Whilst Dublin leads the field in the number of new restaurant openings, it hasn’t exactly been quiet in my own part of the world, so now seems as good a time as any to offer a roundup of what’s going on in the dining scene in Waterford.
MoMo on Patrick Street has been one of the great new arrivals in Waterford city and their sharp focus on good ingredients, allied to a smart and snappy menu, have made this restaurant a firm favourite. Halfway through their first year their head chef Ronan Joy moved on to a new venture - an event that could easily have thrown them off track - but it doesn’t seem to have caused anything but the briefest blip in their upward trajectory. JP Dubois moved across the river from the stylish Athenaeum Hotel to take up the reins in the kitchen and recent experience suggests a very safe pair of hands.
If you do get to MoMo, you will get to sample the absolutely superb bread baked by Sarah Richardson of SeaGull Bakery in Tramore. Sarah’s beautiful sourdough is as fine an expression of the art of bread making as I’ve ever found and is also available at Patrick Murphy’s Larder on The Quay in Waterford, as well as the Tramore Farmer’s Market every Sunday morning. See their website for more details and some stunning photos of this gorgeous bread (which is also used by The Tannery in Dungarvan).
Tramore also features as the new home for the previously mentioned Ronan Joy as his new venture, Source, has opened on Queens Street. Given Ronan’s experience (ex Sage, Midleton) this restaurant should be a great addition to Tramore but early visits suggest there’s still some work to do to do get everything running smoothly. A full review of Source will follow in the New Year.
Back in Waterford City, long-time McKenna’s Guides favourite Bodega on John Street has added a sister restaurant, Burzza, right next door to the mother ship, specialising in Burgers and Pizza (geddit?). A wood fired oven and some really fine Italian flour make for lovely thin based pizzas with a variety of inventive toppings, and the beef for the burgers comes from Tom Kearney's superb butchers just down the street. This is a restaurant that has been busy since the day it opened and has needed almost no fine tuning at all – a great validation for the experienced Cormac Cronin and his head chef Jamie Dowling.
If pizza is your thing but you prefer your base a little thicker you could pop a few doors up from Burzza to try Gino’s at the Applemarket – probably Waterford’s favourite pizzeria. Open since 1987, the Dunne family’s friendly and reliable restaurant continues to be as popular as ever. I’ll take a little aside here to share a childhood memory: my father was a hard working motor mechanic and every Friday night, for many years, he marked the end of his working week by treating himself to some takeaway chicken and chips from a legendary takeaway on Patrick Street in Waterford called The Emerald Isle. Each week this mahogany encrusted chicken breast would arrive on the kitchen table and my brothers and I could only look on enviously as delicious moist chicken was released from its dark cocoon of batter. It was not uncommon for the queues in The Emerald Isle to stretch down the street. The link in this story is that The Emerald Isle was also owned by the Dunne’s, so the family are no strangers to knowing what makes for happy customers.
Gino’s doesn’t try to reinvent the pizza, it just takes really good dough that they make themselves and adds on a good tomato base and tried and trusted toppings. What sets this pizzeria apart from others, however, is the family’s home-made ice cream, particularly the hazelnut flavour. Made using IGP certified blonde Italian hazelnuts that the family bring in directly from a farmer in Piedmont, it is an ice cream of exceptional smoothness and flavour. A good dollop of their own-recipe chocolate sauce on top sends this simple combination to the stratosphere. The ice cream (and the other flavours aren’t too bad either!) and sauce are now sold through Ardkeen Stores and selected Supervalus, and Gino’s also has a branch on Winthrop Street in Cork City.
I’ve had some great food in LoKo at the Ardkeen Centre during the year and head chef David Larkin has been bringing his own style of food much more to the fore at this large restaurant. Gone is the overwhelming menu, replaced by a much more concise expression of the chef’s vision for his food. The already strong team at LoKo has been bolstered by the arrival of Tom Spruce from the kitchens of Campagne in Kilkenny and it should be interesting to see the continued development of this funky restaurant.
Speaking of development, it’s not often that a new opening announces that it will be five years before you can taste its finished product. But that’s how it is in the whiskey business. Former managing director of Bruichladdich, Mark Ryenier, bought the old (but very new) Guinness Brewery along the quayside in Waterford in 2014 and converted it to a distillery. As I write this piece the team at Waterford Whiskey are just a few hours away from the very first run of their single malt and from there it’s into oak barrels for five years. Given Mr Reynier’s reputation there is little doubt that the wait will be worth it.
Finally, let's talk about coffee! In a tiny shop on Georges Street, Neill White and George McDonald brought 3FE coffee and a very clear idea of what they wanted to do; and what they wanted to do was serve really good coffee, every day, and that's exactly what they're doing in Arch Coffee.
Aided by a Simonelli Mythos grinder - which heats the bean as it grinds - and a rotating selection of single estate beans, the coffee from Arch is truly exceptional. As it happens, George is a dab hand at the baking so there's always a nice brownie or coconut slice to have with your flat white, and recently they have added savouries from the fantastic people at FlavourHaus, who make probably the nicest rolls and salads you can get. But you'll have to get there early as the rolls and salads sell out very quickly. The vast array of loyalty cards stored behind the counter in Arch give an idea of just how important this fantastic spot has become to its daily regulars.