"It's not much but it's ours"

Monday, April 30, 2007

What is the most difficult restaurant in the UK to secure a table for supper?

The Ivy? Nah, Easy Peasy.

J Sheekey? Nope. Easy Peasy Lemon Squeasy.

The Wolesley? You kidding? Easy Peasy, Lemon Squeasy, Hands and Kneesy, One two Threesey.

The correct answer is of course, Margot’s Padstow. To quote Chef Patron, Adrian Oliver “ if my own mum came in and asked for a table tonight, I couldn’t fit her in” quite right too.

Now, this may have something to do with the fact that the place only has 22 covers but it has more to do with the fact that Margot’s is really rather good and people come back again and again and he is, consequently, packed to the gunwhales every night.

I know that, if it were in my neck of the woods, I would make Adrian even more sick of me than he became over our three night stay in Padstow. It is just my kind of place. Which probably explains why we ended up having two meals there on this visit.

I once wrote something nice about it on one of the food boards and a well known restaurant reviewer e-mailed me and asked if it was really any good or if I was just being kind. My response was that I would have been kind anyway, but fortunately I didn’t have to be as it really was very good.

Three years later, nothing has changed.

Our first Margot’s meal saw Dos Hermanos given the chance to play wicked Uncle Ernie to the two unsuspecting offspring of my chum Nick and his wife, Ann who had joined us for the long weekend. There are few things more enjoyable in life than telling a young innocent that the food in front of them is made from dead dog and the tears of crushed fairies and Nick’s two daughters provided suitable sparring partners for the evening’s entertainment when, that is, they could be prised away from their Nintendo’s.

We were really quite full already by the time we arrived having already grazed on ice cream, pasties and some Fish & Chips from Stein’s Shop on the harbour which turned out to be much better than expected. On top of which, a few glasses of fizz at BinTwo or base camp as it became known, were accompanied by the inevitable large bowl of porkie goodness in scratching form.

Despite that, walking into Margot’s and getting a big old waft of Duck Confit roasting is enough to heave one’s appetite back up to suitable levels and we were all soon bib in collar and knife & fork at the ready.

The joy of Adrian’s food is its simplicity. The food is not about him, it is about the ingredients. Mackerel is so fresh that little is done to it save a flash under the grill and a drizzle of herb butter. Goats cheese is grilled so it is crunchy on the outside and liquid in the middle, mussels come in a sauce of coriander and ginger which compliments rather than swamps. Lamb chops come pink as they should and, heaven forfend, taste of lamb. Best of all, the duck confit which is braised in its own fat until it is falling off the bone and then roasted to give the required crunch. It was three years since I last tried Margot’s version. My memory did not lead me astray. It really is the stuff of dreams.

But, as in all things, such simplicity takes skill and restraint. It is about the ingredients not about the chef. It is about letting the customer taste the food not guess how long the chef spent in catering college.

Adrian’s menu changes little and this gives him the confidence in his ingredients to let them speak for themselves. None of this is to suggest that he does not have any skills in the kitchen just that, like the man himself, Adrian’s food is unassuming and eager to please without showing off.

For many, the desserts at Margot’s, made by Claire, are the main event although there is a tendency to over cooking the Sticky toffee pudding so it can be a little dry. Not so this time and two portions of that and a chocolate parfait disappeared as quickly as they arrived.

Tea and Coffee came with some decent petits and some even better caramelised walnuts and brought the bill to about £165 for the four adults and two Gameboy addicts.

Good value by anyone’s reckoning.

Margot’s is not perfect, of course. Adrian seems pathologically incapable of passing the napkin test. He dismisses my idea of offering an “ all day breakfast” out of hand and Claire’s Muscat jellies are a tad on the misshapen side. But, these are small things and only slightly muted our enjoyment of an otherwise fine meal.

So fine, in fact, that when Adrian and David from BinTwo suggested Margot’s could be used as a venue for a full on family style lunch the next day, we all leapt at the chance to return and reconvened on Sunday with our BYOB, a crab tart prepared by David’s own hands, enough children to put on a performance of “ Lord of The Flies” and more food than you could shake a maypole at.

I can seldom recollect such a fun lunch as plates of mackerel, cod and smoked duck swapped hands for salads, the sweetest of scallops and a few delicious bottles of Vino Collapso. The adults talked amongst themselves, the children did likewise. Me, the perpetual man child, I just talked out loud to no one in particular. It’s better that way.

A quick stagger over to BinTwo for one more goodbye over a jug of Pimm’s in the afternoon sun provided the perfect full stop to a splendid weekend and we left Adrian and David to get on with their real lives as we went to watch the sister marriers prepare for Mayday while trying hard not to think of The Whicker Man.

I am pretty sure it wont be three years until I am back there having some more of Adrian’s Duck Confit. That is, of course, if I can get a table.

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

The whole issue of food bloggers taking pictures is becoming an interesting one.

Dos Hermanos are pretty shameless in whipping out our digitals and snapping away and few restaurants seem to have a problem with it.

Of the ones that do, there seems to be two arguments against the practice.

First there is the school of J Sheekey, The Ivy, Scott’s etc where the unspoken but obvious premise is that someone taking photos of their meal, even without a flash, may be a distraction to the more important part of their clientele, the famous folk. It’s a stupid reason and just serves to re-enforce the two tier system of dining that operates in such places. But, at least it is honest and pretty up front.

The second school of thought was exemplified last night by the good people of Number 6 in Padstow where we were ask to “restrain” ourselves from taking pictures because and I quote “ it is not a fair representation of the presentation of the food”

This displays a level of pretension and self delusion that is hardly supported by what was by any standards a meal of such supreme blah-ness that the definition will need re writing.

First though, the enjoyable part of the day. We arrived in Padstow after that long old train journey, dumped our bags and headed straight to Bin Two, a wine store owned by our good chum David McWilliams who was fully prepared for our arrival with a chilled bottle of Manzanilla. He added to our view that he is one of the finest of men by suddenly producing a 6 kg bag of pork scratchings from which we were allowed to choose all the choice bits. Big fatty chewy bits of porky goodness that wash down perfectly with a salty sherry.

A few pints and a brief rest later, we were ready for supper and headed for Number 6 less than thirty seconds from our B&B.

The menu outside reads well. Very well in fact with lots of reference to local sourcing and seasonal ingredients and so it should with a London pricing of £38 for two courses and £45 for three. For that kind of money, it shouldn’t just read well it should eat well and be well served in a lovely room. Unfortunately, we got none of the above.

The room, with its austere decorations and chequered floor, is cold and unwelcoming and the table settings shriek “café/bistro” not star schtick which is an aim so tangible they should perhaps all wear badges reading “please love me Michelin”

While the service could certainly never be called unfriendly it was rigid and overly formal.

The food? Well, it certainly showed technique aplenty and would possibly win prizes for number of ingredients on any plate but showed no signs of passion or indeed any enjoyment in its creation. A lack of zest that came through in every muted biteful.

I wish I could show you pictures so you can see for yourself, but after we had sampled some adequate bread, I snapped a picture of a quite passable amuse of Arancini and Foie mousse and was immediately asked by the front of house not to take any more. When I asked why they had this policy, they said that others had visited, taken pictures and put them on food websites previously and they did not show off the food to its best.

So this was not about the possible distraction to others by the use of a flash or about the fact that Mr A List Celeb may be dining with some dropsy who is not his wife at a nearby table. This is about the fact that Chef Patron, one Paul Ainsworth doesn’t think that food bloggers have the right to take pictures of food they have paid £75 a head for because it is not going to look as good as shots he may have taken professionally. I will leave you to decide if you think that is fair. Me? I thought it a bit silly.

Back to the food. For HP, a starter of pork belly that had been poached and roasted and then served with pickled tongue and a rhubarb and foie salad. It should be a stellar dish as it contains just about everything I love. Instead, the tastes I stole from HP’s plate saw a excellent pieces of pork with a crunch to the skin, being let down by plate companions that offered nothing.

It was, however, better than my own starter, a tartar of Mackerel, advocado and elderflower with a deep fried egg and cucumber salad. The egg was overcooked to a solid yolk and the tartar could have contained anything with the mackerel smothered by the dressing and a topping of unnecessary Avruga caviar.

We both opted for Turbot as a main course as little else on the list appealed. Dusted in five spice, it was served with oxtail cottage pie, creamed cabbage and spring peas. That the peas came in the form of a tempura was a harmless bit of frippery. That the turbot was so horribly over salted that I could only eat two bites before pushing it to the side of my plate is not quite so acceptable. It didn’t matter that they offered to cook another piece, I was almost finished with the rest of the dish by then. It didn’t matter that the rest of the ingredients were actually quite good, they were not the reason I ordered this dish. If you are going to get the main ingredient of your main course so horribly wrong, then you are in a bit of bother.

Like wise a £4 plate of asparagus with summer truffle that came to the table as limp as a sitcom involving Harry Enfield.

Paul Ainsworth , from what I can gather, is a former apprentice of Marcus Waering and, from on the evidence of my last trip to Petrus, it shows. Decent ingredients, lots of cheffy stylings, main courses that disappoint and a lack of passion in the whole affair that sucks enjoyment from the air like a Dyson.

Ironically, or perhaps not, the only part of the meal that even caused a raised eyebrow was a pre-dessert, just as it did at Petrus. This time, a small cone of bubblegum ice cream that HP, rightly identified as tasting like Bazooka Joe.

Desserts were up a notch but, a decent tarte tatin came with an unannounced sauce of “Baileys” custard which, given my allergy to coffee could have been interesting for both me and the restaurant as I swelled up to the size of a balloon and stopped breathing. Fortunately, I heard the front of house mention the word as she poured it over the tarte and she whisked it away and brought me the other half sans death in pouring form. Not bad at all.

HP had the chocolate moelleux which was fine, but added little to the meal.

With a bottle of over priced Fleurie at £36 and a service charge the bill was £150 which would be a lot for London but is far too much even for “ Chelsea on Sea” down here in Cornwall particularly for an experience that did little to change my low expectations of high end dining in the UK these days.

No photos of the meal then, but perhaps I could take a picture of the receipt to remind me how we came to pay £150 for a meal so ordinary I am going to struggle to remember what we ate without some visual aid. Mind you, that may be a good thing.
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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Imagine, if you will, it is 2075

The scene is outside a museum in what once was London’s fashionable area of Fitzrovia but is now the district of Tesco’s Community Block Living Area A.

A portly man stands on a hovering platform before a crowd who murmur in anticipation as he pulls on a short length of chord to reveal a blue plaque which reads simply

“In a café on this site Hermano Segundo sat to eat and drink while he worked on his seminal literary works "Don't Do that your Majesty. I am not that kind of boy" and "It's meant to be incomprehensible, stupid" which led to the declaration of world peace, a cure for cancer and the confirmation of Frank Zappa as a saint of the Catholic Church”

The crowd cheer and spontaneously begin to sing the national anthem which Majumdar wrote in a quiet moment in between meister works

“Put your hands in the air, for Britain”
Wave them like you just don’t care, For Britain”

All the while ‘making shapes” with their hands as had become required by law in 20020 after a certain Pete Tong became Prime Minister in a surprise landslide victory.

Catchy no?

OK, well perhaps that is not how it is going to be, but since my supper with my good chum Max last night was spent discussing literary aspirations and trying desperately to persuade our parents that we were not idle loafers, it’s nice to dream.

As it happens, Café Rio on Grafton Way is a very nice place to sit and dream. A Brazilian café that was recommended to me by another chum, Claudia, it offers, along side standard café items, a wide range of savoury Brazilian pastries, the enormo portioned Brazilian baguettes and, apparently ,one of the best examples of the Feijoada in town. All in a small, bright little cafe presided over by cheery Brazilian women who cluck around making sure you are enjoying things as you should.

We arrived there a short while before it closed so stuck to sampling one each of the savoury pastries. Particular favourite was the Quibe which was a larger version of the Middle Eastern Kibbe which made us think they must originate from the same gene pool. Minced beef with spices and olives running through it, one of those would have been enough on its own but we also ordered Coxinha and Pastel which came with a varied mix of meat and cheese fillings.

Elegant? No, but at £1.80 a pop, filling and substantial enough for two impoverished wannabees on a budget.

After paying the bill which came to all of £12, we decided to take our literary musings down to Fitzrovia’s latest Brazilian offering on Charlotte St. Boteca Carioca has been getting good reviews all over the place and I can see why. The food is accomplished ( with one or two poor elements ) and the service is charming and laid back.

Unfortunately, the room is a killer. Dark and gloomy, it is like eating under a fire blanket and it certainly douses any level of good humour the moment you walk in.

Still, we had eaten some starters at Café Rio, so moved on to main courses here. First, some Pao de Queijo, Brazilian cheese bread which was a real disaster. Hard as bullets and as tasteless as an Austin Princess with go faster stripes. Horrible. Max ate them, but then he is poor and will eat anything for fear it will be his last meal for forty eight hours.

The main courses were better. The Feijoada was as good as I have tried. A dense, dark stew of black beans with hunks of meat and sausage. None of the hooves, lips, noses and arseholes of the original slave dish, but rich and satisfying.

A moqueca came with large pieces of halibut and a spicy sauce that went well with coconut rice.

More than ample portions and, at £13.50 a pop, not over priced.

While we ate, the p.a system serenaded us with what I can only assume was traditional Brazilian funeral music which further succeeded in bringing our good humours down to the point that I can’t imagine rushing back there again no matter how tasty the food.

I think, next time I want to compare notes with a fellow bald man of letters, I will probably fly down to Café Rio.

For the record, if they ever do decide to put up a blue plaque for me can it please read

" he died at the age of 100 while watching his beloved Rotherham Utd of whom he bacme chairman when his books sold one million copies and when the film rights were sold to George Clooney's production company. He left behind his 20 year old wife, an olympic gymnast, Jeanelle from whose breasts it is believed he was snorting coke at the time of his death."

Now that's a dream

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Monday, April 23, 2007

HP, in his inimitable way has taken to calling me “workhouse” in reference to my current, er freelance status.

It is true that, with EAT MY GLOBE threatening to eat up all of my hard earned live savings, I am having to be a bit more careful. But, I am not in penury yet.

Mind you, if things do get that bad, I have three words that will solve everything “Gay For Pay” where I am sure a fine piece of ass like me will be able to make a tidy living felating a twenty something on

Still, for the moment, it does mean that out of the window go your fancy schmancy places and into view come that scariest of notions in London, Cheap Eats.

If, like me, you always thought that budget dining in London means a slice of dead dog at a kebab shop off the Caledonian Rd, then places like Kiasu come as a welcome surprise.

Open for about five months opposite its sibling Chinese place, Kam Tong on Queensway, Kiasu offers Malaccan food from the Malaysian Straights. A hybrid of the cooking of just about every country in that region, it particularly specialises in the combination of Malay and Chinese with the odd Vietnamese and filipino dishes thrown in for good measure.

The name, apparently means "afraid of being second best" in the local dialect and the wall is covered with slogans like " afraid of my wife" and " afraid of the dark" Perhaps they could put one up there for me saying " afraid to be broke and on the streets"

A Nasi Lemak is probably the most well known of all dishes from the region combining coconut rice with crispy fried anchovies, chicken, prawn sambal, peanuts, achar and the obligatory hard boiled egg.

A sizeable plateful, strong on flavour with the turmeric coloured achar having its roots in the same genetic pool that gave us piccalilli. A way of pickling vegetables in spices and vinegar to preserve them.

The chicken was slow cooked so it fell off the bone and the prawn sambal came with some welcome cooling cucumber to douse the fiery sauce. The anchovies and peanuts added both salt and texture.

I am still getting used to this budget thing and, if I had stopped there, which would have been ample, I would have been in and out for under £10 including a beer, which is good going anywhere these days.

But, I had my eye on a plate of Char Kway Teow which I had last tried on a visit to a hawker’s market in Singapore. A classic noodle dish it combines flat rice noodles with prawns, egg, Chinese sausage and bean sprouts and comes in two styles. With dark soy for the Singapore style and with light soy for the Penang style.

While not up to the Hawker’s market, this was a pretty good example. Plump prawns, sausage that required a bit of chewing and noodles that still had a slight bite. In itself a perfectly adequate lunchtime dish or one to share in the evening with other items on the menu.

More than enough for me and I got the bill. With the extra dish, still well under £20 including tip and for enough food to feed two people.

Other dishes that caught my eye were the Filipino pork adobo, the Pai Tee (pastry cups stuffed with pork & prawn) and the Curry Mee (egg noodles in a curry gravy)

Well worth a visit and, if I can stick to this sort of budget perhaps the only thing I will have to go down on in the future is a plate of noodles.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

You may not know this, but Bengalis are often referred to as the Jewish people of India. We have a lot in common not least the fact that the idea of someone coming away from our dining table at anything less than an ungainly waddle being the most shameful of things.

So, it is little surprise that my chum, Nick and I get on so well and spend nearly all of our time together talking across a dining table.

I didn’t realize that it was his birthday today until he sat down opposite me at lunchtime and told me so.

However, it was entirely appropriate that we had booked a table at Reuben’s, a Jewish restaurant of some forty years standing on Baker St. The perfect place for Nick to instruct me in the ways of Jewish cooking.

Normally happy for me to lead the way, the moment it came time to order, he was a changed man. Barking out what he wanted “Eggs & onions, any good?” he probed. “ What about the chicken soup? Can we have it mixed with lokshen and kneidlach?” he demanded. “If we are still hungry after that, we’ll have some salt beef” The waiter, recognizing he was up against a force of Jewish nature, nodded meekly.

While it was good for someone else to take charge, I was ever so slightly concerned that he seemed to have ordered most of the menu and, when the starters arrived, it transpired that he had.

Eggs & Onions were declared “too creamy” but I rather liked them and spooned plentiful amounts onto my matzo.

Chicken “pate” was found to be “too smooth” but I liked that too and spooned great blobs of it from plate to mouth without aid of a cracker. Likewise, a scoop of chopped ox liver with grated egg on top was enjoyed by me, but not so much by Nick.

Boiled gefilte fish was, well, quite frankly, rather odd. Can anyone explain the attraction? It struck me more as something you would use to threaten a naughty child with than something you would actually eat yourself.

After plowing our way through these dishes, we dived head long into a slightly scary looking bowl of chicken soup. The broth itself was very tasty and the kneidlach (dumplings) were light and fresh although Nick said he thought they could use a drop of almond oil which was a new one on me. The lockshen, however, had some artificial colouring in which turned the whole soup a weird orange. Most disconcerting.

Were we done? Were we heckers like. It became a war of attrition as Nick and I tried to see who would blink first. Next up, a mix of Salt beef and tongue with a plate of phallic pickles. The hammascher(sp?) pickle was sharp and strong, the “new green” fresh and zingy. In fact, they were better than the meat which had looked so good when I walked into the restaurant but was a little dry by the time it reached us and lacked the requisite layer of fat.

With it, a some most excellent chips. As good as any I have tried in a long time and, with it, something called a latke which could be used as a deterrent in cases of political crisis. This is one of the nastiest things I have ever eaten and I think we should mail one to Iran as a threat. Is this just a bad example or is a latke really nothing more than a badly made rosti?

Anyway, I was stuffed to the gunwhales by now, but they plied us with a free pudding for the birthday boy which came in the form of a strudel. This we both agreed on as the best thing of the whole meal. Surprisingly light with a stuffing of raisins, clove, lemon zest and cinnamon, it was all but demolished in seconds.

But, by now, we were both truly defeated and I got the bill which came to about £60 for two including a couple of Maccabee beers from Israel.

We waddled out into the afternoon sunlight and staggered down Baker St like two slightly over full water balloons. Filling stuff this Jewish food.

But, next year I am going to have to cook Nick some proper Bengali food, then he will know what being full is really like.
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Monday, April 16, 2007

I have to admit to feeling a little odd this weekend.

It’s that time of year again when publishers come in from all corners of the globe and take over West London for the LIBF, after Frankfurt, the most important trade fair in the publishing business.

And, for the first time in twenty odd years, I wont be among them. Not that this is a bad thing. I have moved on to what someone once described as ‘ the next stage of the journey” but, when I passed Earls Court last night, I still had the urge to run up to a random Icelander and say “ I can have the books FOB Hong Kong port by the end of May”

A lot of my friends from the business are in town and, when one of them suggested an early supper on Sunday near her Earls Court hotel, I thought of Moshen, a small,well thought of Iranian joint on The Warwick Road.

This was only my third visit to Moshen. The previous two had been good and excellent respectively. This wasn’t. It was a grave disappointment.

Known for the quality of its grilled meats, none of that came through in this dispiriting Sunday supper.

The pani sabzi salad of herbs, radishes and feta cheese was fine and cleansing as it should be. The bread was good as it always is and we used it to spoon up a decent yoghurt sauce. We had also ordered a plate of Ox tongue to begin with, but it never arrived so I can’t tell you how good they would have been or not. When we reminded them, they offered to get them right away, but by then we hade our kebabs in front of us and there was little point.

Ah, the kebabs. The standard by which any place like this should be judged. Last visits, fresh, clean grilling, alive with juices and the zing of spice and lemon.

Tonight? Dry, stringy and overcooked lacking in any spark or sign of skilled grilling. Chenjeh Kebabs (lamb) were tough as old boots and required more chewing that my reconstructed ganshers were capable of. Jujeh Kebab ( chicken, in this case on the bone) was little better and we struggled to finish it which says something when you know my feelings towards all things grilled.

It is certainly cheap enough coming to £35 for two including a tip for charming service and a large jug of refreshing Doog to wash things down. But, in the end it is the meat that matters and it would have to be a lot better than on this showing to get me travelling across town again without matters publishing to persuade me.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

When it comes to Dos Hermanos doing dim sum, there are of course rules to be adhered to.

At least six steamed dishes, at least six fried dishes. Some cheung fun, some roast meats and something wobbly and a little scary for dessert.

Not much to ask. But, amongst the fraternity of Chinese restaurants in the capital, there is a huge gulf in the quality of what hits the table.

At the top , Hakkasan and Yauatcha, of course. Hugely expensive, snotty service but taking dim sum to a new level.

At the bottom end are the standardised offerings of Chinatown with many of the items bought in from neighbourhood supermarkets, sloppy preparation, poor frying and surly service.

Then, there is the middle ground which to this point Royal China has had to itself. Decent quality, reasonably priced and freshly prepared without trying to recreat the wheel. Hence the fact all the branches have queues coming out of the door when it is Dim Sum time.

Well, in terms of mid range Dim Sum, I am pleased to say that there is a new sheriff in town and Royal China is going to have to look to its taro stuffed Laurels.

Open for a mere five months, Pearl Liang is hidden away in the new development of Paddington Central sitting uncomfortably next to a running shop, a couple of chain restaurants and the inevitable Subway franchise.

But, it is well worth seeking out for a quality of cooking that, based on recent visits, is at a much higher level that Royal China.

Turnip cakes, Pork croquettes and taro wrapped crispy prawn showed frying of the highest order. The lack of greasiness and crispness of the batter showed a chef who knows he basics and it was little surprise to hear that he was formerly a chef at The Golden Palace, the long gone but fondly remembered restaurant in Harrow on The Hill.

Steamed dumplings were equally good with even bog standard staples like Shu Mai showing a deft hand.

Three things on their own however, would make the trip across to Paddington worth the journey.

Plates of roasted duck and crispy belly pork were as good as I have had in any Chinese restaurant in London. The pork was fatty with a gloriously crisp crackling that fizzled away like space dust when you took a bite and the duck showed none of the sliminess that is so common in Chinatown.

Best of all, however were the Shanghai soup dumplings. It is so rare to get the real thing in London, but these are the real deal. A dumpling with a bite, just the right amount of liquid, a meaty filling and the required vinegar sauce. To bite the top of these, slurp out the soup with a little of the sauce and then chomp down on the remainder is one of the greatest pleasures in all eating and these hit the spot.

The scary dessert was, in fact, the reasonably benign sweet black bean stuffed sesame balls and brought the bill to a mere £55 which included a 12.5% charge for service so amiable they will be drummed out of the “what the fuck do you want?” Union for unpleasant Chinese restaurant staff. What it did not include was a charge for limitless refills of excellent Pu Er tea which came free, gratis and for nowt. Quite right too.

The main menu is seafood heavy which is no great surprise as the main chef comes from The Mandarin Kitchen in Queensway. There is enough of interest on there to make me think that a revisit in the evening may be worthwhile. For the moment, however, it is just a pleasing thing to be able to report that The Royal China has some serious competition in the Dim Sum stakes.

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Friday, April 13, 2007


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.

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