Back in early December 2011, we found ourselves driving between Cork and Waterford. As we passed by Youghal, I saw roadsigns for Lismore, reminding me that I was yet to visit O'Brien Chop House (which has been open since 2009). Being a creature who demands immediate satisfaction in matters of food, we quickly decided that lunch in Lismore would be a very fine idea indeed.
Lismore is a beautiful town, sitting on the Blackwater river at the foot of the Knockmealdown mountains. Old shopfronts have been preserved and the entire town just breathes history and tradition. O'Brien Chop House is itself located on the premises of an old Victorian pub. As you push open the narrow wooden door, and walk across the tiled entrance, you will find yourself in a piece of old traditional Ireland. The original bar, shelving and snug have all been maintained, while the dining room extends out to the rear.
After ordering, we received selection of freshly baked breads served with a pat of Glenilen Farm butter. The breads were excellent, and it's really nice to see farmhouse butter starting to appear in different restaurants. The menu at O'Brien's regularly features a fizz and on our visit, spiced apple fizz was a nod to the season (€3.50). Elderflower fizz also features frequently, thanks to abundant crops which need to be used and frozen.
|Selection of fresh breads & butter|
|Pork crackling popcorn|
We ordered a portion of pork crackling popcorn as a snack while waiting for our mains. Little puffs of crackling came served in an old, battered pewter cup lightly dusted with paprika and sea salt (€2.50). To be honest, we found them somewhat compulsive eating.
We shared one of the daily special starters - Dry aged McGrath's beef steak tartare (€12.50). This was served with a stunning yellow duck egg yolk sitting on top. Once the yolk was broken and mixed through the meat, we was found the tartare to be wonderfully flavoursome with a smooth, dense texture. Delicious stuff.
|Steak tartare with duck egg yolk|
My main course was Ballyvolane House Saddleback pork chops, apple and onion jam with pan juices (€21.50), while he chose another special, pan-fried ray wing with lemon and caper butter (€19.90). Wonderful roast winter root vegetables and a portion of fries accompanied our mains. The ray wing was a simple piece of cooking with plenty of firm, meaty flesh and it caused us both to wonder why ray wing isn't featured more frequently on restaurant menus. The pork chops were substantial, with the pink hue that comes with really good pork. Despite all this, the roast root vegetables were the stars of the show. Piled high in a blue & white china bowl, they were warming and hearty with all the goodness of the roasting pan.
|Ballyvolane House saddleback pork chop|
|Pan-fried ray wing|
O'Brien Chop House sources local, seasonal produce, with an in-house garden kitchen. On the day we visited, the menu featured a special of whole, roast mallard, and I gained much amusement watching a fellow diner wield a knife to the whole duck. Although the duck may have lost the battle to the gamekeeper, it was definitely managing to defeat my neighbour. As we left through the old bar, I imagined myself back again, only this time in the evening, and with a local beer in hand. O'Brien Chop House draws you back, it's that kind of place.
O'Brien Chop House, Lismore, Co Waterford
Tel: +353 (0)58 53 810