The answer is that we have just emerged from the annual tunnel that is the writing and finishing of the annual Bridgestone 100 Best Guides, the 100 Best Restaurants in Ireland 2009 and the 100 Best Places to Stay in Ireland 2009.
200 new entries, written from scratch. Some guides just tweak what they wrote last year – or maybe even three or five years ago – but we don't do that. So, you go into the tunnel, and you write 200 new entries, and when they are finished, then you emerge back in to the real world.
And now they are finished, and they will be in the shops just before Xmas. Lots of superb new places, both restaurants and places to stay.
So the blog is back. And let's start with a newcomer: here is Eamon Barrett on Wexford's Le Tire Bouchon, opened a couple of months ago in the centre of Wexford town by Kevin and Arnaud, both formerly of Dunbrody House. Kevin cooks, Arnaud takes care of f-o-h. Take it away Eamon...
Arnaud Clement and Kevin Carley have created a lovey room above The Sky and the Ground on South Main Street, in Wexford: old wooden wine cases make up the bar and there is a nice rustic feel to the place. Service is friendly and effecient, just Arnaud and one good waiter man the floor.
From the starters I could have had poached pear and blue cheese salad, or Black pudding stuffed with Toulouse sausage with a cognac and green peppercorn sauce, or Breast of Pigeon with wilted spinach and a beetroot coulis. In the end I went for pea soup, which had a lovely freshness to it and hadn't been blitzed too smoothly.
Ju, in an attempt to ignore the fact that there is a recession on, ordered pan fried foie gras with toasted brioche and fig chutney. It's a difficult ingredient to work with but they made a good job of it.
For mains I went for supreme of chicken stuffed with a chorizo and lardon farce, and Ju went for lobster with a cognac and butter sauce. In a somewhat unnecessary display, the live lobster is brought to the table and a little speech is given about how the restaurant only uses the freshest ingredients 'and we don't use frozen lobster, unlike some other establishments'. Ohhhkaayyy.
Service is a little slow but anyway the food eventually arrives. The retro content of the menu is carried through to presentation as everything has a very 70's look to it including garnished lemon (as opposed to a lemon garnish, if you follow) on the side of the plate of the lobster, which, having been split down the centre for cooking has been almost reassembled on the plate to form a kind of odd tableau grotesque. Not that it affects the flavour, which is very good.
My own chicken is quite tasty, some of the skin having been left on and the chorizo is a good partner. It comes atop a dollop of mash and then the sides are a little bowl of new potatos and some mixed veg - a bit too al dente but good quality.
We debated dessert but in the end I ordered a chocolate and orange torte. Oranges were a kind of theme actually. One of the starters featured oranges (scallops) and then no less than three of the desserts: A blood orange souffle, my torte, and crepes suzette, flambed at the table. Sadly, the torte was rather poor.
Lovely place, good service and cooking which is good. Total bill for the two of us: 2 x starters, 2 x mains, 1 x dessert, 2 x coffee, 1 x glass of sancerre, 1 x large bottle of still water: €98.50