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, November 30, 2009

Ireland vs South Africa at Croke Park

I was lucky enough to get tickets to this potentially epic match at Croke Park last Saturday. Granted we were in Row Z of the Cusack Upper Stand, where you'd practically need oxygen masks, but the view was good, if more than a little arctic.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Le Cirk, Dame Street, Dublin 2

I've been meaning to try out Le Cirk for a while now, and we finally called in last Friday evening. We were in need of a quick bite to eat and Le Cirk's advertised offer of a bowl of Creole mussels and fries for E9 seemed very attractive.

Firstly, I really like the decor of Le Cirk. It's a welcome break from the ubiqituous dark-wood, pre-designed pub interior of the celtic tiger. The aluminium-edged tables and rugs on the floors are a welcome flash of individuality, delivering a Parisien-sense of chic to Dublin. Our mussels arrived, served in a bowl with a liqour made from white wine, garlic and paprika. Thick, fluffy home fries came separate. The mussels were fresh, plump and juicy and the broth was tasty. Overall, this was an excellent meal for E9. I'm looking forward to another visit.

Triumff - Dan Abnett

It's 2010, and Elizabeth XXX sits upon the throne of the Unity, the English and Spanish empire that rules the world. This is a wholly different England to the modern version, instead it is regressive and Magick is used in place of modern technology.

Sir Rupert Triumff is a swashbuckling explorer who has just returned from a voyage of exploration. He's a playboy, a drunk, an expert swordsman and mariner, and above all else, devoted to his queen. It quickly becomes apparent that a treacherous and devious plot is afoot, and Triumff is stuck bang square in the middle. Cue the rollicking adventures.

With this novel, Abnett has staked himself firmly as a successor to Pratchett. It is, in turns, adventurous, creative and inventive, and above all else, hilariously funny. Abnett holds a degree in English from Oxford and this is apparent in the quality of the writing. He's managed to fit in a lot of modern puns and jokes, merging them seamlessy with the Elizabethan London. The villains are bad, the heroes are good (if sometimes a little morally dubious) and it's a great read. I'm genuinely looking forward to picking up the next installment of Triuff, Her Majesty's Hero.

The Information Office - Mark Mills

Mark Mills, author of The Secret Garden, has once again drawn on the history of World War II for his latest novel, The Information Officer. It's 1942 and Malta is under daily barrage from the Germans and Italians. A resolute band of English soldiers help the local Maltese protect the island and live day to day.

There's a delicate balance to be maintained between the English and the Maltese and Max Chadwick plays a part as the British Information Officer. When a friend brings a recent murder of a local hostess to his attention and the apparent involvement of a British submariner, Chadwick realises that this could disrupt the accord between the British and local Maltese. Despite being warned by the top brass to stop investigating, Chadwick continues to dig, uncovering evidence of Nazi spying and subversion.

Mills magnificently recreates the atmosphere of an island under constant aerial attack and attention to historical detail is excellent. However, it feels a little like mystery by rote, and the final revelations just don't ring true. The story just isn't memorable.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Law Abiding Citizen

Gerard Butler plays Clyde, whose wife and child are murdered in a senseless home invasion. Jamie Foxx plays the district attorney who cuts a deal with one of the murderers in order to send the other to Death Row. Not surprisingly, a distraught Clyde is disgusted with how the legal and justice system works.

Fast forward 10 years and two the murderers die in horrible ways. Suspicion quickly turns to Clyde, who is indeed responsible. He lets himself be arrested and placed in jail, pitting his wits against Foxx's attorney character.

There was a while in this film, particularly in the first interrogation scenes between Butler and Foxx and later in the first courtroom scene that I thought I would see a truly original and clever film. I imagined a story where a man commits a crime, willingly lets himself be arrested and then plays the legal system from the inside to be proven innocent, thus exposing the flaws of the system.

But you know what? I overestimated the film. Vastly overestimated in fact. Ultimately it is a mess, with a nonsensical story and oodles of violence. If only they could have steered in a different direction after the first 30 minutes.


According to my friends and family, I'm in the minority of people who actually enjoyed the movie 2012. Now don't take this as a wholehearted recommendation for the film, I'm simply saying that I enjoyed it.

It's a fairly typical smaltzt family story against the backdrop of epic destruction. Well that's nothing new, we've see it all before numerous times in "The Day After Tomorrow", "The Poiseidon Adventure" to mention just a few. And 2012 does appear to borrow heavily from previous films.

But once the earth stops to drop away, San Francisco slides into the bay, and Las Vegas disappears into a canyon, I was gripped. The CGI is big and doesn't let up for most of the film. Somehow the film succeeds in conveying a real sense of danger. However, it does lose pace towards the end and could have benefited from a snappier ending without the sub-story. Better writing could really have elevated this film to something above the norm.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Opposite Field - Jesse Katz

Jesse Katz was born in New York and raised in Portland, Oregon by a politically active mother and artist father. When he was finishing college, he chose to go live in the rapidly changing city of Monteray, California. Monteray was experiencing a period of rapid demographic change, with a large influx of asian and hispanic inhabitants. As a budding journalist, Katz wanted to be part of it.

Throughout this book, Katz's love of all things hispanic is clearly illustrated. He married a Nicaraguan barmaid and had a single son, Max, whom he adored from day one. He also inherited his wife's son from an earlier relationship, who proved resistive to Katz.

This story is all about Katz's involvement with Little League baseball and how he moved from being a baseball coach to being Commisioner for baseball. He describes how he resurrected the league, bringing it back to fiscal stability and increasing the numbers playing. Ultimately though the book is about his relationship with Max, and how he used to sport to bond with his son.

Katz's story is not one of super-human achievement, but rather it is the story of an imperfect family and imperfect, but yet normal, father-son relationship. The blurb on the back oversells the book, but it is a refreshing and honest take on fatherhood.

Timewalker - Justin Stanchfield

Timewalker is a fairly unique cross between the distinct genres of science-fiction and westerns. It's got a touch of grittiness and toughness which will make it appeal to young boys while also introducing them to the world of classic science-fiction. It deftly pulls together UFOs, technology and crop circles.

Sean, a young teenager, has always suffered from sleepwalking, ever since his mother left his life. But all is not as it seems, and a mysterious visitor is about to change his whole world. Sean, it seems, is a point on which the future pivots and his survival is crucial.

Stanchfield has taken a story which has been told many times in the past, but adds something new. It is ultimately a story about family, and the need to pull together. It's wholesome, simple and honest.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tesco vs Local Shop

We've got a great little shop near us called Field & Vine. It sells all manner of nice food, veggies and fruit. A few days ago I picked up some limes for 25c each there. Imagine my surprise when I saw limes for 39c each in Tesco Dundrum. That's a 56% increase on my local, 'fancy food' shop.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Meal Deal for 2 at Saba To Go

Saba To Go, located in Rathmines, is currently offering a Meal Deal for two people. It consists of two starters and two mains from a limited menu for €25.00, or for €32.50, you can add in a bottle of wine.

The menu available is listed below. It's a pity that Saba's delicious curries are not included in the offer, but the choice is still good and the price is even tastier.




Now choose chicken, pork or vegetables & tofu with your wok dish.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Gu Cheeky Little Pots Au Chocolat

While in Tesco recently, I noticed that they have mini Gu puddings on a 2 for 1 promotion. I picked up two boxes - one of cheeky little pots au chocolat and one of cheeky little chocolate tortes. Each box contains three little pots of pure pleasure. The pots au chocolat are absolutely stunning with a smooth, rich chocolate ganache.

South of Broad - Pat Conroy

Pat Conroy is the famous author of Prince of Tides, and he is heavily influenced by his Southern roots. Critics of his latest novel, South of Broad, have argued that it is repetitive but as a first-time Conroy reader, I was enchanted by his use of the English language.

There is no doubting that Conroy is a superb craftsman, whose tools are words. He paints beautiful pictures of Charleston and its inhabitants, endowing the images with luminous light through the use of mere words. The dialogue between the characters is witty and very contemporary - more than once was I reminded of the snappy dialogue found in modern dramas such as Dawson's Creek, The OC and others.

South of Broad centres on Leo King (or more accurately Leopold Bloom King, named after the hero of Joyce's Ulysses), a southern gentleman and journalist. Leo has a close group of disparate friends who came together in the late 1960s in high school. The book skips back and forth between the 1960s, where Leo is beginning to resume a normal life following the suicide of his elder brother, and the late 1980s where their group is under threat and one of its members faces death from the AIDs epidemic of that era.

The story may be somewhat obvious and even laboured, but it was a book I found hard to put down. The music and harmony present in Conroy's wordcraft puts him head and shoulders above many competing authors.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

M&S Giardini Merlot

When I shop for wine, I generally go by grape and price. Merlot and shiraz and two of my favourites, so when I saw M&S had reduced the price of their Giardini Italian Merlot, I just picked up a bottle and popped it into the basket.

When I opened the bottle and tasted it, I immediately went mmm! Light and fruity, it's a very refeshing wine. I was curious, so I googled it, only to find out that it's a wine naturally light in alcohol (just 9.5%). It's really plummy and fruity and definitely one to note for a future trip to M&S.

Jimmy Choo for H&M

So, my newly-married friend texted me yesterday to find out if I was heading to H&M to shop for the Jimmy Choo diffusion line. TBH, I hadn't really considered it, as I like my Saturday mornings in bed, but the thought of catching up with my friend, and shopping for shoes won out.

I arrived in Dundrum for 6am as I figured that it would be busy. I'd estimate that I was about the 100th person there, and when my friend and her sis arrived, I'd say that they were somewhere around 120. The first 160 people were given wristbands, which would get them access to the accessories area in allocated timeslots for 10 minutes. Clothing items would be a free-for-all with no restrictions.

When I entered the shop, the two rails of clothing had been stripped. It was apparent that most of the items were in the accessories section, so I went for a coffee with my friend, returning later to gain access to the shoes. There still was a good selection when I was granted access in my group of 20 and I was quickly able to nab the clutch that my friend wanted, as well as the shoes that each of us had our eyes on.

I had wanted the red, strappy, patent sandals, as they were the only style with a platform sole. (top lefthand in the above picture). My usual size, 37, was all gone, but I tried on a 36 (the last pair) and they fitted! By the time I left the shop, it was 10.45 am (4.75 hours after starting to queue), so I was delighted to leave with a gorgeous royal blue bag on my arm.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Seagrass, Dublin 2

UPDATE: Please read my 2012 visit to Seagrass for a more up to date review

Seagrass Restaurant has been established on Dublin's South Richmond Street for some while now. It's currently offering value lunch menus - €13 for two courses or €16 for three. I decided to treat myself to nice, quiet lunch.

The restaurant is calmly decorated with Scandinavian overtones. It's peaceful and cool - it urges you to have a relaxing lunch. I decided to go for the €13 menu and ordered the pate followed by a pea risotto. While I was waiting, the waitress brought me some tomato bread, along with a passata dip. I loved the texture of the bread - airy with firm bubbles, but I found it devoid of taste with no salt or discernible tomato flavour. Only the colour gave away the nature of the bread.

The pate came with two little ramekins of chutnies, one was spiced apple and the other seemed to be plum or fig-based ( I really can't be sure), but both were really good. Crispy slices of bread accompanied the generous dollop of pate, but again I found the pate itself to be a little underseasoned.

Although I was pretty full from the generous pate and bread, I soldiered on with the pea and sun-dried tomato risotto. Served in a bowl-plate, it came with green pesto dressing poured around the sides and parmesan on top. It had a smooth creamy texture and I loved the pops of flavour delivered by the fresh little peas. Once again though, I experienced the recurring issue of seasoning.

Overall, I really enjoyed my meal at Seagrass - there is something really good going on in the kitchen with good, fresh, hearty food at very good prices. Very well recommended and with an early-bird menu for €20 (two courses and a glass of wine/bottle of beer), it's never been a better time to pay a visit.


Secrets and Lies - Jaishree Misra

This is chick-lit, but chick-lit of a high calibre. Four childhood friends from a Catholic school in India have created lives for themselves in London and India. However, their lives have been overshadowed by a tragic event which took place during their last year in school. One day, they find that they have been summoned to a reunion by their old principal.

As their minds return to the buildup to that tragic event, the women start to realise how their lives have been shaped, and indeed damaged, by their inability to deal with that night. Misra moves seamlessly between the past and the present to weave her story.

The major negative in this book is the anti-climatic and somewhat unsatisfying ending. Misra spent a lot of time developing the characters and their lives, and to finish on this dull note was disappointing. But overall, if you want an easy read you could do a lot worse than this tale of friendships and second chances.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


This film springs from the wonderfully creative minds of Tim Burton (The Corpse Bride, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory and Edward Scissorhands), Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted, Nightwatch) and new kid director Shane Acker.

9 awakens in a deserted laboratory only to find himself alone in a post-apocalyptic world. When he ventures out, he finds others like him (8 others to be precise). Together, they strive to discover why the world has been destroyed and the reason for their existence.

This is technically a fantastic animated film - beautiful settings and exquisitely created characters. What a pity then that there is zero emtion or attachment to the film. Its gradual desecent in a morally-overpowering tale is lamentable. The weak story (surely I've seen this one before in Final Fantasy) and overall lack of symmety and cohesion pulls apart the tapestry woven by the animation and vocals.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

When I was about 9 years old, I was given a box set of Roald Dahl books as a present. I started reading about 8pm on Christmas Eve while waiting to go to Midnight Mass. I read non-stop, actually I couldn't stop. George's Marvellous Medicine, James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and of course, one of my all-time favourites, Fanstastic Mr. Fox.

The story of the clever and cunning Mr. Fox and his battle with the three greedy farmers Boggis, Bean and Bunce had me glued to my seat. I literally cheered with glee when Mr. Fox scored a victory and cowered in terror when the farmers chased him and his family. Roald Dahl had a special gift for children's stories.

Now Wes Anderson has bought the exceptionally Fantastic Mr. Fox to a bigscreen near you using fantastic, imaginative stop-motion puppetry to bring the characters to life. George Clooney is on form as the smooth, aspirational Mr. Fox while Meryl Streep acts as his supportive, tolerating wife.

The puppets dance lightly through sets stuffed full of retro quirk (it's got a real 70s feel) occasionally breaking into a dance. The juxtaposition between the wild animals and the domestic, urban life works brilliantly. While traditionalists might have baulked at the thought of the americanisation of this quintesentially British tale, rest assured, it does not detract from the magnificent, super, Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Men Who Stare at Goats

More of this is true than you know...

First of all, a big thanks to Kate Bowe PR for giving me two tickets to attend a screening of The Men Who Stare At Goats. Adapted from the John Ronson book of the same name, this film is centred around the reporter (Ewan McGregor) who heads to Iraq when his wife leaves him. While he waits to gain access to the front lines, he meets George Clooney's character, a veteran of the U.S. Army's research into psychic warfare.

Word of warning, whenever Clooney reprises his moustache, he's clearly in comic actor mode.

What follows is meant to be a light-hearted and humourous adventure romp. The film is a welcome counterpoint to all the serious films of the Iraq war, and while it has its funny moments, it is let down by a lack of story.

Give that the book upon which the film is based is an investigation into various research carrier out by the U.S. army, the lack of cohesive story makes sense. Goats, LSD and invisibility aren't natural bedfellows, but they've been joined together in this film.

With a stellar cast (McGregor, Clooney, Kevin Spacey and Jeff Bridges), there is indeed some great acting in this film with some excellent comic timing. However, the whole point of the film eluded me.

Monday, November 2, 2009

SuperFreakonomics - Stephen D. Levitt & Stephen K. Dubner

Superfreakonomics is the inevitable follow-up to the best-selling book on microeconomics Freakonomics which took a light look at the decisions and motivations of the individual and presented it in an easy to read format. It was a novel approach at the time and bought microeconomics to the attention of the general public.

Well, why change a winning formula? Superfreakonomics continues much in the same vein and it will undoubtedly be bought by the buckload. Be prepared to see the intellectual poseurs reading this book on the morning and evening commute.

The authors do make some interesting and controversial arguments at times, especially with regard to climate change and children's carseats. I must admit that I did find their arguments quite controversial, given the general public concensus on these topics. But that's no bad thing. It would be a dull world indeed if we all agreed.

Overall though, I found no sense of cohesion in the book and I found that it reinforced my view of economists as people groping around in the dark for a lightswitch. Despite ending with a very humourous description of an experiment where Cappuchin monkeys were taught the value of money, there was no wrap-up or final conclusion to the book. I literally turned the page expecting more and was greeting by the bibliography.

Right now, we are in an era of massive change, i.e. on a macroeconomic scale, and I found the minutiae of microeconomics tedious, unoriginal and non-contemporary.

Great Value Lunch at Ananda Indian Restaurant

I think Ananda Indian Restaurant in Dundrum Town Centre is something special. It's a collaboration between the Jaipur restaurants, with executive chef Sunil Ghai and London-based and Michelin chef Atul Kochhar. The results are nothing short of amazing, all served in a beautiful, colourful dining room.

Ananda have recently introduced a special value lunch menu, served Tues - Sun, 12.30 to 15.00. For €16, you can enjoy 4 tapas (either a vegetarian or non-vegetarian selection), one main course and a tea/coffee. When we saw this amazing value outside the restaurant we rolled right in.

We got one set of the vegetarian and non-vegetarian tapas, while I chose the lamb rogan josh and he went for the curried seafood biriyani. The little tapas blew us right of the water. Served one at a time, we were treated to super little pops of flavour, where for one, the vegetarian was not overshadowed by the meat-based tapas. Featured in the photos below are a chicken supreme (tandoor cooked), a goat's cheese salad, prawn tempura served with a tomato chutney and finally a delicious curried broccoli in cheese sauce. And that was just half of our tapas.

His biriyani featured fantastically plumped grains of rice, succulent and mixed with deliciously sweet fried onions. Plump prawns and seafood was dotted throughout and came with a sweet yet spicy curry sauce.

My lamb rogan josh was not the spicy hot dish that I was expecting. Instead I got a milder, richer sauce, which featured lots of saffron. Very nice indeed. Add one tasty garlic, onion and coriander naan and we were very happy campers.

This was really high quality cooking. Just because its lunchtime doesn't mean that Ananda is comprimising on quality or taste. The best part, lunch for two people with two large bottles of sparking water and one extra naan - €40.50. Wow.

Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake

One of my favourite blogs,, recently featured a pumpkin cheesecake recipe in the run up to Halloween. My curiosity was well and truly piqued, so off I went to purchase a pumpkin and some cream cheese.

I roasted the pumpkin in chunks in the oven and then blitzed it quickly using my handheld blender. I made the cheesecake according to the recipe, with the sole addition of a 1/2 teaspoon of natural vanilla essence. I baked it for about 1 hour until the middle had started to firm, then I turned off the oven, opened the door, and left it to sit and cool for a while.

It's an absolutely delicious cheesecake and really benefits from sitting in the fridge for at least a day. I'd use a little less cinnamon powder the next time, as I feel that it does overpower the pumpkin flavour slightly but still.... there's nothing quite like a good cheesecake.
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