Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Dunne & Crescenzi - South Frederick Street, Dublin 2

Dunne & Crescenzi has been around a long time now (well since 1999) and is a firm establishment on the Dublin dining scene. They've opened up various restaurants around the city and suburbs (see here for a previous review of L'Officina in Kildare Village) but we called to the well established South Frederick Street last Saturday.

Most people were basking outside on the footpath tables, but we opted for a table inside in the shade. I went for the tagliere del casa, a mixed platter of excellent quality cheese and meats, accompanied by honey, marmalade, some bread and rocket leaves (E13). He went for one of the specials, oriechette pasta with cream spinach sauce, bacon and parmesan (E14). I've never found D&C to be cheap, but the quality of food there is always excellent. You'd almost swear you were in Italy.

With one large bottle of sparkling water (E4), one espresso (E1.50) and one cappucino (E2.50) the total came to E35. BTW, D&C are supposed to have the best cappucino in Dublin (as noted by the Irish Times) and this one was damn good.

Dunne & Crescenzi, 14 - 16 South Frederick Street, Dublin 2. 01 - 677 3815

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Teddy Bear Protest for Our Lady's Hospital Crumlin

I was outside Dail Eireann on Saturday to lend my support to the Campaign Against Cutbacks in Crumlin and took a few snaps. It's one of the few causes that I'm happy to support, given that I spent some time in Crumlin myself as a child.

Senator David Norris was happy to lend his support to the cause.


Blood: The Last Vampire

Blood is Chris Nahon's remake of the classic 48 minute 2000 anime film. Gianna Jun plays Saya, a half-demon whose mission is to kill 'bloodsuckers', but in particular she wants Onigen, the demon who killed her father. Blessed (or cursed) with the gift of immortality, she is sent by the Council to infiltrate a high school on an American army base in post WWII Japan. Our first hint of the action to come is when she kills two high school vampires who are tying to kill Alice, the base commander's daughter.

An unlikely coalition is formed between Saya and Alice. When Saya reveals that she suffers from an identity crisis (demon or human??) it is Alice who assures her of her humanity. When the final showdown rolls around, this is what Saya needs to remember.

Given that we've had a lot of good vampire films lately, it's disappointing to see the tired special effects in this one. Even though we've had our fill of 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Tiger' fight scenes, the martial arts sequences in this film are pretty decent and Gianna turns in a quietly sexual performance (wearing a school girl's uniform throughout).

There are a lot of gaps in the story, and there is a decided un-ending to the film. I presume that this will make sense to followers of the original anime, but it's definitely unsatisying in a film. I'd hazard to guess that this is a film for those who are already fans.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Transformers 2 rates at solid 20% over at Rotten Tomatoes - which is a pretty bad rating. Universally, critics are saying that it's dull and unintelligent, but I beg to differ.

I think that Transformers 2, while not as good as the original, is no slouch and is reasonably entertaining. It rips along at a fair old pace, and as usual, the transformer special effects are pretty good. It is much more "cartoony" than the first film, and the infectious humour of the first film is lessened here. Still though, I've seen a lot worse and overall, really enjoyed myself.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Marc Jacobs Gardenia Splash

While browsing BT's sale today, I noticed that they are selling large (300 ml) bottles of Marc Jacobs Gardenia Splash (and FigSplash) for E33.50 (50% off). Considering the size of the bottle, this seems like excellent value. The scent is subtle and gentle.

Miu Miu Wedges

I've had a stockpile of Brown Thomas vouchers hanging around for a while now, but until today I couldn't find something that I was happy to spend them on. I could have gradually spent them on MAC cosmetics, which would be nice, but I really wanted to buy a handbag or shoes.

So I hit the BT sale today around 10.30am (it had started at 8am). It was actually much quieter than I expected, with the exception of the 1 million chinese women ravaging the D&G and Gucci handbag section. Well, I exaggerate slightly, but there was a lot of them there.

I've been thinking about a new pair of wedges for a while and I got lucky upstairs in the Shoe Rooms. These lovely yet comfortable gold wedges were reduced from E450 to E225. Now even at E225 I think that they're still expensive, but my vouchers helped ease that pain somewhat.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Silent Teddy Bear Protest

I was a patient in Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin back in 1989. I had open-heart surgery to repair a birth defect and I will never forget the wonderful atmosphere fostered in the hospital. It was a friendly, vibrant place (wonderfully progressive for the late 1980s) and the staff did an amazing job.

I'm so disappointed to hear about all the recent plans to cutback services at the hospital, so I was interested to read about a Silent Protest planned at Leinster House for Saturday and Sunday. The official protest is at midday, and visitors are being asked to leave a teddy bear with the name of an affected child at the gate to Leinster House.

"We are having a silent protest at The Dail, Kildare st entrance,on Saturday and
Sunday. All we ask is that you bring a Teddy Bear to represent each of your
children or if you are not a parent just bring along a teddy.If you can stick a
sticker with the child's name on it-all the better.There is a free Family day on
both days at The Oireachtas.We are hoping for thousands of teddy bears to get
the visual effect we want.We want everyone in Ireland to be aware of the
cutbacks in Crumlin and to realise they could affect any of us at any time.You
can drop the teddy on your way in and where possible if the children can place
the teddy that will be best."
I'll be there on Saturday. This means something to me, having been a patient there. I hope that it means something to you too. Facebook page link.


Long Exposure Photos

This photo is one of a highly interesting collection from Maciej Zapiór taken in the camera obscura style using an aluminium can. Each photo was left exposed for a period of 1 - 6 months. Each of those bright lines represents the path of the sun as it travelled across the sky on fine days. Blank spaces mean that the day was cloudy.
The top lines present the solar path on the day of the summer solstice while the lowest is from the winter solstice. Fascinating.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Bad Value at the Stout Bar, Rathmines

The Stout Bar has recently opened where the Rathmines Inn was previously located. We stopped in there last Friday night for a refreshing beverage and to check it out. To be honest, it's a big empty shed with the ubiquitous dark wood of the Celtic tiger and the lack of atmosphere.

I got a bit of a surprise when I was charged E5.80 for a pint bottle of Bulmer's Pear. I don't know if the recent Bulmer's price reduction covers the Pear range but even so, E5.80 is just too much.

Thornton's, St Stephen's Green, Dublin

Thornton's restaurant has been on my wishlist for ... well, forever to be honest. But I never seemd to have the right combination of circumstances to visit. But I sorted that last Saturday when I booked a birthday lunch for himself (handily taking advantage of the 3-course lunch menu for E25).

First thing, you have to climb a lot of stairs to get to Thornton's. It's located on the second floor of the Fitzwilliam Hotel and I imagine a fair few of the heavier diners arrive a little out of breath. Open the heavy door and you enter a refined oasis of calm, with heavy carpets, dark oyster walls, white linen, silver and crystal.

We were showed to a table set for two located in the alcove to the rear of the restaurant. We did wonder why we could not have gotten a table located towards the front window, but later we were glad of the peace offered by the alcove when kids started running around.

The menu is short, two choices per course, so we went for one of everything, along with a side order of the pommes mousseline (basically mash). The lightly smoked John Dory with brunoise vegetables and gazpacho juice was simply stunning. A glass bowl arrived at the table filled with swirling smoke and capped with a glass cone of gazpacho. When the waiter lifted off the cone, the fragrant smoke escaped, leaving behind some pieces of tasty and light John Dory in a creamy sauce. This dish is clearly a showstopper and tastes divine. The other starter of slowly roasted beetroot with baby salad leaves and verjus grape dressing was a disappointment however. Slices of beetroot topped with diced beetroot were flavourless. The accompanying salad was the tastiest thing on the plate with tangy leaves and dressing.

The loin of rabbit with carrot puree, baby herbs and Valrhona salad was hit and miss. There was a smeared daube of carrot puree (if you watch professional masterchef you'll know what I mean) with several pieces of rabbit. Loin and confit of rabbit were meaty and tasty while two ribs constituted a tiny rack of rabbit. The Valrhona sauce was dark, intense and meatily flavoured. However, I didn't like the way the chocolate coated my mouth, sitting on the roof and covering the flavours to follow. A cold slice of rabbit terrine (made from legs etc) accompanied the dish but featured too much aspic and no real flavouring.

The fillet of black sole, parmesan crust, shellfish tortellini (surely they mean tortellino as there was only one?), lemon confit and parsley puree was beautifully executed and constructed. Perfect fish was elevated by the addition of the lemon confit and the dark green parsely sauce provided a strong, balancing flavour.

Lemon tart with cassis sorbet turned out to feature two very strong and biting flavours - possibly two strong to be together. An extremely tangy lemon tart with a lemon-curd like consistency was refreshing after the meal, but fought with the equally tangy cassis corbet for dominance on the plate. The other dessert, white opera chocolate mousse with new season raspberries turned out to be less white-chocolately than I feared. It was more like a pannacotta in consistency, bordering on ice-cream like in the middle. Absolutely delicious, and fresh raspberries stuffed with a creme patisserie substance were a lovely addition.

Delicious coffee finished the meal and we also had two large bottles of sparking water throughout. These additions were very much on the steep side - E3.50 for a coffee and E7 for a bottle of water (compared to approx E4 in most other restaurants). Total cost for our meal came to E78.

Overall, I loved the food at Thornton's especially the fish. Some dishes just weren't to my personal taste, but the level of skill and preparation at the restaurant is just amazing. Every dish featured many layers and tastes, all of which must take a serious amount of time to prepare. At E25 for lunch, Thornton's is within the reach of many, or makes for a nice lunchtime treat.

How to cook snails...

From today's Irish Times, where Tom Doorley presents a hilarious extract from Monica Sheridan's book Monica's Kitchen.

Keeping an eye on fuel prices

What's the story with fuel prices at the moment? They seem to be invariably creeping upwards. I was stuck for fuel yesterday near Sallins and ended up paying 120.9c per litre.
Thankfully can help you stay informed on pump prices in your area. Thanks to them, I was able to fill up my tank for 117.8c this morning at the Applegreen near the Ashleaf Shopping Centre.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Homer's Odyssey - Gwen Cooper

Homer was a little black kitten, abandoned and suffering from an eye infection, when he was handed into a vet's office. Instead of euthanising the kitten, the vet made the decision to remove Homer's eyes in order to save his life and then put out the word that a blind kitten needed a home.

Enter Gwen Cooper, a woman with two cats, dealing with a breakup and who definitely had no room in her life for a blind kitten, that it until she held Homer in her arms and realised that this little kitten had a huge capacity for joy and love.

Homer's story is nothing short of amazing and is truly endearing. It's not surprising that a cat could adapt quickly to a loss of eyesight, but what is surprising is the joy and faith that this cat had in life and people. Even more important is the effect that this fantastic personality had on the author. The book is part Homer's tale and part memoir. Being responsible for the care of a blind kitten leaves Cooper facing tough decisions. She changes career, moves out on her own eventually moving to New York and finding the love of her life. Throughout it all, Homer provides her with inspiration and teaches her (unintended) lessons about living life.

Scenes such as Homer's obsession with elastic bands, his dual with a burglar and Cooper's frantic efforts to resuce her pets following the aftermath of 9/11 will leave you laughing and tense. Cooper has a gift for bringing a tale to life. Additional cutesie material is present in the form of little thumbnail images that adorn the start of each chapter.

Any animal lover will adore this tale of a heroic and happy cat, while the tale of Cooper's personal growth and her subsequent marriage provides additional depth. Well recommended reading.

The Crying Tree - Naseem Rakha

The Crying Tree is a magnificent, emotional debut from Naseem Rakha. It tells the story of the Stanley family who move from Illinois to Orgeon. Tragedy strikes when their son, Shep, is killed in their own home. The subsequent fallout wrenches the family apart, driving mother Irene to drink and depression. Bliss, the youngest daughter seeks to leave the small town where they live to become a criminal prosecutor while Nate turns inwards and withdraws.

A young man, Daniel Robbins, is quickly caught and convicted to death for Shep's murder but it takes many years for his actual execution to take place. In the meantime, while close to the brink of suicide, Irene writes a letter to Robbins and an odd relationship develops between the mother and convicted murderer. However, Irene keeps it all a secret from her family, fearing that people won't understand. But hers is not the only secret in the family.

The Crying Tree is a novel with an unusual subject. It is about despair and depression, forgiveness and family. For a story of such depth and emotion, the pages literally turn themselves as Rahka maintains the pace and tension throughout. A fantastic novel of redemption and love.

Monday, June 22, 2009

I'm Loving Tommy Bowe's Blog

Get over to the Irish Times and read Tommy Bowe's blog on his trip down south with the Lions - Inside the Lions' Den. It's great stuff; entertaining yet passionate. Give the lads your support.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Another visit to Tippenyaki

I've posted before about a previous visit to Tippenyaki, and returned there last night for a meal with the in-laws. Business appeared to be quiet, although it picked up somewhat later in the evening. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal at Tippenyaki and I think that the restaurant is worth giving another shout out about.

It's tasty and simple, and if you sit at the teppan grill, then you also get a fantastic utensil and egg-flipping show from the chefs. Plus, it's got some of the best sushi that I've had the pleasure of eating. Last night, we enjoyed 10 extremely fresh and melting slices of tuna sashimi, along with an 8-piece dynamite roll (shrimp tempura with avocado and delicious but feriously hot crispy bits).

Well worth a visit - and house wine is just 3.95 a glass!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Murphy's Ice Cream Party in Powerscourt Town Centre

I just received a delicious vanilla ice-cream affogato (ice-cream with an espresso shot poured on top) from Murphy's ice-cream at Morton's shop on Hatch Street. Mile buíochas!

Murphy's delicious Ice Cream will now be available from a scooping cabinet in Powerscourt Town Centre Cafe.

To celebrate, they've issued an open invitation to all and sundry to attend the opening on June 19th (today) between 4-7 pm. Families and children are welcome and they are promising flavours of Ireland.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Red Cliff

Red Cliff is a truly epic film (2.5 hours cut down from the original 4.5 hrs) by director John Woo. Interestingly, it was released in two parts within China, totalling 4.5 hrs in length, but the decision was taken to release a single film in the west.

Set in 208 A.D., the film is based on the true events of the Battle of Red Cliffs, when Chancellor Cao Cao persuaded the emperor to let him lead an army to wipe out the lords of the southlands Sun Quan and Liu Bei. Fantastic warriors surround the two southern lords, who are fighting to protect their lands and homes. Some of these warriors even sport Chewbacca-like whiskers and beards.

What you actually get is an epic film full of fight scenes, some dodgy CGI and a pace that just doesn't stop. Oh, and a strategist who can forecast the weather with deadly accuracy. Met Eireann could do with him at the moment. Battle scenes with military formations and hand-to-hand combat will leave you speechless, while the flight of a dove presents an amazing aerial view of the army camps. Charming and amusing characters provide a point of real interest in the film. In short, this is one classy blockbuster - an intellectual cut above the norm.

A Moment's Silence for the Spice Burger

Do you remember spice burgers? Just like red lemonade, they're a truly Irish phenomenon. They've been available to the Irish market since the 1950s and were the first product manufactured by Irish firm Walsh Family Foods. Described as a "delicious blend of Irish beef, onions, cereals, herbs and spices coated with traditional outer crumb” they represent a taste of my childhood, though I'd say that I haven't had one in 15+ years.
Well, it was with surprise that I read in today's Irish Times that Walsh Family Foods are to cease trading with the loss of 50 jobs. The reason for the company failing is attributed mainly to the weakness of sterling against the euro and strong competition from UK rivals.
Hopefully another manufacturer can take over the production of the Spice Burger, whose recipe is patented.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Tannery, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford

It's been ages since I last ate at the Tannery Restaurant in Dungarvan. But I got a surprise the last weekend we visited the in-laws. Sunday lunch had been booked at the Tannery. Mmmm...

Firstly, the Tannery is located in a beautiful old building, and appears dark when you first enter. However, as the waiters lead you up the stairs to the dining area, it opens up and sunlight floods in through the roof. It's a light, bright airy dining space.

The Sunday lunch menu consisted of 3 starters, 5 mains (with a E5 supplement for the Bouillabaise) and 5 desserts for E30 a head. I'm not convinced that it's the best value around, but I'm always keen to give the food of Paul Flynn a go.

For starters I chose the McConnells smoked fish plate which comprised smoked mackerel served with beetroot and horseradish, salmon, potato and creme fraiche, trout and fennel compote and finally, a shot of the parsley and parmesan soup. I wasn't very keen on the soup as I'm not a fan of the strong taste of parsley. Out of all the flavours, the beetroot and horseradish, when combined with the mackerel, was delicious.

4 out of the 6 of us sitting at the table chose the slow-cooked lamb with Moroccan vegetables and mint yogurt as our main. How could you not when it sounded so good? What I got was of mixed standard. The Moroccan vegetables, fresh warm hoummous, mint yougurt and couscous accompanying the lamb were simply divine with rich, exotic flavours. However, the lamb itself was a bit variable, demonstrated by the little piles of fat left on many of our plates.

The other mains chosen by our table were the roast chicken with ham hock cannelloni and the grilled cod. The cod was cooked beautifully but the bread salad contained olives, which weren't advertised on the menu, and significantly changed the expected flavour of the dish.

From the minute that we had sat down to eat, we had been looking forward to the desserts. And they did not disappoint. I love anything involving meringues, fruit and cream so I plumped for the rhubarb meringue fool - and it was good! Too good, because when I came to the end, I was wanting more.

We ordered coffees, which were included in the E30, when the bill came, but we were charged as additional 10% due to the size of our party. Overall, we were very pleased with our lunch, but at the same time wondered if we had paid just a 'little' too much?

The Tannery Restaurant, 10 Quay Street, Dungarvan, Co. Waterford. 058 - 45420

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Simply Deanes, The Outlet, Banbridge

We had a road trip last weekend which involved heading North. There's simply nothing nicer than driving on a sunny day - you just wish that the open road went on forever.

We ended up outside Banbridge where we called into The Outlet. The Outlet is beautifully laid out on a curving arc with plenty of parking. I wouldn't make a trip to the North especially for the Outlet, as I saw it as a cross between Rathdowney and Kildare Village. However, if you're in the area, it's probably worth a stop. It was for me, as I found out that they have a Puma Outlet with a great selection of runners. Result!

We went for a late lunch at Simply Deanes, an outlet from Michael Deane's Michelin-starred restaurant. The interior is sparse and minimalist with an exposed ceiling, ventilation pipes and a concrete floor. I initially liked it, but after a few minutes sitting, it felt just a little too open.

The menu is short and simple and I chose a jambon and blue cheese salad, while he went for the burger, served with fries. My salad turned out to be a relevation amongst salads. Moist jambon slices, crumbed blue cheese, mixed leaves served with candied walnuts, a spiced pear half and balsamic dressing. Together, the ingredients packed a powerful punch.

The burger was moist, served with bacon and cheese with delicious thin fries. It really tasted of beef, a rare event in burger-land. Very good indeed.

Total bill for the two dishes, one americano, one espresso and one large bottle of sparkling water came to approx 22stg.

Simply Deane's, The Outlet, Banbridge, BT32 4GJ, Nothern Ireland. 028 4062 7220

Monday, June 15, 2009

Taste of Dublin

The recession is biting hard at the moment for a lot of this country, but you wouldn't think so judging by the expensive and eye-gouging prices being charged at this year's Taste of Dublin festival, held last weekend in the beautiful Iveagh Gardens.

I don't really know why I gave in and bought 2 tickets to this year's event. I did buy them on a 2 for 1 basis, but even so, €28 to gain admittance for two people to what was essentially a shop is a little excessive. Standing at the gate, while waiting for himself to arrive was eye opening in its own right. You'd nearly swear you were at Ladies' Day at the races, given the amount of fake tan and blonde highlights that was on display. And that was just the gents! Every hooray-henry left with a few bob to rub together was here.

I had hopes that stories from previous years of expensive food and drink would be mellowed this year. But alas, that was not the case. First of all, if your ticket does not include any 'florins', you needed to purchase these at a very favourable exhange rate of €1: 1 florin. The bad news is that they don't change florins back to euros if you happen to have some left at the end of the event.

We armed ourselves initially with 20 florins and headed into the park to look around. Our first purchase were two small cups of organic cider from (3 florins each). A good start, as the sun was shining and cider always goes well with cider. We wandered around though with a growing sense of disbelief as we examined prices and menus. 10 florins for a small flute of champagne! 8 florins for a cocktail. Where was the concession to the fact that people had already paid a significant amount of money to enter the festival in the first place?

Many Dublin restaurants were present offering small versions of some of their signature dishes, as listed here. We first chose a steak frites from the Saddle Room at the Shelbourne. Beautifully presented in a paper cone were proper Belgian style frites with a lovely dollop of Bearnaise sauce along with a piece on steak on a skewer. The sauce and frites were just delicious, but at 6 florins for what was essentially a few chips, I have to question the merit.

Now, it's unfair to point fingers at one restaurant in particular, as they were all in on the game. If they do have to charge for food (as they probably must in order to recoup their costs) then a limit of €5 should apply. Nice and simple and round. But we just can't do that in Ireland, can we? If we can charge a fiver, then we have to charge 6. It's how we got into this whole stupid mess in the first place, and it appears that the founding ethos is still alive and well in the Taste of Dublin festival.

As we looked around, it became clear that the only places offering free samples were those suppliers that give free samples in supermarkets on a Thursday night. Pink Elephant wines, Shaw's ham, Lyon's Tea and Bulmer's, just to name a few. Jacob's creek weren't offering bad value with a small flute of sparkling rose available cheaply enough. The best value to be had in the place was from Bulmer's, where a pint cost 4 florins or a half-pint was 2 florins. There were plenty of free chocolate sample chunks to be had from Green & Black and Lindt.

Our second, and last, dish was from Ananda Indian restaurant in Dundrum. I've eaten at Ananda several times, and loved it. But if I was a newbie, what I ate on Friday would not encourage me to visit in the slightest. We ordered the Bombay fried fish with minty mushy peas for 6 florins. What we got were 3 small pieces of what we referred to as 'boardfish', so rigid and dry were the chunks. The minted peas were nice, but nothing more than you could do yourself with a bag of petit pois and a jar of mint sauce.

One amusing highlight of the day was the Sacla pesto dispenser.

Overall, the idea of the Taste of Dublin is good. The Iveagh Gardens are a beautiful setting especially on a sunny summer evening. But until this event stops being a back-slapping affair for the country's elite, it won't represent a true Taste of Dublin.

Edit: Nice to see that I'm not the only person left with this impression of the Taste of Dublin.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Cafe Eno, Dundalk, Co. Louth

Border country is a weird place. There's a feeling of lawlessness in the air and a plethora of chippers. However, we found ourselves in the tiny and charming Cafe Eno, an Italian cafe and winebar. It's beautifully decorated, but small, inside and claims to offer the best Italian food, coffee and wine.

Well, what did we think? I ordered a mixed cheese and meat antipasti plate (E12.50) which came with salami, chorizo, lomo, prosciutto, various cheeses, a rocket and tomato salad and a little espresso cup with a daube of the most delicious green pesto. Two slices of fresh bread, drizzled with olive oil provided the finish. All the ingredients were of the best quality and that divine pesto provided a wonderful dressing.

He went for the cannelloni (E14.50) which cobined ricotta, green pesto and a sharp tangy tomato sauce. The portion was large but not so big as to make you feel too full. Judging by the clean dish at the end, it tasted pretty damn good too.

We were contemplating leaving when the charming waitress offered us desserts and coffee. She had gotten as far as the first dessert on the list, tiramisu 'ome-made' when we stopped her dead in her tracks. There was no need to go any further. The tiramisu (E5.50) came served in a small mason jar, and dusted with dark cocoa powder. It was the perfect finish to a lovely meal.

It's clear that Cafe Eno cares about what they do. It's there for all to see in the decor, the attention and the quality of the food. Best of all, it's great value for money. The total for the above, including one espresso, two glasses of house red and one bottle of sparkling water came to E48.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Fragment - Warren Fahy

Fragment is built upon an interesting concept. What would happen on an island where man never set foot, and developed along its own evolutionary path for many millions of years?

The crew of the Trident, which is being used to film a reality show, soon find out when they come upon Hender's Island, with savage consequences. Life operates at a frantic, carnal pace on the island where everything eats everything else. Man doesn't have any place in this ecosystem.

Fahy has written a high-paced novel packed full of science bites. It's quite intelligent in places, but the clunky characters are a bit of a let down - let's not mention the villain. Analogies have been drawn between this book and Crichton's Jurassic Park and it's easy to think that this book could too be made into a movie.

There's no denying that this book is a page-turner. Fahy has hit upon some combination of science and adventure that is engrossing.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi - Geoff Dyer

This is Geoff Dyer's fourth novel and is told in two parts. In the first, we meet Jeff, a freelance hack who is covering the Biennale in Venice. He meets and falls in lust with American Laura. The second part is narrated by a british journalist (Jeff pehaps?) who goes to Varanasi in India to write a travel piece and decides to stay.

We never know for certain that our two protagonists are the same, although similarities exist. It is only towards the end of the second part that we realise that they are in sequence, but it still doesn't confirm the reader's desire to know if they are one and the same. This feeling of similarity is compounded by the use of two like settings: Venice and Varanasi. Although worlds apart, both are old crumbling cities surrounded by water. It is in one city that one hero lives an exhuberent, carnal life, while in the other city, our second hero lives a quiet life surrounded by death. References to Ginsberg pepper the second novella while Thomas Mann's novella Death in Venice heavily influences the first part.

Despite the love interest of the first part and the travel-guide quality of the second half, as well as the rich and sometimes funny writing, I just couldn't warm a whole lot to this novel. There is ultimately a lack of conclusion. Perhaps it is a book of the zeitgeist?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Bulmer's Light Dublin Price List

I'm quite a fan of Bulmer's Light - especially in the long neck (33cl) version. It's not the cheapest drink, but the smaller serving size also means less alcohol when out for a night. I'm not that young anymore after all.

I was interested in seeing the variation of prices around Dublin, so I recorded prices over the last few weeks as I was out and about. Here are the surprising results, from cheapest to most expensive.

11. The 108, 108 Rathgar Road, Rathgar, Dublin 6 - €5.00
Leeson Lounge, 148 Leeson Street Upper, Dublin 4 - €5.00
The Oval, 78 Middle Abbey Street, Dublin 1 - €5.00

8. T.P. Smyths, 9-10 Jervis Street, Dublin 1 - €5.30
Messrs Maguires, Burgh Quay, Dublin 2 - €5.30
Andrews Lane Theatre, Andrews Lane, Dublin 2 - €5.30

5. Peter's Pub, 1 Johnson's Place, Dublin 2 - €5.40
Dakota, 9 South William Street, Dublin 2 - €5.40

3. The Academy, 57 Middle Abbey Street, Dublin 1 - €5.50
Ron Black's, 37 Dawson Street, Dublin 2 - €5.50

1. McNeills, 140 Capel Street, Dublin 7 - €5.80

A surprising result there from McNeill's on Capel Street. A place that you would have thought would charge local prices. Maybe it was a mistake on their part, but that was the price on the receipt that night.

I wonder if the price reductions introduced by C&C for Bulmers will affect the pricing of Bulmer Light. Last Friday night, I paid €4.90 for a longnect bottle of Bulmers Pear in the Gin Palace on Middle Abbey Street, so things do seem to be getting cheaper.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Birdcage @ Avoca, Rathcoole

We went out for a spin today, but the heavens decided that it was time for a torrential downpour. Driving on the motorway, it struck me as miraculous that we don't have multi-car pile-ups. So many people driving without lights or a mere few feet from the car in front, all in a vicious downpour where you couldn't clearly see the car in front. I no longer drive a Puno, I now have something a good bit more solid and secure, but I wanted off that road until the rain died down. There's absolutely no point in being a careful driver, when you're surrounded by people who clearly were still daydreaming about last week's fine weather.

So we pulled off the road into Rathcoole, and more specifically, the Avoca store. For those of you unfamiliar with the Avoca phenomenon, Avoca is a symptom of the Celtic Tiger. They are homestores filled to the brim with flowery things - fabrics, furnishing and clothing. If you want to spend large amounts of money on silly, pretty things, such as wire models of dressmaker mannequins, then Avoca is the place for you.

But in fairness to Avoca, they have good food. We went upstairs to the Birdcage cafe, a self-service affair serving hot food, quiches, terrines, salads, sandwiches and delicious looking cakes. I chose the ham, chicken and apricot terrine (E12.95) which came with 3 salads of my choice. I watched in awe as the server filled the plate with my chosen broccoli & feta and carrot, courgette and sesame salads. The plate was overflowing, yet she still looked at me with disbelief when I refuesed a third salad. There are clearly no problems with stingy portions at Avoca. He went for a goat's cheese, asparagus and sun-dried tomato bruschetta along with a curried fruit and chickpea salad, potato salad and couscous (E11.95).

All the food was delicious and filling, while feeling healthy. My broccoli salad felt as if it had only been made a half hour past. It really is simple yet tasty food, piled high. My only complaint would be the double espresso, which was very watery and yet cost a stonking E3.20.

The Birdcage Restaurant, Avoca, Rathcoole, Co Dublin.

Terminator Salvation

Oh dear, the Terminator series gone from the brilliance of the first two movies, through the OK-ness of the third, and straight into the abyss of the fourth. From director McG (who should really stick to comedy action), the movie is set in 2018 where John Connor (Christian Bale) is fighting in the resistance against the machines.

From an initially promising start, it spirals downhill rapidly, picking up momentum as it goes. The sole saving grace is a good performance from Sam Worthington as Marcus, a convicted criminal who died by lethal injection before Skynet became sentient, yet reawakes in the midst of the battle between machine and man.

It was exciting when it was announced that Bale would play the part of Connor. But he delivers a dull, one-dimensional performance in this film, and fails to reignite the excitement and tension that was so characteristic of the first two.

In short, it's bombastic and loud, without depth of emotion. What a disappointment.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Dublin Docklands

I drove through the traffic-jam chaos that resulted from the Flora Women's Mini-Marathon on Bank Holiday Monday to get over to Dublin Docklands, so that I could check out the Maritime Festival.

BTW - to the bright spark who decided to hold the marathon in the afternoon. You idiot! You do understand that most marathons are run in the morning, don't you where there is less likelihood of disruption.

Anyhoo, the festival mainly consisted of food stalls selling a wide variety of stuff. We indulged in some strawberries covered in melted chocolate from Chocallure, mmm! We wandered around some more and I took some photos of those red pipes on Hanover Quay

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