder at Breen’s Lobster Bar in Castletownbeer which was filled with meaty chunks of seafood and came with some agreeable soda bread.
The other, a famous Irish breakfast at a small farmhouse near Cashel which included eggs, milk, cheese and butter from the farm. Sausages from their own pigs and home made soda bread. The rest, well the rest was just vile.
One particular meal at Murphy’s Bar in Castletownbeer was the stuff of war crime tribunals. It wasn’t the chicken (battered to within an inch of its very existence, of course) it wasn’t even the ever presence of starchy goodness it was the glowering and challenging presentation of a deep fried bread crumbed banana. Oh the humanity. It sat on the plate wobbling ominously, daring me to eat it. It won and I pushed it to the side of my plate. The owner seemed mystified by this and asked me in astonishment “ did you not want your banana?” Oh Mr Murphy, where can I begin?
If the food is the stuff of nightmares, the bars, however, are the stuff of dreams.
In Dublin, Guinness is king. Move West, however and you begin to see more signs for its rivals Beamish and Murphy’s. In Castletownbeer, home of Milleens, Murhpy’s is in full effect and nowhere more so than in MacCarthy’s Bar made legend by the bestseller of the same name by witty travel writer Pete MacCarthy.
To see a pint of stout being pulled in here is a thing of beauty. Not the two minute job you get in London where the bar staff are thinking more about Krakow than the craic. This is the real deal. I timed it. From order to slurp, ten of your earth minutes and worth every second of the wait. The old dear I ordered from, poured half a pint, then went off for a few minutes to do something else, came back and topped off, then skimmed the head off, then topped off again. Then she pottered off somewhere else for long enough that I thought she had forgotten me before suddenly appearing again and handing the perfect pint to a welcoming slaphead.
It almost made up for the appalling food, almost. I am going to have nightmares about that banana for years to come.