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!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

A little treat from M&S

I went into town a week ago with the intention of buying something. It was one of those days when I desperately wanted to buy something new - something different to wear to the office. I was delighted by the current selection on offer in M&S and ended up buying the two tops shown above. I love the blue shade of the sleeveless top, as well as the simple pleated detail.

The only disappointing feature with these two tops is the rather inflated Euro/Sterling exchange rate offered by M&S. The chiffon top is currently £25stg on M&S's website, which equals approx €29 according to However, I paid €35. However, in fairness to Marks, they're not the worst offenders out there.

New Irregular Choice Shoes

I just picked up these beauties in the Schuh sale. They are reduced down to €64.50, which when combined with a €50 gift voucher made them a steal! The next problem is when to wear them...

Rupture - Simon Lelic

Rupture is Simon Lelic's debut novel and it is, in my opinion, a tour de force. It opens following a shooting at an English school where a young teacher shot pupils and other teachers before finally turning the gun on himself. As the investigating detective Lucia May starts to dig, a whole world of institutionalised bullying is revealed. Shockingly, her investigation starts to mirror her own experiences in the police force, leaving her sympathetic to Szajkowski, the gunman teacher and his actions.

Lelic has employed an unusual structure for this novel. When not speaking as Lucia May, he alternates between the voices of the various supporting characters. This reveals Lelic to be a deft and captivating writer, easily able to change voice at the turn of a page.

This novel is something of the zeitgeist. On one hand we have a headmaster who ignored activities in the school in order to maintain a high profile while on the other hand we have stories of young children cruelly bullying others. It somehow captures the societal breakdown that many feel is endemic in our modern world.

Rupture is a shocking and riveting story which is exceptionally well written. Not only is it a police novel but it pushes and investigates society and bullying. An amazing read.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Germania - Simon Winder

Germania is, surprisingly, a history of Germany. The thing is though, it's not told from a stuffy, rigorous perspective but instead is told in an easy and humorous manner by the author. It is at times irreverent and long-winded, but it is always entertaining and illuminating.

Winder is a man obsessed with all things German. Ever since a childhood holiday in Germany, he has been fascinated by this country that sits at the heart of Europe, but which yet took so long to solidify into a coherent sovereign state. Winder mixes descriptions of favourite locations around Germany with a very liberal dose of history, and a unique perspective on the Germans. The book stops just shy of WWII as the author clearly does not feel comfortable with this dark period in German history. However, the book stretches back in time to the Romans, thus covering a significant period of time.

The book is peppered with laugh out loud comments and observations, but when finished reading, I realised that I had also absorbed a large amount of factual knowledge. If only all historical writing was this captivating.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

SuperCycles - Arun Motianey

Arun Motianey is an ex-Citigroup senior employee with a wealth of economic experience. With the current worldwide turmoil, he has chosen a highly appropriate time to advance his theory of the SuperCycle.

The SuperCyle is a long, continuous wave of up and down that stretch throughout the global markets. Motianey attributes the existence of the SuperCycle to the misguided, but well-meant actions of policymakers and leaders. The author takes us through the entire story of a SuperCycle, from beginning, middle to end, using the classic example of the Great Depression to highlight his theory. This naturally leads to an exploration of the current crisis. Motianey's argument against lending on asset value, rather than on income streams rings eerily true following the recent falls in property prices.

Be warned, this is not a light read and definitely not for the faint of heart, or those unlearned in matters economic. I frequently found myself researching topics on the internet in order to supplement my basic economic knowledge. But the author makes interesting reading and his contrary viewpoint is definitely welcome in a time when no one seems to have the answer.

Monday, February 15, 2010

De Struisvogel, Amsterdam

Restaurant de Struisvogel is an amazing little find in the Jordaaner district of Amsterdam. It's tucked down a steep little stairs in the basement of a corner building on the canal edge. In here you'll find a small and charming little gem!

de Struisvogel offers an amazing 3 course menu for €23.50 which features organic or free range meat only. On the night I visited, I chose scallops for my starter (served perfectly cooked) while I went for ostrich steak (not surprisingly, incurs €3 supplement) for my main. The steak was delicious and came served with wilted spinach and a few little roast potato wedges. My dining companion went for the blinis to start, which she followed with the delicious truffle risotto. For desert I chose the apple and rhubarb crumble, while my friend enjoyed the traditional stroopwafel.

de Struisvogel is a fabulous little restaurant which serves high-quality, simple, French food at exceptional prices. I know that I'll definitely be heading back to sample more of their dishes.

Restaurant de Struisvogel, Keizersgracht 312, 1016 EX Amsterdam. +31 (0)20 4233 817

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Rakang Thai Restaurant, Amsterdam

It's snowing in Amsterdam, and I was seriously tempted to stay in the hotel tonight and have a steak in the restaurant. But a group got together and so we headed out along the snowy and icy canals. Elandsgracht is a nice wide street in the Jordaan district, and it was there that we found the busy and hopping Rakang Thai restaurant.

A plate of shared starters was excellent as was an utterly sublime coconut chicken soup, fantastically flavoured with lemongrass and ginger. I would return to this restaurant for the soup alone. At this stage, I was expecting great things for the main courses, but unfortunately things went downhill from here. The main courses (a beef massaman, spicy duck and garlic chicken) were overblown with no subtlety in the spices. The duck in particular had a bitter flavour in the spice paste. Espressos served with little chocolate coffee beans were sharp and strong.

The decor alone is worth a visit at Rakang. The tablecloths have shirt collars and ties attached, while little statues with phalluses feature on some tables (well, it is Amsterdam after all). The food was a mixed bag - some great, some not so great. At the prices being charged, I'd probably only head back for the soup!

Rakang, Elandsgracht 29-31, Jordaan, 1016 TM Amsterdam, The Netherlands. +31 (0)20 620 9551

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Beat the Reaper - Josh Bazell

Beat the Reaper is described on its cover as being like "mixing a hospital drama with Godfather and Tarantino" - rather apt I think.

Peter Brown is an intern at a New York hospital - he's also a member of the Witness Protection Programme, having been a mafia hitman in a prior life. He's the guy you want around when things start to go bad, but you probably would be slightly worried if he sat next to you on the bus. When an old connection turns up in the hospital with potentially terminal stomach cancer, Peter's new life changes in a heartbeat.

Peppered with violent scenes, medical tips, expletives and fun, Beat the Reaper is a great piece of humourous, lightweight reading with a dark touch.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

La Palma, Waterford

We visited La Palma on the Mall in Waterford last Saturday night. They offer an excellent 3 course menu with tea/coffee for €30 every night, which costs €25 before 7pm. It won't be any surprise then to hear our booking was for 6pm!

La Palma is a beautifully decorated restaurant with impeccable service and very good good. My starter of gnocchi with rare duck slices in a honey cream sauce was something special. The contrast of sweet and meaty was unique and very more-ish. My main course of rib-eye steak featured an excellent tender steak, which was unfortunately unsalted. Lovely little roasted chunks of potato accompanied the mains. I was very much tempted by tiramisu for dessert, but enjoyed my delicious little pot of creme brulee.

It's clear from the flavours and presentation of the food that there is a clever chef in the kitchen at La Palma. It's not always quite right (i.e. not seasoning a steak correctly, but then producing such a fantastic starter) but it is good. And a price of €25 per person for three courses definitely strikes a sweet note.

La Palma, The Mall, Waterford. 051 - 879 823

Wolf Hall - Hilary Mantel

Hilary Mantel's epic novel was the winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize. On its Amazon page, there are lists of quotes from critics who uniformly hail it as a "feast" and "compelling". The story is set in Tudor England with Henry VIII upon the throne, and in his first marriage to Catherine of Aragon. He is however, without an heir and a certain Anne Boleyn is lurking on the fringes of court.

This was a turbulent time in English history and Thomas Cromwell was a key figure in the King's Court. Mantel's tale is told from Cromwell's perspective as he rises through the ranks at court to become a chief advisor to the King, guiding him through the separation from the church in Rome. Knowing Cromwell's ultimate end makes this tale all the more fascinating. Mantel has apparently promised a sequel which will undoubtedly satisfy the need for full historical disclosure.

I must admit though that I found this book a bit of hard work. It's extremely well-written, but Mantel's use of a disjointed narrative can be oblique. Mantel does a superb job of recreating the intricacies of the Tudor court, magnificently bringing the dominant personae of the time to life on the pages. All in all though, the slow pace and dense wording make the book more of a chore than a pleasure.
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