Stitch and Bear

Food & drink adventures and restaurant reviews from Dublin and Ireland

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Sunday, January 15, 2017

[Review] The Green Hen, Exchequer Street, Dublin 2

When you eat out a lot, it means that you tend to return to certain restaurants on a regular basis. A list of favourite spots develops over time, with new restaurants being added once they've proven their consistency. The reverse is also true, and I occasionally bid a sad farewell to a once-favourite that has slipped down the list, perhaps due to the departure of a chef, or a change in approach. 

One venue that has been on my favourites list for a long time now is The Green Hen on Exchequer Street. The reason it's on my list is three fold. It has French style food, it offers a great value set lunch menu, and finally, lunch is available on Saturday and Sunday (instead of being forced into brunch as is the case in so many spots now). 

The Green Hen has a classic French bistro vibe with a heavy red curtain buffering those inside from the cold outside. Inside, the brightness is dialled down, making for a secluded spot in the busy middle of town. A beautiful bar decorated with a large vase of fresh flowers, dark wood panelling and parquet floors complete the atmosphere. 
Stitch & Bear - The Green Hen - Wild game terrine
Wild game terrine with spiced chutney, crumb and toasted sourdough

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Thursday, January 5, 2017

[Review] Ember, Milltown, Dublin 6

I was intrigued when I heard about a new restaurant opening in Milltown. Oddly though, my major source of puzzlement was not about the venue itself, but trying to figure out where "Milltown Shopping Centre" was located. After a few seconds, it clicked with me that this was the fanciful name for the stretch of  local shops and services that are located outside the entrance to Mount Saint Annes. Fair enough, I'm going to rename Chez Cronin to Chateau Cronin. 

Ember is the latest in a very welcome series of local restaurants and bistros that are opening up around the suburbs. As it happens, it's a few minutes brisk walk from my house and is a very welcome alternative to schlepping around for a taxi to make me into town. Owner and chef Greg O'Mahony brings his fine dining credentials to bear in this very stylish venue. The interior is extremely smart and luxurious and will only get better over time as the parquet floor picks up some lustre and the red leather acquires a patina imparted by well-fed backsides. 
Stitch & Bear - Ember - Interior
The elegant interior at Ember

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Saturday, December 3, 2016

[Review] Hartwood, Tulum, Mexico

I've fallen in love with Mexico. Beautiful white soft beaches, mysterious Mayan ruins and azure warm seas. What's not to love? Well, if you're staying in an all-inclusive resort, probably the food.

We spent 10 days recently south of Cancun on a blissful holiday. Our first stay was at the Bahia Principe Sian Ka'an, which is the adults only, luxury section of a sprawling resort. It was set amidst the jungle, with easy access to a glorious beach and it was wonderful. We then spent a few days at the lively Hard Rock Cancun, where we were treated like royalty. In both cases, I cannot complain in any way about the quantity or quality of the food we ate. But in both cases, the resort restaurants were out of touch with modern dining and overwhelmingly felt like bland American suburbia. I suppose that's hardly surprising given that American tourists are probably the single largest tourist segment in Mexico. But I was personally disappointed that the food wasn't more modern and more importantly, reflective of Mexico itself. Genuinely, I could have been in any country in the world if all I had to judge on was the food. 

One night however, we did leave the seclusion of our resort bubble, and we took a taxi down the road to the town of Tulum, to the internationally acclaimed Hartwood restaurant. And there, next to the sea, under the night sky, we finally got to see something real, something unique and something a little bit special.
Stitch & Bear - Hartwood - Dining outdoors
Dining outdoors at Hartwood

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

[Review] Craft, Harold's Cross, Dublin 6W

Saturday lunchtime found us driving over towards Harold's Cross so as to allow me to pick up my mobile phone which I had "forgotten" in a pub on Friday night. In other words, I might have been a bit oiled, and making sure that I had my mobile phone with me when leaving wasn't top of the list of priorities. (BTW, if you haven't checked out the great cocktails in MVP, then you really should. Just don't forget your phone!)

The upside of this unplanned trip was that I finally had an easy opportunity to visit Craft bistro for lunch. Ever increasing rent costs mean that only venues with big backing are opening in the city centre, with other smaller ventures being pushed outwards where rents are cheaper. Thankfully, this is to be benefit of many neighbourhoods, giving the opportunity for some seriously good dining without the trek into town. Think Forest & Marcy on Leeson Street, or newly starred Heron & Grey in Blackrock. In the case of Craft, chef Phil Yeung, formerly of Bang Cafe and Town Bar & Grill is the man with the plan. 
Stitch & Bear - Craft - Torched mackerel
Torched mackerel
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Friday, November 11, 2016

[Review] Rosa Madre, Temple Bar, Dublin 2

Italian food is one of those things that pleases all, which can delight immensely, yet rarely delights in its common Irish form. An Italian restaurant is usually the safe, crowd-pleaser option, where even people who like "shteak and veg" will be satisfied. We have a huge amount of Italian restaurants in Dublin and in Ireland, but only a handful standout as offering something a bit more special. Especially when it comes to restaurants in the depths of Temple Bar, the most tourist-friendly spot in the country. 

Temple Bar isn't the immediate location that springs to mind when you're looking for good food. However, locals know that some gems do lurk in amidst all the cobblestones and diddle-eye music.  When you think of Italian food in Temple Bar, you would not be blamed for thinking of takeaway pizza slices. But bright lights can shine in the dimmest of corners, and Rosa Made on Crow Street is one such spot.  
Stitch & Bear - Rosa Madre - Irish oysters
Half a dozen Irish oysters

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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

[Review] Lt. Cornelis, Amsterdam

I know my way around Amsterdam quite well at this stage, but my curiousity around Dutch food has rarely ventured further afield than stroopwafel, oliebollen and vlaamse frites (aka caramel wafer biscuits, doughnuts and Dutch fries). I've tried rookworst (sausage) and stamppot (stew) and of course, I've eaten loads of aged Dutch Gouda. But to be honest, my view on Dutch cuisine has been akin to that of traditional Irish food. In other words, comforting, homely and not very exciting. 

However, I think I've finally found a restaurant that serves a truly modern take on Dutch cuisine. And to make things even better, it's located right in the middle of town, in a beautiful centuries-old  typical Dutch building. Replicas of classic Dutch paintings adorn the walls, but look closely as some paintings are actually moving, giving you a very bizarre sensation that someone is watching. Blue and white classic Dutch Delft plates add brightness, yet maintain the Dutch theme.
Stitch & Bear - Lt Cornelis - Interior
Interior view at Lt. Cornelis
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Sunday, October 23, 2016

[Wine] 4 German rieslings to try

Riesling is one of my absolute favourite wines. Wines made from this incredibly aromatic grape can run the full gamut of taste from steely and flinty, passing through dry fruit crispness and ending up at luscious honeyed sweetness. You'll even get an occasional bang of petrol/diesel which is actually incredibly addictive. It's also a fantastic wine to pair with food, particularly spicy or Asian dishes. 

But how do you navigate Riesling and find the wine that you want, when there is such a choice and  variety of styles to choose from? The ever reliable Germans have produced a detailed and structure system for labelling and grading their Rieslings, and while it's a lot to remember, it's worth making a few mental notes for the next time you're facing a wall of Rieslings. Obviously riesling is grown outside of Germany, with special mention for Alsace in France and Clare Valley in Australia, but to be honest, it's the Germans who have really embraced it.
Stitch and Bear - German rieslings to try

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