Monday, November 22, 2010

Review of The Rustic Stone

Location: South Great George’s Street, Dublin
Price: ****
Service: ***

Mmm Rating:  3.5 (the food, except for the dessert was spot on: it was other factors which let down this restaurant)

Bucket List:  Nope

We had received a recommendation to try Rustic Stone, a fairly new restaurant operated by Dylan McGrath, who, as far as I know, ran MINT in Ranelagh. Not knowing anything about the place I began to ask around and a few people highlighted the novelty of cooking your own steak to how you like it, and how this is really cool. Personally I think it’s the laziest move I have seen in a long time by a restaurant; get people to pay you €30+ for a steak- and then let them cook it themselves- brilliant business model. We arrived last night (21st November) for dinner at 7pm. No early bird menus available at any time which is a bit disappointing (from our student-and-hence-watching-the-pennies point of view)

First Impressions:
When we arrived to the Venue, we commented on how packed the place was- with a real buzz of ‘hip and trendy’ about it. We were brought to our table and our coats were taken (nice touch). We were then handed the menu (singular, as there was a shortage…hmm). Several minutes later a second menu was made available. The unfortunate thing about using cardboard menus is that while they allow for all the cool graphics and logos they bend, fray and get dirty. Mine had some nice chocolate sauce on the front which I had to wipe in order to see the mains.  When I tried to order some blackcurrant squash to drink (designated driver), I was told in a very straightforward manner that they had no cordial of any kind as it was a healthy eating restaurant…Right.  Ever heard of sugar-free Robinsons/Mi Wadi??

Myself and Ev shared the LARGE bowl of chicken wings between us as a starter. We were brought out two side dishes, for the bones and a bowl of lemon-in-water to cleanse our hands afterwards.  After about 15 minutes they arrived in a very well presented bowl. The only issue was there were 6 wings in it. I was kind of hoping for a bit more than that seeing as it costs €10 for the LARGE bowl. Having said that they were delicious- the sesame seeds and coating were really great. We said that it was a nice change to get wings that were not too spicy or served with the bog standard blue cheese dunking sauce.

Overall, the wings were excellent.

The mains menu comprised mainly of steaks and some fish including Tuna and Halibut.  I have issues with the steaks: apart from the fact that they were overpriced (€30 approx) the chef makes you cook it yourself! This restaurant must be great for those couples who have nothing to talk about except how a stone can cook meat. Personally, I love to cook, but when I go to a restaurant I go to relax, to unwind and get inspiration for culinary dishes of my own. I watched a couple tonight who were literally so transfixed on cooking their €30 steaks that they didn’t speak to each other for 10 minutes! Not on in my book.

Anyways- I ordered The Hamburger: (Very special mince ground from a recipe of difference cuts, char grilled, served with herb mayonnaise and my own tomato and lemon chutney, crispy onions and Irish smoked cheddar in a brioche bun. Served with polenta chips)

Ev ordered The Glamburgers: (For those of you who take smaller bites, I have put all of the above in two buns of sesame seeds and smoked paprika alongside parmesan and black pepper. Served with  polenta chips)

Both the burgers were very tasty- and I would like to stress that the flavours were excellent in the food overall. Ev especially enjoyed her Glamburgers – the two different buns were delicious and it was refreshing to be able to experience a variety of flavours in the same dish, so that one doesn’t get bored, she said. I would have assumed from the menu however that The Hamburger would be more substantial than the Glamburgers, surprisingly it wasn’t. And they both came with four chips. Yes, you read that correctly, FOUR CHIPS!! I hate when restaurants to that.  When a dish says served with chips, I think it is generally assumed that you’d get a fair few... four was a bit ridiculous.

Overall burgers and chips were flavoursome and juicy. The only issue I would have was the portion size of the hamburger for the €17 price tag.

I’m not a big desserts fan and was happy to have a Cappuccino (which I only had to ask for twice). Ev got the Chocolate Soup with Chocolate Mousse: (For all the ladies I’ve made a wonderful chocolate soup and mousse but the best part of it is that it is completely sugar free, and finished with some roasted grated hazelnutWhen Ev saw the dessert menu, the attraction was instant: Chocolate Soup, oh well why not?!  One of the problems was that the chocolate sauce supplied in a jug was barely warm, let alone soup-hot.  Ev was expecting to be blown away by this amazing dessert which had all the taste of a regular dessert but none of the sugar - it was not to be, however.  The chocolate left an odd aftertaste and lacked the immediate buzz one experiences from sugar.  Ev noted that all she could think about was ‘Mockolate’, the chocolate substitute Monica has to road-test in an early episode of Friends!!  She later complained about feeling sick, and to be honest, I tried some myself and was not impressed with the taste of the sugar-free chocolate and cream dish. Very poor for a €10 dessert.  If they are that committed to their ‘healthy eating’ in this restaurant they should just not have a dessert menu instead of serving up dishes that insult the divine name of chocolate!!

Excellent buzz and warmth about the venue, decor was original and intimate. Table was very wobbly though and when we asked could we move, we were told “they are all the same, but I’ll try fix it for you”. The waitress did indeed prop up one corner, but did not solve the problem.

Service was slow to be honest. Starters came out quickly but then the empty bowl was on the table for a good 10 minutes before it was picked up. We were also asked could we hold on to our dirty forks for the mains as there was “a shortage”. The waitress then decided that there was no shortage and took them away replacing them with new ones. From then we had about another 20-25 minute wait for our mains. Dare I say the waitress was a bit too casual and unprofessional for our liking - at the end of the day we are eating in a nice restaurant spending good money and would appreciate a bit of energy and warmth from our waitress.

It could be so much more than 3.5- small, simple things are holding quality fresh flavours and creativity back. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Review of Cobra Tandoori

Location:  Main Street, Kinsale

Price:  **

Service: ****

Type: Indian

Type:  Indian Tandoori

Mmm Rating: 3.5 (Food was good not exceptional, furniture and table cloth left a lot to be desired.)

Matt and I like Indian food.  A lot.  So recently when we felt the craving for poppadums and naan bread in Kinsale, we had to see what the local Indian restaurant had to offer.  After seeing bad reviews online, but receiving a positive recommendation from our hotel receptionist, we didn’t know what to expect from Cobra Tandoori!  Here is what we discovered over the course of our Indian exploration…

First Impressions:
The outside of the restaurant did nothing to ease our suspicions about what we were letting ourselves in for!  But we decided to be brave and go for it!  We were greeted by friendly staff and seated in a cosy spot by the window.  Wasn’t mad about the paper ‘tablecloth’ on the table.  The menu was extensive, however, and an early bird deal was also available.  We ordered from the main menu, not indulging further than a main course.  An Indian restaurant will always be judged, by us, on its poppadums.  And Cobra’s were excellent – fresh and crunchy.  There were plenty of them, with our waiter providing a second helping without a problem.

Main Course:
I’m a bit of a creature of habit when it comes to Indian food, as is Matt, so I went for my usual – Chicken Tikka Masala and Pilau Rice.  I also ordered a plain naan bread to satisfy the carb craving.  Dinner was served promptly and my food was delicious.  The Tikka Masala was creamy and full-flavoured, the rice fluffy.  It didn’t stand out as much as our favourite ever rice from Razmataz, our favourite ever Indian in St Lucia but it was lovely. The naan bread was fresh, warm, not too heavy – perfect.

Matt has the buttered chicken with Pilau rice and his usual Peshawari naan. The food was very good and unlike many Indian dishes the chicken was in plentiful. The naan was sweet and delishious but cut into four slices, I (Matt) personally prefer to have the Naan in one piece and tear and dip as necessary!
It was quiet when we first entered the restaurant but over the course of the hour and a half we were there, about four tables were occupied, which made the place look quite full as it is a small restaurant.  The atmosphere was relaxed, friendly and easygoing.  

In total, we paid €42 for 2 main courses, rice and naan bread.

Check us out on twitter too!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Review of Man Friday

Location: Kinsale, Co. Cork
Price Range: ***
Service: *****
Type: Irish/Contemporary

Bucket List: Certainly
Mmm Rating: 4.0 (the bread was good but unimaginative- and on the table when we arrived- didn’t like that. A draught was present on occasion and the dining area was a bit too homely for an upmarket experience)

The reputation of Man Friday precedes it in Kinsale and beyond; it is arguably the town’s most famous restaurant, and is known for the quality of its food and service.  Furthermore it was also the site where Matt’s parents got engaged!  While visiting the picturesque Cork town last week we heard about their 3-course deal for €25.  Never ones to pass up a special offer, we decided to check Man Friday out for ourselves to see if it lived up to its reputation.

First Impressions:
The restaurant is by the sea, in an area of Kinsale called Scilly.  The first impression for me was one of romantic mystery, as we proceeded under an arch and down stone steps to reach the entrance.  Once we reached the doorway it almost felt like we were entering through the back door of the eatery though!  Inside, a friendly maitre d’ led us to our table.  Considering it was a Monday night in November the place was surprisingly busy.  Our €25 menu featured 4 starters, 5 main courses and 3 desserts, and the main a la carte menu displayed much variety.  We nibbled on tasty brown soda bread while waiting for our starters, trying hard not to succumb to the carb temptations which had triumphed on our recent visit to The Brown Bear in Kildare (a.k.a. the restaurant with the best bread in the world). Oh, and we liked the butter.  It had a Man Friday seal.

Matt got Seafood Chowder for his starter.  We were very impressed with the fact that, despite it not being on the €25 menu, he was able to swap the chowder in without any problems, and at no extra cost.  Matt was very happy with this proper seafood chowder complete with “real chunks of fish,” which wasn’t dependent on lashings of cream or vegetables to bulk it out.  I, unfortunately cannot comment on this fishy delicacy because, as I’m sure you will discover as you get to know me and my weird taste buds, I am not a big fish fan.

I ordered the Chicken Liver Pate, which was served with Cumberland sauce and thin crunchy slices of toasted bread.  It was yummy pate and the sauce complimented it beautifully.  Even the side salad which garnished the dish was tasty.  Starters were a success!

Main Courses:

I got the “Fillet of Chicken Breast stuffed with Spinach, feta cheese and pine nut stuffing served with sun dried tomato fondue.”  And it was amazing.  The flavours and textures blended so flawlessly that I wanted to savour every mouthful.  There was no way I was leaving any of that dinner on the plate (or for Matt)!!

We didn’t order any extra side dishes but four sides came included with our meal – ***winner, winner, chicken dinner!*** These consisted of a bowl of chips, some pureed carrot and parsnip, a tray of fine green beans and a bowl of garlic cheese potatoes.  My mouth is watering just thinking about the spuds, which were a delicious accompaniment to our meals.

From the 3 featured desserts, Matt chose the shortcake meringue nest served with vanilla ice cream and hot raspberry sauce, which was fantastic.  The meringue was, in Matt’s words, perfectly dry and crunchy on the outside and sweet and chewy on the inside – nice.

I ordered the trio of homemade ice creams which came served in a biscuit basket.  They were scrumptious.  Creamy but refreshing, just like an ice-cream should be!

Service was provided with a smile throughout our meal and we were given complimentary homemade sweets after dessert, which was a lovely touch. 

The restaurant was cosy and welcoming – we commented during our meal that it felt like we were having dinner in someone’s living room!  However, we did feel a bit of a draught at a couple of points during the evening (having said that, it was November and the weather was stormy, so it may not be an issue at other times of the year).

We spent €63 on 2 starters, 2 main courses, 2 desserts, a half bottle of wine and Matt’s patented Jameson with a dash of lime.  Bargain!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Brown Bear

Review of The Brown Bear

Location: Two Mile House, Naas, Co. Kildare
Price Range: ****
Service: *****
Type: French/Gourmet/Fancy-Schmancy (But in a good way - they won’t kick you out for wearing jeans!)

Bucket List: Absolutely
Mmm Rating: 4.5 (Could only fault the waitress in accepting our request for more bread which led to our untimely fullness, eliminating all possibility of dessert!)

This is fast becoming a local haunt in horsey country, with superb food, service and atmosphere. We visited TBB on the evening of Saturday 6th November after hearing about their 3 Courses for €28 deal or 2 for €23. While we know this is not the cheapest deal in town - the food, the food & THE FOOD.

We have a thing about bread, thankfully so do our friends at the Brown Bear. After ordering our starters and mains our waitress brought over a basket laden with CARB-DELIGHTS (all homemade that day) including tomato and rosemary bread, parmesan rolls, thin French stick, and a few seedy, wholemeal types for those healthy people...cannot recommend highly enough the tomato and rosemary and getting seconds from the waitress!

Ev started with the pumpkin soup with chestnut gnocchi (very seasonal) which was simply delicious, just the right portion size considering the huge main course to follow.  Although Ev never had “pumpkin-soup” before and was sceptical about whether she would like it or not, it was smooth, rich and warming and she thoroughly enjoyed it.
I (Matt) had the home-reared Pork with lots of tasty sauces and flavours. Can’t remember all the little garnishes however it was certainly tasty. (On a note- the pigs are fed with the leftovers from the restaurant, leading to their happy existenceJ )

Main Courses:
We were both boring and unadventurous and went for the Herefordshire beef which was served in rich red wine gravy with onions and carrots accompanying. We also ordered Colcannon and green beans on the side- The colcannon is exceptional, best I’ve ever had. It is all the things you want in a colcannon - a hearty, bacon-y, cheesy, CARB-DELIGHT! The green beans were well seasoned, flavoursome and al-dente.
The Beef was very soft and tender and surprisingly filling (for people who’d be known for finishing their dinners as kids – and adults) and neither were able to finish (SHOCK HORROR!)

While we normally always at least look at the dessert menu, we were quite stuffed from the mains, sides and THE BREAD and didn’t indulge any further. However from dining here on previous occasions we can testify to the stand-out quality of the innovative desserts on offer at this restaurant.

As always the staff, Sheila, Eugene, Jean and the chef Fred were exemplary. Jean was attentive while waiting on our table, addressed us by name and thanked us profusely for our custom.

The room is dark (as in mood-enhancing, romantic dark...not didn’t pay ESB dark) filled with old world style furniture which is classy and comfortable. It holds with it a level of character normally reserved for long established eateries such as Roleys. Both the restaurant and bar are homely and welcoming, a surprising trait to discover in a business only opened a year.

We paid €67 total for Starters, Mains, Side Dishes, a glass of wine, bottle of water and my patented Jameson with a dash of lime