There’s a new hottest spot in Dublin for brunch and, unfairly, it’s in Ranelagh. Don’t they have enough ‘top’ things already? With Dillinger’s for top notch American style dining, Michie Sushi for the only show in town sushi-wise, Kinara Kitchen for the best casual Indian and Pakistani cooking you’ll find, The Butcher Grill for meat feasts, La Bodega for authentic tapas, Redmond’s for wine and beer, and Pinocchio for Italian wine and grazing at its most laid-back – can’t help feeling a little bitter about this Dublin 6 food haven becoming more haven-ey.
Chef's Signature - David Hurley is Head Chef in Gregan's Castle in the Burren in County Clare, on the Wild Atlantic Way. His singular and mature philosophy is beautifully realised in a classic dish of Lemon and Olive Oil Curd Tart with Blackcurrant, Lemon, Celery and Thyme Sorbet.
“I wasn’t expecting this to be the meal of the year”, said the man at the adjoining table to ours, in the dining room of Gregan’s Castle. “But it’s definitely the meal of the year”, he said again, before relegating a Dublin restaurant hotshot to second position in his own private pecking order of 2014.
Many others will agree with him after they have finished eating David Hurley’s cooking at Gregan’s. Mr Hurley has arrived, and he’s done it in an unusual – and unfashionable – way: he’s arrived slowly.
When Gerry McMahon's Il Vicolo restaurant closed in Galway city, just on the eve of the city's food festival a few months back, there was a true sense of loss.
It wasn't just that Il Vicolo served excellent food and wines, and that they were served by a truly cool team. No, what people regretted was the passing of one of those restaurants that had achieved cult status. Il Vicolo was like a secret, a clubby, intimate room where time stood still as soon as you walked in. It wasn't just good: it was cult.
Cockagee Keeved. Carson's Crisp. Highbank Medieval. Dan Kelly's Small Batch. Tempted Dry. Ballyhook Flyer. Long Meadow Medium. Dovehill Reserve. Kilmegan Infused. Dalliance. Con's Medium.
Let's be clear about what is going on here. Whatever else the small collective of Ireland's craft cider makers achieve in their work – riches beyond imagining; the adoration of the nation; improved cross-border relations; etc; etc – they have already achieved a shift in the language we use to describe drinks.
Recently a Chinese waitress in County Cork remarked on how odd it was to see our family using chopsticks: she herself had never felt the need to learn. Chinese food in the country in Ireland is always fairly tragic and it's scary to think that there are a generation of Chinese young people growing up with even less of an idea of their national cuisine than even we have.
Sham Hanifa's Chef Sham Basil Pesto didn't even last an hour in our house. The sweet chilli sauce lasted longer, but we think that was because Number 3 child hid it from the others in order to have it for his noodles. Number 1 child tore into the sundried tomato paste and the tomato chilli chutney. They weren't quite sure what to do with the balsamic jelly, so it's survived a bit longer. Otherwise, however, Chef Sham's sauces are not for long of this earth.
On June 4th, in Kinsale, West Cork, John and Sally McKenna launch Where to Eat and Stay on the Wild Atlantic Way, the first-ever book on the culinary treasures to be discovered on the WAW, all the way from the Foyle Bridge in Derry to Kinsale in West Cork.
Where to Eat and Stay on the Wild Atlantic Way features 350 entries, starting with the brilliant Pyke'n’Pommes food cart, in the shadow of the Foyle Bridge, and ending up with the piscine brilliance of Martin Shanahan’s cooking in Fishy Fishy in Kinsale.
Okay, let's start by maxing out: Matthew Strefford of Moy House, just outside Lahinch in County Clare, cooks a dish of St. Tola goat's cheese tortellini, served with pine nuts, raisins and brown butter. After I had finished it, I wrote in my notebook: “Tortellini may be the best pasta dish I have had in Ireland.”
Yeah, that good. And not only good, but unusual, because the pasta is actually made with flour and potato, a riff on a Neil Perry signature dish, which Mr Strefford has borrowed from his time cooking with Mr Perry in Rockpool, in Australia.
The Celtic Cook-Off – the annual clash of the culinary titans from the Celtic regions of Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Brittany, Cornwall and Isle of Man – took place this year for the first time outside West Cork. Instead, the six challengers voyaged to the picturesque home of Loch Fyne Oysters in Argyll, Scotland, to cook-off against one another, against the clock and under the influence of copious quantities of Guinness and whisky.