Lisburn is quiet, but The Square is buzzing. "It's been mad, right from this morning" says the waitress when I mention just how manic it is. "We’ll close from three to five to set up for the evening, and then it will be mad again."
Michael Deane has a gift for knowing just what to put on the plate, an ability to understand just what a dish needs. Whether it be a Malai curry, a jerk chicken or a dish of fish and chips, the accompaniments and garnishes will be totally appropriate for the dish.
‘The Nest you’re staying in is it? We call that a ‘Poshtel!’. That was the uncomplicated wisdom of our friend Sorcha and her nine year old nephew when I mentioned to them that I was on a journey to check out the Nest, in Salthill, Galway.
Craft has craft: there’s no question about that when it comes to Phil Yeung’s cooking, in his simple and pretty – and busy – room up in Harold’s Cross.
But Craft also offers culinary character, as well as culinary craft. Mr Yeung works hard at his dishes, and you can see the calling of a craftsman in the detail – the plate-decorating meringue with white chocolate and grilled peaches; the pickled walnuts with Young Buck arancini; the Kelly green avocado pureé with crab toasts; the mosaic of flavours embedded in a beautiful dish of oxtail with fresh pasta.
Knox is all about levels.
The stellar level of the cooking means that the decibel level on any given Friday night is going to be at level 11. This is one of the most happening rooms in the North West, and everyone in here seems to be celebrating something.
And the seriousness of the food offer means that the level that the queue reaches out of the door and down O’Connell Street in Sligo on any given lunchtime is going to be serious.
A Dublin estate agent would be pushed to their limits to find the acceptable word to describe the scale of the kitchen in La Dolce Vita, on Cow’s Lane in Temple Bar.
The kitchen is smaller than petite. Micro kitchen? Nano kitchen? Shoe-horned kitchen? Shrunken galley kitchen? Honey, I shrunk the kitchen kitchen?
And yet, the food that comes out of that kitchen is big, bold and brassy with flavour, the perfect food to match with the sublime wines that Thibaud Harang and Enrico Fantasia have gathered for their venture.
Sunday morning, and the good people of Blackrock are patiently waiting for their Americanos, their flat whites, their cappuccinos.
There is a whole bunch of them, folk of all ages, and what is remarkable is their calmness. They wait, with good grace, because they know that the prize is worth it, and the prize is a cup of Bear Market’s best: that narcotic elixir of caffeine that is wrapped up in your favourite style of coffee.
Galway’s Wa Café are upping the game, in terms of a new interior design and their new Wild Atlantic Way sushi board, and the result is that it’s no surprise that Wa understand how to run a humble – yet formidable – home for Japanese food. Yoshimi Hayakawa’s ‘pocket rocket’ approach to Japanese food is what truly defines an authentic way of eating.
In Leitrim’s Grassroots Café, you can take a Big Pink walk in the garden, or dive into a Rockpool. You can scoot to Tuscany courtesy of a white bean and vegetable soup, or you can do an Ottolenghi riff with a Med-crazed aubergine and cherry tomato tart with peaches and Velvet Cloud yogurt.
Hang on: we aren’t done yet. Let’s fuse Asia and the Caribbean with a molasses tart with wasabi and maple ice cream, or get all Midlands with 16-hour braised beef with Meadbh Rua jus. And let’s close with the elegant modernism of polenta cake with strawberry and pink peppercorn sorbet.
Here is Monday’s menu:
ful; cicoria, anchovy & lemon; kohlrabi tonnato; nduja rolls with ricotta; red endive, guanciale and ricotta salata; panelle; lamb heart and curry leaf yogurt.
So, where are we? In Relae, Copenhagen? In Aska, New York? In The Dairy, in London’s Clapham? In Bar Tartine, San Francisco?
Nope. We are in Dublin. We are on Kevin Street. We are in a room with two tables, which is squeezed under a block of Corporation flats. We are in Assassination Custard, a thoroughly unlikely name for a thoroughly unlikely restaurant in a thoroughly unlikely place.