Stitch and Bear

Food & drink adventures and restaurant reviews from Dublin and Ireland

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

[Review] Fishbone, Clontarf, Dublin 3

It's always nice to have a seafood restaurant actually located near, you know, the sea! Talk about a novel concept but seafood always seems nicer when it's eaten within a hop, skip and jump of the sea. New restaurant Fishbone is located on Dublin's lengthy, sea-hugging Clontarf Road, just opposite the Dollymount Wooden Bridge. While sitting inside, something immediately reminded me of the long-established Bay restaurant, so I wasn't at all surprised to learn that Fishbone comes from the same proprietors.

Fishbone is set back a little bit from the road, with a bright yellow exterior that immediately catches the eye. There's outdoor seating for those lovely sunny days while inside, it's bright and light, with a lovely modern atmosphere, tempered with a slight Moroccan feel. The chalkboard menu is wonderfully attractive, and packed full of daily specials and tempting dishes. As you look out the front window, another chalkboard menu entices you with the list of house cocktails.
Stitch & Bear - Fishbone - Blackboard menu
The blackboard menu at Fishbone
The menu is immediately inviting with interesting takes on many classic dishes and fishy favourites. We ordered reasonably quickly, but then the wait commenced. After a while, a waitress came over and informed us that the oyster delivery had not arrived, but they could do us a half portion for half price. No issues from us, but the wait recommenced. Eventually the starters arrived (at this stage I had finished one glass of the very delicious Weingut H Boch Riesling). Lambay crab cannelloni (€12) was light and tasty, with slices of sweet melon taking the place of the traditional pasta tubes, and enriched with the crunch of tasted hazelnuts. My smaller portion of Oysters Rockefeller (normally €18 for 6) had a lovely crisp topping, with sweet, plump and oh so creamy oysters underneath.
Stitch & Bear - Fishbone - Crab cannelloni
Lambay crab cannelloni with melon and hazelnuts
Stitch & Bear - Fishbone - Oysters Rockefeller
Oysters Rockefeller
Starters cleared away, the waiting game resumed, but thankfully for not as long. Still though, my second glass of Riesling was disappearing fast. His portion of lemon sole (€15) came perfectly grilled, coated in a chimichurri sauce. With one side included, this was superb value for money, as well as being a light and tasty lunch. My Howth lobster roll was underwhelming in the flavour department and at €16, it felt just a little...small. Even a large side portion of fries didn't deter that sensation.
Stitch & Bear - Fishbone - Grilled lemon sole
Lemon sole grilled with chimichurri

Stitch & Bear - Fishbone - Lobster roll
Howth lobster roll with fries
Overall, despite the delays, I really liked Fishbone. They have a creative take on seafood, with many dishes that I want to return to try. The interior is equally vibrant and the whole restaurant just sings with confidence and freshness. It's clear that someone has invested a lot of time and effort into Fishbone. A great new "plaice"!

Fishbone, 324 Clontarf Road, Dublin 3
Tel: +353 (0)1 536 9066
Twitter: @fishbonedublin3
Instagram: @fishboneclontarf

Fishbone Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

[Review] Amuse, Dawson Street, Dublin 2

Exciting food and fine dining are not often common bedfellows. Well, not as often as I'd like anyway. During our recent holiday on the Amalfi Coast in Italy, we dined in two separate one star Michelin restaurants, and came away feeling decidedly "bleh" after one and "meh" after the other. In fact, one of the meals was the singularly most sexist experience I've ever had. I never thought I'd describe a meal in a Michelin restaurant as "sexist", but there you go. You live, you learn.

Which is why I'm glad that a recent visit to Amuse restaurant on Dawson Street showed that the creativity of chef Conor Dempsey has abated not one jot. The awarding of Michelin stars in Ireland has long been a source of great puzzlement; indeed it took several years for the neighbouring Greenhouse restaurant to secure its star. Based on my experiences, I feel that the food at Amuse is at the required standard, but who knows if the Michelin judges agree with me.

Amuse is located at the southern end of Dawson Street and often flies unnoticed, not helped currently by the ongoing Luas works. The dining room is small, but the tables are set well apart. I personally love the lampshades, which match in style the plates and glasses used.  Conor's cooking is described as Franco-Asian, which is a hint as to the types of ingredients he likes to use.

We started with an aperitif of lovely sparkling rose, made with Pinot Noir grapes. Shortly, a selection of various seaweed and rice crisps, with puffed rice, goats cheese and a delicious mussel arrived. These were accompanied by a stunning little bowl of gently sweet coconut and pea soup, with salty pops of trout caviar lurking within. Our final amuse consisted of an intense basil puree with anchovy and warming horseradish.
Amuse bouche of various crisps and toppings
Anchovy, basil and horseradish
Fresh sweet crab meat paired with melon sorbet was a knock out dish, relying mainly on the naturally gentle sweet flavours of the ingredients. This was followed by two sublime pieces of darkly coloured yellowfin tuna sashimi, paired with avocdo and shiro miso. Conor's menus often feature cod, and this time it came with a light buttery sauce flavoured with dashi. Taken together, these three seafood dishes represented some of the best food I've enjoyed this year.
Crab with melon sorbet
Yellowfin tuna with avocado, shiro miso and puffed rice
Atlantic cod with sushi rice, yuzu and dashi butter
A piece of John Stone lamb rump then took our meal on a different path, with intense "black curry" and aubergine. Whereas as all the previous courses had been light and aromatic, this was earthy and rich. After this, a cheese plate felt like the natural conclusion to the meal, which did mean that we skipped over the advertised dessert of dark chocolate, coffee and bergamot. Queue a plate of five different cheeses and a generous portion of crackers, as well as a glass each of Crozes Hermitage and port (manager Yann Giovanelli being unable to decide which one would suit us best).
Rump of John Stone lamb, black curry, garlic and herbs
Selection of farmhouse cheeses
Salted chocolate caramel petits fours
Jellies and chocolates for petits fours
This five course Amuse menu costs €65 each plus €45 for matching wines.There is a lengthier Paris to Toyko menu available for €90, with matching wines for €70. But I'd recommend this only if you have cleared your calendar for the entire night. If you're in more of a hurry, the set menu offers two courses for €34 or three for €39. Cracking value in my opinion for some of the most creative, and well executed fine dining in Dublin.

Amuse, Dawon Street, Dublin 2
Tel: +353 (0)1 639 4889
Twitter: @ AmuseDublin

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

[Wine] Three wines from Curious Wines

Curious Wines is a Cork-based, online wine retailer, with physical stores in both Cork and Naas. Brothers Michael and Matt Kane are the duo behind the name, and I have been a customer for several years now. Last year, I purchased the wine for my sister's wedding from them, mainly due to their straightforward manner, bulk discount and promise to take back any unopened wine. 

I love calling into either of their stores. The wide open space, with stacks and stacks of wine bottles is the adult version of being a kid in a sweet shop. I was home recently and I called into the shop on the Tramore Road to pick up a mixed case of wine. I always end up with a box that's about 50% tried and trusted favourites with the remainder being some new bottles. I had seen via Twitter that a whole heap of new Rhone wines had just arrived in shop, so several bottles of those went into my cart.
Stitch and Bear - Curious Wines - July favourites
Three recent favourites from Curious Wines
So after some tasting and testing, here my three picks from the recent shop. All of these three wines were new to me and this was my first tasting. At some stage, I'll also do a quick post on my perennial favourites from Curious Wines. 

Johnny Q Chardonnay Viognier 2013
South Australia. Normally €14.99, reduced to €11.99 (at time of writing)

Winemaker Johnny Quarisa has done something very nice here with this Chardonnay Viognier blend. the warm climate Chardonnay (86%) has melon and peach flavours, while the addition of Viognier (14%) adds some floral notes such as honeysuckle and apricot. A portion of the wine spends some time in oak after blending which adds a little backbone. I utterly enjoyed this and think it's great value for this slightly bonkers wine.

Sommos Gewurztraminer 2015
Somontano, Spain. €17.49

There were two things I didn't know before drinking this wine. Firstly, that Gewurztraminer was even grown in Spain, and secondly, that Somontano, a small area in Aragon, is the top Gewurztraminer region. (I've also learned that typing Gewurztraminer repeatedly is a challenge to brain-finger coordination). I'll tell you one thing, my geographic knowledge of wine-producing countries has increased by leaps and bounds in recent years. 

Anyway, I had this wine to accompany an Indian takeaway (from the excellent Rasoi in case you want to know), and it was such an excellent choice. Beautifully aromatic, as you'd expect from Gewurz, it's also bright and lively with a long finish. 

Lavau Vacqueryas 2013
Rhone, France. €23.00

This was one of the new Rhone wines which found its way into my basket, along with several of its siblings. I've come to develop a strong liking for Rhone reds, and this didn't disappoint. First off, it's a GSM blend (50% Grenache, 40% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre) with a touch of aging in oak. This wine is vibrant and beautifully dark in the glass with all the usual Rhone notes of dark berries, a touch of violet and a slight minty freshness to round it all out. Tannins are fine and very approachable.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

[Review] Miyazaki, Evergreen Street, Cork

Tanabata is the Japanese festival of the lovers Orihime and Hikoboshi, who are separated by the Milky Way, and can only meet once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. And this year, there was a very special celebration of Tanabata held as part of the 2016 Clonmel Junction Festival. Cork-based chef Takashi Miyazaki would cook a celebratory dinner deep underground in Mitchelstown Cave, limited to just 28 diners. Tickets cost a relatively steep €95 each, with no alcohol to be served (for obvious safety reasons), but even so I jumped at the opportunity to dine in a cave. 

And what a beautiful, serene and stunning night it turned out to be. We arrived at the caves in bright, warm sunshine, only to descend down steep, treacherous steps to the caverns below. The temperature in the main cave remains a steady 12C all year round, which was quite a contrast to outside. Jackets and even blankets were called into service by many diners. We were seated at a long table, generously adorned with candles, potted ferns and beautiful Japanese illustrations. It was utterly beautiful and romantic.

Up above our heads, on a higher platform, Takashi and his team worked to prepare each course, using very limited cooking facilities (as a result of not wishing to damage the cave's internal atmosphere). We started with a glass of umesnu, or plum wine, followed by a variety of beautiful dishes featuring Takaszhi's skilful adept cooking. 
Stitch and Bear - Miyazaki - Tanabata night
The beautiful setting in Mitchelstown Cave

Sunday, July 3, 2016

[Review] Gaillot et Gray, Clanbrassil Street, Dublin 8

Gaillot et Gray has opened in a former bookie's premises on Lower Clanbrassil Street, just a stones throw away from the hot newcomer restaurant Bastible, and next door to the craft beer pub 57 The Headline. Slowly, bit by bit, this area of Dublin is getting gussied up. In my opinion,t he City Council could also greatly help matters by installing some proper pedestrian traffic lights at the stupidly designed Leonard's Corner. 

This French pizzeria and bakery is the next evolution from the retro Citroen van in which husband and wife team Gilles Gaillot and Emma Gray started out. (It's also very handy that their surnames blend together rather well.) The interior is open and sparse, painted in the shade that Tom Doorley has recently christened "Hipster Slate". I like that description very much. It somehow captures the grim earnest determination that oft accompanies such venues. 

There's a big communal table, a scattering of smaller tables, barstools at shallow window shelves and an outdoor terrace. The room is really dominated by the kitchen space, at the heart of which sits the brick, wood-fired pizza oven that is used to churn out the Emmental-based pizzas. No mozzarella here. The kitchen also functions as a working bakery turning out brioche, loaves and pastries, and I spotted a stack of proofing baskets tucked neatly away for the next bake. 
The kitchen at Gaillot et Gray
The kitchen at Gaillot et Gray


Saturday, July 2, 2016

[Wine] July BBQ wines

It's July now, and we continue to BBQ at every opportunity. At a recent BBQ, I opened the following bottles of wine for Mr and Mrs H, to accompany our feast of cowboy steak, lamb and chicken skewers, along with various salads. The intention was to have both light and rich reds, along with a nice refreshing white. 

Yalumba Paradox Shiraz 2012
Marks & Spencer, reduced to clear approx €30 (I can't find the receipt)

This was my "rich" red and it didn't disappoint in any way. I've been steadily more and more impressed by the higher end reds produced by Yalumba. From the Barossa Valley, this wine is inky and velvety smooth. It has deliciously appealing spicy, peppery notes along with delicate dark fruit (think cherries), violets and fine tannins. I like to think of it as the elegant cousin of the more typical Barossa big reds.

Domaine des Corbillieres Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2014
The Corkscrew Warehouse €13.56

This wine hails from a small estate in Oisly, in the Touraine region of the famous Loire Valley. The Barbou family have the distinction of being the first to plant the Sauvignon grape in the region, and it took rather well to the ground. Although not officially organic, the wines are made with natural yeasts and this Sauvignon Blanc is a great crisp example. Lemon in colour, it's herbaceous with gooseberries  and pears. A fantastic summer wine. 

Quinta do Cardo Vinho Tinto 2014
The Corkscrew €15 (cannot find receipt)

I'm slowly becoming a big fan of Portuguese reds and this simple Vinho Tinto is a great introduction. I love the beautiful label but more importantly the contents are organic. It's made from a blend of three traditional grapes, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca and Tinta Roriz. Whereas the Yalumba was dark and inky, this wine is light in texture and colour, showing as ruby in the glass. It has nice acidity, with dark fruit and a slight balsamic spiciness. A great bottle to have on your shelves. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

[Events] Hooked by Aldi in support of Foodcloud

Over the last few years, Aldi Ireland have established themselves as a regular attendee at Taste of Dublin, which they cleverly use to showcase their range of Irish ingredients. Two years ago I dined on a steak feast inside a wooden hut, while last year's meal was enjoyed in a space decorated by Peter Kelly, better known as Weddings by Franc.

This year, the theme was Irish seafood, hence the moniker Hooked by Aldi, and the venue was a fun beach-style hut in bright blue and white. But the real innovation this year came in the form of support for Foodcloud. Established by Iseult and Aoibheann, Foodcloud is a social enterprise that connects businesses (like Aldi) who have surplus food to local charities. In other words, rather than throwing out unwanted or unsold food, Foodcloud ensures that it does not go to waste, but is used instead to feed people who need it.

I genuinely cannot stand food waste, and I feel terrible when I have to bin uneaten lettuce, veggies or meat from our fridge. Not only do I feel bad at the thought of throwing out food, and by default, all the effort that went into growing it, but I also hate the idea of literally chucking money in the bin. I suppose that I'm finally starting to take after my mother in earnest. (I'll be stockpiling jamjars soon). So it's a no brainer that I think Foodcloud is an excellent initiative and one that's well worth supporting.

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