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, August 31, 2009

Underwater - Elizabeth Diamond

Underwater is the second novel from Elizabeth Diamond, who displays a high level of accomplishment in this tale. Jane is recovering from the trauma of breast cancer and trying to deal with resurgent memories from her past. She dreams of her missing brother Paul and experiences sensations of being underwater.

As the story progresses, the multiple tragedies of Jane's life begin to reveal themselves, both to her and to the reader. She has suppressed them all her life, lied about her past, but not they are coming back, demanding to be recognised. Ex-wife to Adam, and mother to Dominic, Jane has lived a separate life from them following a horrible accident. But it was events in her teenage years which truly shaped her.

Initially, I didn't find the book engaging and I wondered if I should continue to read. However, I am glad that I did. Diamond has a way of gradually revealing the intricacies and details of the story and skillfully builds layer upon layer. Don't let the slow and vague start deter you.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Rounds, Ballyvourney

I was at home today, and took a spin back to the Rounds in Ballyvourney. This is a site devoted to St. Gobnait, one of the local saints and it was a real nostalgia trip.

My grandmother used to love coming to the Rounds, and when I got my first provisional licence, she often enlisted me to drive her there. She no longer left the car, but would sit there saying her prayers. To be honest, I was already well in the stages of religious disbelief at that time, but I always found something peaceful and serene about that place.

St. Gobnait's grave is located there, and it is covered in cr*p that people have left behind. It's a popular belief that illnesses and so on can be cured by praying at St. Gobnait's grave and there is a layer of statuettes, scapulars, rosary beads and other religious tack on the grave.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Barbie at BT2

I've been doing a little cleaning up tonight in my photos folder and I found these photos taken on camera phone in BT2 back in May. Barbie celebrated her 50th birthday this year, and BT2 had a display of life-sized Barbie mannequins and all a whole host of things pink and Barbie-themed to celebrate.

The store was in pink overload, but pride of place had to go to these Paul & Joe handbags. The scary thing... I saw a woman about a month later with one of these bags.


Inglourious Basterds

I've been reading very mixed reviews of Quentin Tarantino's latest film "Inglourious Basterds" in the Irish press, yet over on, it's scoring a solid 88% approval rating. Hmm. The only thing to do in such a situation is to watch it for yourself.

Tarantino has always had a grĂ¡ for the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone and the like, and the opening "chapter" of the film clearly demonstrates this influence. Hans Lada of the SS (known throughout Nazi-occupied France as the "Jew-hunter" and played brilliantly by Cristoph Waltz) has located the Jewish Dreyfuss family. Only one member escapes - Shoshanna. In Chapter 2, we learn that Shoshanna is now the proprietress of a cinema in Paris (under an assumed identity). A chain of fortuitious events leads to Goebbels choosing her cinema as the location for spectacular premiere of a new Nazi propaganda film.

On a parallet plot, we have Lt Aldo Raine (a southern-talking Brad Pitt) and his band of merry men (the Basterds) who are wreaking havoc and terror throughout the Nazi ranks in France. A british agent is dropped to meet them with a plot to blow up the German high command at the fim premiere. Little do they know that Shoshanna also has her own plans for the night.

This is a classic Tarantino film. There's no doubting that - it's got the usual pop culture, music and look. Tarantino has a gift for getting fine performances from his actors and while Brad Pitt is truly excellent, it is Cristoph Waltz who steals the show.

Despite being a little too long, and a little too smug, I really enjoyed the film. It is very funny and Tarantino delivers without being over the top. It's surely got to be one of his better films.

Harvey Nichols Cafe, Dundrum

I've been meaning to write this review of the Harvey Nichols cafe for quite a while now, but I just kept forgetting. That is, until I cleaned out my wallet of all the useless and dated crap that acumulates and I found the receipt from our visit.

The cafe is located on the ground floor and features a bright, colourful decor with glass walls. I've been there several times in the past, both for coffee and for food and I have mixed feeling about the place. I like the space and I occasionally like the food. I'll never forget the day I ordered the eggs florentine and got a massive lump of rocket instead of spinach (note - it doesn't work as a substitute).

We visited on a Wednesday evening before going to the cinema. All the other restaurants appeared to be packed to the brim, so we went to Harvey Nicks. I went for the fish and chips (€11.50) while he chose the Quessadilla (sic) (€9.50). I got a small enough portion of dry fish and a few chips, all of which had been oven-baked. Very dry and unappetising, despite the nice portion of tartare sauce. His Quessadilla was better, served with little pots of accompaniments, but was still a very under-whelming portion. You could buy bigger and better sandwiches for half the price.

One diet coke (€3.00), one small bottle of sparkling water (€2.75) and an espresso (€2.25) bought the bill to a total of €31.90. Expensive enough for what we got.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ireland's Economic Woes Exaggerated, Believes Canadian Research Team

BCA Research, a Canadian-based investment research company who provide advice to international investors on investing in Europe, believe that coverage of Ireland's economic bother has been overly-pessimistic and that the economy may begin to rebound in 2011.

Good news eh? We have been digging ourselves into a bit of a bottomless trough. However, this piece of news does come with caveats attached. They comment that "policymakers must rein in government spending and get the banking system working again". Furthermore, while they welcome the creation of a "bad bank", they believe that the current crisis in the Irish banking system is much worse than the oft-compared early 1990s crisis in Sweden.

They warn the government not to rely on revenue but instead that "The biggest gains would be made by further cutting public-sector pay and employment."

This is not the first time that international agencies have stated the obvious about what is needed in Ireland. The McCarthy report also stated this. The whole public (bar the public sector trade unions) know that cuts in public sector pay and employment, along with social welfare cuts, are what is sorely needed.

But did our glorious leaders ever listen to common sense?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Blatant scams on Carzone

A poster over on is selling his BMW Z4 coupe for €28,500. It's a bautiful car, although he is finding it hard to shift it in the current climate.

However though, someone has lifted the photos from his ad and is using them on carzone (and subsequent channels) for the paltry sum of €9,000. Funnily enough, he can't answer his phone at the moment and asks potential buyers to contact him via e-mail.

Why can't Carzone monitor ads in a better manner?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Kebabish Original, Richmond Street, Dublin 2

A few new kebab houses have opened recently on Richmond Street, near Portobello. One in particular, Kebabish Original, caught my eye with their nice wallpaper and leather seats and I filed them away in the back of my head as a potential.

Then I received their take-away menu in my letter box and my curiosity was renewed, culminating in a visit there tonight. It turns out that they are a UK-based franchise in operation for over 20 years with over 60 locations. They promise to make all food fresh with the highest quality ingredients.

We took a long time to decide as the menu is varied with snacks, curries and kebabs. Eventually we chose the BBQ shredded chicken at €5.50 (shredded chicken, lightly spiced, BBQ and fruther cooked in a wok with onions and capsicum), lamb tikka masala at €6.95, a garlic naan (cheap at €2) along with a diet coke (€1) and a glass of mango lassi (€2).

The BBQ shredded chicken came piled high on a sizzling platter mixed with onions and peppers. For €5.50, it represented simply amazing value. The lamb in the masala had been grilled and then mixed into the delicious creamy sauce.

We cleared our plates with smiles on our faces. This was amazing food, freshly cooked and excellent value at a total cost of €17.70. That's right, €17.70 for a quick meal for two. Go try it out for yourself.

I've always thought that Dublin was lacking a cheap curry house. The Madina Desi on Mary Street is an effort, but I've found it to be of mixed quality and it can be expensive, depending on what you order. In contrast, nothing in the menu for Kebabish Original is expensive.

Kebabish Original, 40 South Richmond Street, Dublin 2. 01 - 475 8869

Tayto Mighty Munch - Hot and Spicy

When I was a child, I used to get 50p to spend in the local shop after attending Mass on a Sunday morning. I didn't vary my choice much - a packet of peanuts often featured, along with an ice-cream when it was summer (you see, in those days, our local shop only stocked ice-cream in the summer). But more often than not I would have a packet of Monster Munch.

How I loved those spicy snacks. I'd hanker for that rare one, a piece of monster munch that was more spicy coating than snack. Mmmm

Anyway, when Walkers entered the market, they took over the Monster Munch brand and it just wasn't the same. The recipe was different and milder. So I didn't have a pack for years.

But recently I picked up a pack of Tayto's Mighty Munch Hot and Spicy. And the memories came flooding back. They are delicious and spicy, just like the originals.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Bel Canto - Ann Patchett

In an unnamed South American country, a birthday dinner party is being held in honour of a Japanese industrialist. Prominent political and industrial guers are in attendance, while Roxanne Coss, a famous opera singer, enthralls the crowd with her virtuoso performance.

Little do they know until the lights go out, that a rag-tag group of terrorists plan to use the President as a hostage. Unfortunately, the President stayed at home to watch his favourite soap opera, leaving the terrorists with a major flaw in their plans.

Patchett moves the focal point of the story between the hostages and the terrorists, revealing the good and bad in each. The 58 hostages have no common language, other than the glorious music provided by Roxanne and the pianist. As they spend many months together trapped in the Vice-Presidential house, the lines between hostages and terrorists becomes blurred. Patchett beautifully builds the tension and the eerie feeling of suspended reality within the palace.

Bel Canto is an elegantly written book which shows the noble side of human nature. Like other books set in South America, she captures a dreamy, escapist atmosphere most excellently.

Cafe Bliss, Montague Street, Dublin

Cafe Bliss is a little restaurant that I had avoided for the 3 years that I've worked nearby. For some reason, I was never tempted by their menu or advertised specials. But last night, a friend suggested it as a place to grab a quick bite, despite me pointing out the nearby establishments of Bobo's, Green Nineteen and my favourite Eddie Rockets. So in I went.

I'm delighted to say that my opinion of Cafe Bliss was entirely wrong. While it may never set the culinary world on fire, they do offer well-cooked food that is cheap, cheerful and plentiful. The room is long and narrow with not a lot of room to spare, but it is comortable.

I went for a rocket and beetroot salad, served with a pan-fried chicken escalope, with balsamic dressing and pine nuts. He had the enchiladas (rare-fried beef sliced in a wrap with sauces) with fries. Our friends had the chicken supreme (another chicken escalope served with mash and creamy sauce) and a bacon and cheese burger. One beer, one coke and one diet coke bought the total cost to just under €48.

I can now see why Cafe Bliss is popular with the work crowd - and I think that I might definitely be back to try some more of their salads at some stage soon.

Cafe Bliss, 4B Montague Street, Dublin 2. 01 - 478 1600

Friday, August 21, 2009

We Will Rock You - The Queen Musical

It's really cool to do something completely on the spur of the moment. When in London a few weekends ago, we were passing the Dominion Theatre on Oxford Street. We were trying to decide what to do for the afternoon, and what we would do for lunch. It was a hot, humid day in the city and wandering around wasn't looking very appealing.

And then who did we see, but Freddie looking down on us from his perch atop the Dominion. The musical "We Will Rock You", based on the music of Queen, was playing inside. Problem solved. Two tickets at £40 each later and we were set to see our first London musical.

The Dominion is a lovely old-style theatre inside, it reminds me of the Olympia in Dublin or the Everyman in Cork and we were able to purchase plastic bottles of beer to enjoy while watching the show. Much nicer than home where you're not allowed bring alcohol into the theatre.

I thought that the show got off to a slow start, but once it hit it's stride, it didn't disappoint. In fact it rocked! It's chock-a-block of Queen songs - in fact, after the first half hour, I was wondering how many Queen songs were left - tonnes as it turns out. The dialogue is snappy and humourous with lots of references to current affairs, generating lots of laughs from the audience.

The story is set in the future, where all forms of human-created music have been banned. "Bohemians" dream of finding real musical instruments and Galileo Figaro is a young man with a head full of music. The Bohemians, Galileo and his love interest Scaramoo, must find their "Rhapsody" and bring music back to the world.

Make sure to see it the next time you're in London.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Pop Tart - Kira Coplin

Pop Tart is a novel set in the world of pop, glamour and Hollywood. Brooke Parker is the rising young, all-american star and Jackie O'Reilly is an aspiring make-up artist who is along for the ride. Jackie befriends Brooke who seems young and innocent at times. She is fun and kind-hearted, but also impulsive and volatile.

The pair quickly become swamped by the glitz and glamour of the celebrity lifestyle as Brookes star goes into meteoric ascent. Hounded by press and the failure of her first relationship, Brooke is thrust into the spotlight and her management expects her to stay there.

Jackie is quick to take advantage of the jet-set lifestyle, but following a disastrous series of events, she realises that she needs to step back and truly follow her own dreams. But is it too late for her to help Brooke?

Any reader will see lots of truth in this story, written as it is by two Hollywood insiders. Ultimately, it's not really original, given the fact that we've seen all this before in the press, but it is a fast-paced, summer read.

Cay Tre Vietnamese Restaurant, London

Being in London can be too much. As you wander around, you pass restaurant after restaurant. It's a standing joke between the pair of us that we usually manage to fit in 4-5 square meals a day when in London.

There's a heavy concentration of Vietnamese restaurants near Shoreditch and we noticed that Cay Tre on Old Street regularly had punters queueing outside the door. So on Saturday night, we rocked up, willing to wait as long as necessary. We were greeted quickly and given menus to read while waiting but we were quickly seated downstairs in the bustling restaurant.

For starters, we ordered a bowl of the traditional soup Pho (with chicken) which turned out to be light, clear and fragrant. Our other starter, Cha ca La Vong, or La Vong grilled fish comes as a minimum for two and consists of sliced monkfish, marinated in galangal, saffron and flavoured with rice ferment. It was grilled at our table by our friendly waiter and served with a pungent mix of rice vermicelli, pimento, ground nuts, fennel, and shrimp sauce.

For mains we chose Ga Ro Ti (Vietnamese Chicken Royale) a roasted, portioned chicken, with deliciously crispy skin served on salad with a delicious soy sauce dressing. Vit ca ri turned out to be a succenlent dark duck coconut curry where the meat literally fell off the bone.

We rolled out of the restaurant full of new flavours and in love with a new cuisine, so much in love that we returned the next day for lunch! This time the restaurant was much quieter, but still turning over.

My starter this time was Banh Goi or Hanoi Pillow Crispy Dumplings. These were deliciously crispy, meaty dumplings served with a tangy dipping sauce.

The other starter of Goi Cuon, or fresh soft summer rolls with king prawns consisted of soft rice rolls stuffed full of fresh salad veg and herbs along with a row of plump, juicy king prawns and served with a hoisin-type sauce.

For mains, I chose the temptingly-named Bo Quanh Lua Hing, or Campfire Sirloin Steak. This consisted of thinly sliced beef marinated in oyster sauce, cooked and served in a porcelain pot. Luon Rang Sa Ot was grilled basa fish seared with lemongrass and tumeric. The pieces of fish were dry fried and flavoursome and completely different to anything I've tasted before.

In total, the two meals along with drinks cost around 90 pounds. Absolutely delicious food, with fantastic flavours in a bustling spot.

Cay Tre, 301 Old Street, London EC1V 9LA. +44 (0)20 7729 8662

Friday, August 14, 2009

Zebras at Dublin Zoo

I took this photo recently at Dublin Zoo. Simple photo... two zebras and a bit of background.

Then I thought that I might play with the shot in GIMP. Given the monochrome nature of th zebra, I thought that I might invert the photo. Here's the result - with no further processing. I really like it - it would make a cool wall print.


Thursday, August 13, 2009


In the near future, man has found a plentiful supply of clean energy. H3 on the moon can be harvested by giant machines and transported to Earth, safely powering the world. However, this means an isolated existance for engineer Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell), who lives alone in a station on the moon, with only a computer for company (voiced by Kevin Spacey).

The solitary life is compounded by the fact that the station has no live link to Earth. Instead Sam relies on prerecorded messages. His health is deteriorating but Sam is upbeat. He's coming to the end of his three year contract and will soon return to Earth to his wife and daughter. In the middle of a hallucination while driving a lunar vehicle, he collides with one of the roaming harvesters, thus starting in motion a series of events that will change his life. He wakes up in the station infirmary, but soon realises that things are not as he thought they were.

Moon is a beautifully crafted film, filled with quietness. It captures the enormity and isolation of space magnificently. It's eerie yet funny and will remind any earnest movie-goer of 2001: A Space Odyssey. There's a refreshing realness about the film and a great performance from Rockwell. It is simply one of the most enjoyable films that I've seen in recent times.

The Hangover

We went to see the Hangover last night, and despite the fact that it's been out for weeks, the cinema was still full. Is it a sign of the times? Are more people choosing to go to the cinema for a fun, cheap night out rather than hitting the local?

The Hangover centres around the Las Vegas bachelor party of Doug. Accompanying Doug are best buddies Phil and Stu along his future brother-in-law and oddball Alan. The night starts well, but the film quickly moves to the morning after when Phil, Stu and Alan wake up in their hotel suite accompanied by a chicken, some smoking furniture, a baby and a tiger in the bathroom.

Two things quickly become apparent. Firstly they have recollection of the night before and secondly, Doug is nowhere to be found. And so begins a frentic quest to find Doug.

The Hangover is hilariously funny in a way that all teenage gross-out films wish they could be. It is a humourous film for adults. It's not crude or gross, but instead is funny and somewhat naughty. Mike Tyson features in a genius cameo and a great cast of characters (watch out for chinese gangster Mr Chow) make it a worthy trip to the cinema.

Locks Restaurant Closed

I've just heard that Locks Restaurant in Portobello has closed its doors. Can anyone confirm this?

I don't know if the restaurant was worth the prices charged, but I've always thought that it looked nice and have often meant to go there. Looks like I might not have the chance.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Irregular Choice Store, Carnaby Street, London

I had to visit the new Irregular Choice store on Carnaby Street during a recent trip to London. I'd say that I've got over 15 pairs of Irregular Choice shoes, collected over the last 6 or more years. Danny O'Sullivan's designs have always interested and fascinated me, and what better way to pay tribute than to visit the store.

Shelves and shelves of fantastic shoes, along with bright, colourful clothes. I especially love this robot-themed raincoat. The motif will be familiar to Irregular Choice fans, appearing as it does on shoes and soles.

So, did I buy shoes in this fantabulous new store? Of course I did! One pair of red suede and pink patent platform shes on sale for approx £50. I especially love the robot box, and managed to squish it into my luggage on my Ryanair flight. So IC, do you see what ends I go to for your shoes!


Jamie Oliver's Fifteen Restaurant, London

We hit London last Friday, but had had no time to plan any culinary adventures beforehand. This was one trip that we were going to have to do on the wing. We were staying at the Hoxton Hotel, near Shoreditch, and I learned from a little booklet in our room that Jamie Oliver's famous Fifteen restaurant was just a few minutes walk away, off City Road. Well, job done. We decided to see if we could get an early table, without a booking.

We were lucky, and after a 5 minute wait at the bar, we were seated at our table. The restaurant interior is mixed between rustic and chic and is also full of Jamie Oliver material for purchase. All in all, it's a relaxing spot.

A lovely basket of bread and a little jug of olive oil was bought to our table along with the menus. The focaccia was absolutely delicious, moist with olive oil with rosemary and sea salt on top. We decided to share the anitpasti for two as a starter. When it arrived, the platter looked initially small, but as we started to dig through the piled up vegetables, we realised that there was a lot more than met the eye. Butternut squash, sweet balsamic onions, minted courgettes, buffalo mozzarella and many more along with plump bright green olives whetted our appetite.

We had both chosen pasta for mains, primarily because we didn't want to eat too much and end up going back to the hotel early. I had the gnocchi made with beetroot. These were quite simply the fluffliest, airiest gnocchi that I've ever eaten, and came served in a butter and cream sauce with pinenuts and tangy cheese. Himself had chosen the bucatini 'alla Ligure' which came with tangy and salty onion and anchovie coating.

One Morretti beer, one glass of (disappointing) Atlas de Ruesca rose wine, one large bottle of sparkling, along with a £1 donation to charity and a 'discretionary' 12.5% service charge bought the bill to £53.71. Not bad value at all, and a lot of the fish dishes looked amazed as they taken past our table.

Fifteen, 13 Westland Place, London N1 7LP. 0871 339 1515

Spotted in London

Personalised number plates can be quite funny, as the above shows. Taken on a recent trip to London with my Samsung Tocco phone

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sumatran Tiger Cubs at Dublin Zoo

We went along to Dublin Zoo on Sunday with the aim of seeing the new pair of Sumatran Tiger cubs (brother and sister). They were born in May but only just recently put on public display. Unfortunately, only one was clearly visible and even then Mom had the cub as far away from people as she could get.

The place was literally thronged with lots of people jostling to get a view of the little fluffy cubs. Here are some of my best shots:

Dad was on the prowl in the pen...


Monday, August 3, 2009

Great Value at the d Hotel, Drogheda

I've been hearing a lot of ads on the radio recently from hotels promoting their great rates. However, I've found that most of these great deals apply midweek - which is kind of impractical when you're working. When you use weekend dates, value is a good bit harder to find.

Therefore I was really surprised and pleased to find a fantastic deal on the website of the d Hotel in Drogheda. For €110 we got one nights stay in a king room, with dinner and bed & breakfast. The d hotel belongs to the same family as the g hotel in Galway, and although it's not in the same Philip Tracey-styled league, it's still smooth and sleek with a lovely seating area outside on the river decking.

Our dinner in the Viaduct Bar & Grill consisted of three courses from the Taste of Drogheda menu (€25 per head). I had vegetable tart with salad and orange oil for starters with steak for mains (€5 supplement). The steak was cooked beautifully but came with pepper sauce poured all over - not so nice. He went for spicy sweet potato soup and the salmon tagliatelle. We both chose the same dessert - pavlova and strawberries. We then moved on to the bar for some drinks before retiring early to get some shuteye.

Breakfast is a buffet with all that you'd expect. A quick trip to Scotch Hall shopping centre next door and we were ready to leave the d Hotel - recharged, rested, well-fed and quite happy with our affordable night away.

Hush, Hush - Becca Fitzpatrick

hush, hush will surely be the hot new thing in the world of young adult fiction. The publishers have bought forward the publication date from 2010 to October 2009, just in time to capture the Christmas market and capture some of the Twilight audience.

Nora is a young woman with hopes of an Ivy Leage university. Good grades are crucial to her hopes, so she is understandably concerned when paired with uncooperative biology partner Patch. Patch is dark, brooding and undeniably alluring. But best friend Vee doesn't like him.

Nora lost her father the year before, and now her mother works away from home, leaving Nora on her own for days at a time. Nora has frequently felt a dark presence around her, and it only becomes more amplified as she spends time with Patch.

There are obvious parallels with the Twilight universe, except for the key difference that Patch is a fallen angel, who has been given a choice. He can become a guardian angel and regain his wings, or become human, the overarching desire that caused him to lose his wings in the first place. Nora is crucial to this choice, and she is drawn into a web of plots and undercurrents beyond her control.

This is most definitely a teen novel, full of unspoken desire and throbbing bits. It will work for its intended audience, who probably are feeling a gap in their lives. But overall, I did think that Nora was a little weak to be the main character, but in contrast the character of Patch hits all the spots.

Baking Cakes in Kigali - Gaile Parkin

It's always nice when you read a simple book which has heart and a feel-good factor. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency was a book in such a vein and now we have Baking Cakes in Kigali to enjoy. It's the first novel from Zambian author Gaile Parkin who currently works as a consultant in the areas of HIV, gender issues and education. Her extensive experience forms the basis for many of the tales in this remarkable debut.

Our main character is Angel Tungazara, a cake-baker of exceptional skill and talent. People flock from near and far to order her cakes for their events and in doing so reveal themselves and their troubles to Angel over a sweet cup of spicy tea. Set in Rwanda, which is slowly rebuilding itself following the horrific genocide, Parkin weaves a tale of hope and renewal. As well as facing the atrocities of man, the author also tackles issues of infidelity, gender inequality and the ever-increasing presence of HIV.

Angel is an amazing character, clever and intelligent, and you quickly come to care for her and her clients. Baking Cakes is an easy book to read, but yet it faces challenging topics with a gentle humour.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Three Body Problem

This is the funniest comic strip ever and I can't believe that as a physicist I never heard this joke before.
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