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!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

[Review] San Lorenzo's, S Great George's St, Dublin 2

More than 6 months after opening, we finally managed to make it to San Lorenzo's for lunch. Way back in December, I had the option of choosing lunch in either Yamamori's Oriental Cafe or San Lorenzo's. The Oriental Cafe won the vote that day, a decision that I still regret. Since then, all the positive press and Twitter plaudits have rubbed salt into my wounds.

The first thing I liked about San Lorenzo's is the nicely priced lunch menu which is also available as an Early Bird, giving 2 courses for €19.50 or 3 for €24.50. The interior is long and thin, with the tables neatly arranged along the walls, thus giving the waiters a clear run at the kitchen. The arrangement also gives the sense of space, despite the narrowness of the room. Red painted walls and Tiffany style lamps warm the interior, but I just didn't like the wooden paneled wall. Its varnished plywood effect simply reminded me of construction sites and temporary hoardings.

A starter of buffalo mozzarella with heirloom tomatoes, aged balsamic and torn basil was a splash of colour against the plain white plate. I didn't find the tomatoes to be as flavoursome as they were colorful, but it was a lovely simple starter. Pan-fried prawns were served whole atop a thick slice of crusty bread, soaked in garlic, chili and wine wine. These were wonderfully juicy and bursting with flavour. After a little nibble at the bread (I'm currently restricting my wheat intake) I passed it to himself, who gave it a decent end. 
Stitch and Bear - San Lorenzos - Buffalo mozzarella and tomato salad
Buffalo mozzarella with heirloom tomatoes
Stitch and Bear - San Lorenzos - Pan-fried prawns
Pan-fried prawns
Service was probably a little slow overall, meaning that it was a few minutes before our plates were cleared. Main courses of lamb and salmon were magnificent though, justifying the wait. His sliced rump of Comeragh lamb came pink and juicy, draped on top of horseradish potatoes and beans, with a rich reduction. My choice of grilled salmon was properly crispy which meant that I was able to eat every last morsel including the salt flaked skin. It came accompanied by a little dollop of creamy pea risotto, roasted courgettes, some salsa and a knob of divine shrimp butter.
Stitch and Bear - San Lorenzos - Rump of Comeragh lamb
Rump of Comeragh lamb 
Stitch and Bear - San Lorenzos - Salmon with risotto and shrimp butter
Salmon with shrimp butter
We hadn't planned to eat the 3 course lunch menu, but after seeing strawberry pavlova being delivered to other tables, we came to the only logical outcome, ordering one dessert but two spoons. Strawberries are one of my favourite foods and the meringue in this case was exceptionally good. A simple dessert, but excellently executed. 
Stitch and Bear - San Lorenzos - Strawberry pavlova
Strawberry pavlova
Out of the five courses we enjoyed, only one was weaker than the others, and even then, it was still a good dish. There is a real elegance and joy to the food in San Lorenzo's, which is fittingly named after the Italian patron saint of cookery. We were pleasantly surprised by the attention to detail and exuberance present on the plates, each of which really showcased the ingredients to full effect.

Two set lunches and a large bottle of sparkling water cost €47.00, representing great value for some very special cooking. Sometimes the hype is justified. 

San Lorenzos, South Great George's Street, Dublin 2
Tel: +353 (0)1 478 9383
Twitter: @SanLorenzos
San Lorenzo's on Urbanspoon

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Campo Viejo Tapas Trail 2012

Last year, I won two tickets to the first Campo Viejo Tapas Trail, courtesy of the Irish Food Bloggers Association. Our trip turned out to be a wonderful experience, where we sampled the very best of Spanish tapas available in our fair city. It wasn't all just about the tapas, as some flamenco dancing, guitar music and a guided walking tour of Dublin was also thrown in. You can read more about my Campo Viejo Tapas Trail 2011 experience here. While my tickets were gratis, the most amazing part about this experience was the low cost of the tickets, costing a mere €20.
Vibrant paella at Salamaca (Tapas Trail 2011)
The good news is that the Campo Viejo Tapas Trail is returning in 2012, with some dates already sold out. The tickets continue to cost a paltry €20 per head, and will take in Salamanca, Salamanca Fusion, Havana Tapas Bar and The Market Bar. Each restaurant will present their three best tapas for your enjoyment, alongside a measure of Campo Viejo Reserva (delicious stuff). To bring the vibrancy of Spain to life, guests will be treated to a mix of Spanish-themed entertainment.
Flamenco dancing at Salamanca (2011 Tapas Trail)
The Campo Viejo Tapas Trail will take place each Wednesday (6.30 - 9.00 pm) and Sunday (2.00 - 4.30 pm) between June 27th and August 19th. Each trail will have 80 places. Guests will be split into 4 groups, each starting at a different restaurant, and working their way around the trail. For further information and to purchase tickets, visit or


[Review] Cornelia & Co, Carrer Valencia, Barcelona

It's all too easy when in Barcelona to fall into the habit of eating nothing but tapas. It takes a little effort and digging to find something a bit different. But Barcelona does have plenty happening behind the tourist scenes, and hip websites like 60 by 80 show the way to some really interesting alternatives to the usual tourist haunts.  

Cornelia & Co, located on Carrer Valencia, takes inspiration from famous New York deli Dean & Deluca. The window proclaims it to be a "Daily Picnic Store" and the interior is not your typical Spanish tapas joint. It's bright and airy with white columns and walls, balanced by dark wood floors and furniture while chairs decorated with decoupage fashion images add some vibrancy.

Stitch and Bear - Cornelia & Co - Interior
The light and bright interior at Cornelia & Co
The attention to detail continued with the menu which came on a clipboard with layered sheets of varying lengths for the different sections. I also loved the fact that the knives and forks were bound together with old-fashioned wire ties.
Stitch and Bear - Cornelia & Co - Place setting
Attractively presented cutlery at Cornelia & Co
Himself was feeling a bit peckish so he ordered two courses. First up was a club sandwich (€8.80) which was unwrapped by the barista and fried on a hot plate behind the bar. The end result was somewhat like an American grilled sandwich and came crustless, served with lightly salted crisps. His second course was a tartar of salmon served with a layer of avocado (€9.50) and various savory crisps.
Stitch and Bear - Cornelia & Co - Club sandwich
Grilled club sandwich
Stitch and Bear - Cornelia & Co - Salmon tartar with avocado
Tartar of salmon with avocado
I had opted for a decadent lunch, as one does when one is on holiday, namely the hamburger with foie gras and truffles (at a whopping €18.00). A very lightly cooked patty came served atop a bird's nest of crispy, thin fries, along with a bowl of truffled eggs. It felt somewhat like a reconstructed steak tartar and was deliciously indulgent. The crispy fries were a magnificent contrast to the soft juicy meat and velvety dripping eggs.
Stitch and Bear - Cornelia & Co - Foie gras hamburger
Hamburger ternera foie gras
Cornelia & Co is probably more expensive compared to many daily lunch options in Barcelona. But it is also something special, with a lovely interior and modern cuisine. If you want a break from tapas, then take a trip to this chic New York-inspired location.

Cornelia & Co, Carrer Valencia 225, Barcelona 08007
Tel: +34 93 272  3956

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Food Events at Kinsale Arts Festival

Kinsale is an astonishingly beautiful part of Cork, and it's always well worth a visit. The 2012 Kinsale Arts Festival will run from July 7th to 15th, with the "Vice & Virtue" of Irish society as the theme for this year's event. It sounds like a pretty apt theme for a country that has always been comfortable with its own unique brand of Catholicism. Events will cover music, art, literature, drama, poetry, film and of course... food! 

Kinsale is well-regarded as a food destination, so it's only natural that any arts festival would have a gastronomic slant. Food is both a guilty pleasure and a necessity, fitting the "Vice & Virtue" theme very neatly. Here are some of the main events on offer...
  • The Dramatic Dinner at Crackpots Restaurant invites you to explore your performance skills in a series of interactive mini plays, which will take you back to the era of silent movies. A piano plays, while movies from another era will provide a suitable backdrop. As each course is served, a savour of virtue is followed by delicious decadence, and it's up to you to decide which taste suits you best. Release your inner drama queen as each table has a script to follow. 9pm July 11th. Tickets €47
  • For the Cleudo sleuths, Murder at Ballinacurra House will be your chance to shine. Prove your mettle and enter into detective mode, while enjoying your meal in the company of some zany characters as high jinks unfold. A summer evening, a family gathering and fine dining in a luxury manor home... what could possibly go wrong? Someone in the party has other ideas! July 8th - 10th. Tickets €49 including dinner. 
  • This Meal Will Change Your Life Charlotte Jarive and Zelda Di Blasi want to make you happier, while  also serving you delicious dinner. Collaborating to create events drawing upon psychological research and food art, they need your help to answer some important and fundamental questions about our happiness. Come along, let them feed you and hopefully make you happy. 8pm July 6th, 7th & 8th at Long Quay House. Tickets €42 including dinner. 
  • Famous fish chef Martin Shannahan from Fishy Fishy Cafe will host food workshops designed to take the fear out of fish. Overcome your fears and leave with a tasty picnic snack as Martin and Madeleine Murray (Pure Sushi) lead a workshop that will soon have you rolling up with ease. Join them at Fishy Fishy restaurant on Friday, July 13th between 11.00 - 13.00. Four half-hour sessions are on offer, with spaces limited, so pre-booking is essential. The cost - a mere €5!
  • Jelly Town features a series of events and children's workshops which explore what food and architecture have in common. Led by A2Architects and PAC Studio, an up-lit wobbly jello model of Kinsale will be constructed over the weekend. Ultimately, it will be populated by a delicious population of gummi bears, pastilles, snakes and gums. Visit Jelly Town on Saturday July 7th or Sunday July 8th. No booking required, just visit the Temperance Hall between 11.00 - 14.00
  • The Afternoon Tea Sessions at the KAF Pop-Up Playhouse presents three special events looking at how we live, thrive and survive. Featuring tea and cake from the lovely Lemon Leaf Cafe, it's bound to be a winner, so join in the age-old Irish tradition of solving problems over a cup of tea. Roisin Ingle will lead Tea & Sympathy (3pm July 8th), Zelda di Blasi holds Tea & Pyschology (4pm July 13th) while Sarah Bakewell wraps up with Tea & Philosophy (4pm July 14th). Tickets €15

Tickets are available form the festival website or by calling +353 (0)21 470 0877

Friday, June 15, 2012

[Review] Bite, South Frederick Street, Dublin 2

"Fish & Chips with Cocktails" is the strap line of new Dublin restaurant Bite. Simple concept, but can the execution match the statement? There's a very experienced hospitality team behind Bite, including Ronan Ryan and Anthony Remedy (of Town Bar & Grill and McGrattan's bar respectively) while the kitchen is headed up by Malcolm Starmer (former head chef at The Dining Room in La Stampa).

The concept of Bite appears simple - take a single element (fish) and build a menu around it. Locate the restaurant in a classy Georgian building on South Frederick Street, add modern signage, the now-obligatory social media campaign and you have the elements of a very modern Dublin restaurant. It's a far call from the bags of fish and chips from Cork's Jackie Lennox's that I enjoyed as a child in the backseat of the family car, with the windows cranked open to drive out the chip smell.

We arrived on a sunny summer evening and received a very warm greeting from the host. Getting to our table involved a trip up and down steps, out of the first dining room, through the outdoor area and back into the second dining room. Bite has expanded to fill every nook and cranny of the space available, and nearly all tables were taken. 

Once seated, we were given the menus along with a free bowl of popcorn for snacking. This was a mix of  chilli squid popcorn, plain chilli popcorn and buttered popcorn and it was addictive. It was warm and buttery with little kicks from the chill and squid, with a pool of buttery goodness sitting at the bottom.
Stitch and Bear - Bite - Popcorn
Mixed bowl of free buttery popcorn
I must admit that the first view of the cocktail list was a bit disappointing. The cocktails mainly feature gin and vodka and while I love my gin, I am more a fan of darker cocktails. That aside, we started with an Ellison - Hendrick's gin muddled with mint and cucumber, lime and soda (€8.95). This was cool and refreshing but disappointingly light on the alcohol.

The menu at Bite is short with a handful of options in the main sections. Our starters of pil pil prawns (€6.95) and classic crab cocktail with beetroot purée and a marie rose sauce (€7.95) were both pretty good with some minor faults. My crab cocktail was light, with a lovely sweetness from the beetroot purée, however the large wad of shredded iceberg lettuce stole the flavour from the delicate crab. In his case, the oil had been richly infused with garlic and chilli, but there was a serious lack of bread with which to mop up the tasty goodness. 
Stitch and Bear - Bite - Crab Cocktail
Classic crab cocktail
Stitch and Bear - Bite - Gambas Pil Pil
Pil Pil Prawns
Moving on to main courses, we ordered lemon sole in panko breadcrumbs (€13.95) and grilled sea trout (€14.95). Skinny fries can be added to most dishes for just €0.95 extra or you can indulge with the extensive range of side dishes which cost €3.95 each or two for €7.00. Our choices were the fat truffle and parmesan fries and mushy peas with pancetta. All fish dishes come with a sauce of your choosing, so we ordered chermoulla and rouille but we were also delighted to receive two additional pots of bitter lemon sauce and grain mustard and dill (additional sauces cost €0.95 each). 

Both fish dishes were quite nice, bearing in mind that ultimately, they are fish & chips. Accompanying little jars of pickles were tasty and the side portion of skinny fries was very generous, forcing me to leave about half untouched. The burnt lemon sauce was a winner, reminding me of a bitter lemon curd and the fat parmesan and truffle fries were very fat indeed. Overall, we were stuffed
Stitch and Bear - Bite - Lemon Sole with Skinny Fries
Lemon sole with skinny fries & pickles
Stitch and Bear - Bite - Grilled Sea Trout
Grilled sea trout
I ordered one more cocktail, the aptly titled Stephens Green. This was a mix of kiwi muddled with ice, vanilla vodka and apple juice (€7.95). Again, it suffered from feeling light on the alcohol, but it was a perfect summer cocktail. 

Our overall impressions of Bite was quite good, once the hype and celebrity spotting is subtracted (we were limited to a glimpse of Brendan O'Connor). A simple plate of fish & chips is substantial and quite affordable, leaving the decision on extras up to the diner. I think the Fish & Chips part of the strap line has been nailed, but the Cocktails part is lagging behind. I'd personally prefer a cocktail menu that featured a little bourbon, whiskey or cachaça. Right now, Dublin diners are flocking to restaurants that are simpler, affordable and fun. Bite ticks all the boxes.

Bite, 29 South Frederick Street, Dublin 2
Tel: +353 (0)1 679 7000
Twitter: @BITEdublin
Bite on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 8, 2012

COMPETITION: Win Food & Sake from Yamamori Izakaya

Stitch and Bear is running its very first competition, and it's all thanks to the lovely team at Yamamori Izakaya. They had read my recent review of their cool downstairs Japanese bar and they wanted to offer one of my readers the chance to experience Izakaya for themselves.  
Downstairs at Yamamori Izakaya
Izakaya's bar has been one of Dublin's hidden secrets for a while now, but I suppose you can't keep a good thing down. Izakaya is a pretty relaxed spot, offering good value Japanese food, a fine selection of Japanese beers, sake and cocktails, along with good music and even movies. I love their cocktails, spicy squid and burgers, and I'm willing to bet that you will too. 

The Prize
The prize is simple. Izakaya are offering the lucky winner 5 dishes from their extensive 5 for €25 menu, along with a bottle of sake. 

How to Enter
Simply answer the following question, by leaving a comment on this blog post. 

Izakaya is located at 12-13 South George's Street, but who were the original occupants of this famous Dublin building? (click here for a hint).

This competition will close at 18.00 GMT on Friday, June 15th. The winner will be randomly selected from all correct entries. Please don't leave anonymous comments, as I won't be able to contact you about your win. Good luck!

The Details
If you are the lucky winner, then you will need to notify Izakaya in advance, and you will have three months in which to redeem the prize

Yamamori Izakaya, 12-13 South Great George's St, Dublin 2
Tel: +353 (0)1 645 8001
Twitter: @Izakaya_Dublin

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Elbow Lane Brewery, Cork

The Rebel county doesn't seem to be very happy with the fact that it already plays home to a selection of artisan breweries (The Franciscan Well Brewery, Stonewell Cider or Eight Degrees Brewing), speciality shops such as Bradley's of North Main Street and good beer pubs (The Bierhaus or The Franciscan Well). 

It would appear that nothing short of world domination of the Irish craft beer market will do for the crafty Corkonians, as evidenced by the launch of new brewery Elbow Lane. And since Cork people never like to make thing easy for themselves, Elbow Lane's first beer on the market will be a stout. Some might say that that is a brave move in the home of Murphy's, Beamish and Shandon Stout. Others might say that it's a clever move. Either way, get ready to experience the heavenly titled Angel Stout.
Stitch and Bear - Elbow Lane Brewery Cork

The names of the three beers, of which Angel Stout is the first, draw inspiration from the streets and alleyways of Cork City, many of which have survived since medieval times. North Main Street in particular has celebrated this by placing brass plaques at key locations. The brewery itself is named after one of the surviving city centre lanes, Elbow Lane, while two of the beers were named after lanes that have now disappeared, Angel Lane and Wisdom Lane. For the geeks, a GPS co-ordinate is provided on each bottle label showing the location of the lane. 

Elbow Lane comes from the team behind the popular Market Lane and Castle Cafe restaurants. Their goal was to create three beers that could be served with pride alongside their food. All beers are brewed according to the German Purity Law, whereby only the natural ingredients of water, malt and hops are used. As a processing aid, bottom or top fermenting yeast is added and later removed.

Angel Stout
A tough roast with malt flavour with a full-bodied and smooth finish. The beer is brewed using the strong hop variety Herkules to get a balanced hoppy spiciness.  ABV 5.1% 

Wisdom Ale
This beer is a single malt brown ale. Roasted malt like Caramel, as well as a selection of Vienna and Pilsner were used to create a medium body with slightly and toasty malt flavour tones. This ale is excellent with many foods and uniquely satisfying as a stand alone pint. ABV 4.7%

Elbow Lager
Particularly mild, sparkling, refreshing and easily digestible are the characteristics of this lager. It owes its flavour to barley malt and a generous hop bitterness. A great treat for beer lovers. ABV 4.5%

Angel Stout is on sale in bottle form from Tuesday, June 5th from Market Lane and Castle Cafe. Elbow Lager will be available by July 20th, with Wisdom Ale rounding out the trio at the start of August. It is hoped to have the beers available in other restaurants and off-licenses in due course, so keep an eye on or @ElbowLaneCork for further updates. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Izakaya Bar, S Great George's St, Dublin 2

The concept of an Oriental Cafe isn't new to Dublin. I did a little online research and was interested to learn that Bewley's opened the first cafe way back when in 1894 on South Great George's Street. It was followed by other famous Bewley's venues on Westmoreland Street and later Grafton Street. I can only imagine how the grand decor, with tiling, stained glass windows and lightshades must have looked to the fashionable set of the time.

Sadly, even venerable institutions can fall and in 2004, the Bewley's venues closed their doors. South Great George's Street played host to Cafe Bar Deli for several years, along with another short lived venture, before becoming home to Yamamori's latest offering. I'd eaten in the upstairs Yamamori cafe in December 2011, but it had been a mixed meal, with high points (sweet potato fries) and dismal low points (congee).  I genuinely had the Oriental Cafe on my no-return list. Or at least that was the case until I visited the downstairs Izakaya bar.

Head down a steep flight of stairs and you will find yourself in what is possibly Dublin's coolest little bar. Big chunky wooden tables, low lighting and Japanese pieces fill the space of this little gem, which sells a selection of Japanese beers, whiskies and spirits. If you're hungry, there is a large selection of little bites, with a special offer of 5 for €25. Plates arrive as they are cooked, meaning that there is a nice stream of food delivered to your table. We kicked off with spicy and delicious chili squid, followed quickly by tender and moist pork ribs. Pumpkin korokke (little breaded cakes) were served with dipping sauce, while stuffed capsicum featured mixed chili pepper slices, filled and deep fried. Last to the table was a selection of chicken yakitori (or skewers).
Chili squid
Pumpkin korokke with dipping sauce
The five courses for €25 represents great value, but after a few tasty beers (him) and cocktails (me), we were peckish again, so we made a last order of a plate of pork gyoza (€6.50) and the Izakaya burger.  The gyoza were good with plenty of juicy filling, but the burger surpassed all expectations. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is the best burger in Dublin. With a price tag of just €5.95, I was contemplating a return visit for just the burger alone. 
The magnificent Izakaya burger
The owl adorned label of Nest beer
The drinks menu is dominated by Japanese drinks and he had bottles of Hitachi Nest pale ale (€5.50) and Sapporo (€4.50). My tastes run a little different so I drank cocktails - a Geisha Night (€7.50) and Mojito (€9.00) to be more precise. All cocktails are made with Japanese or Korean spirits like soju, so it's definitely different.

It wasn't until after my visits to Izakaya that I learned that the name denotes a kind of Japanese after-work drinking establishment which serves food to accompany the drinks. It's kind of like calling an Irish bar "pub". Naming effectiveness aside, our Dublin version definitely fits the description. In fact, it's become my new favourite bar. There are regular drinks promotions and the 5 for €25 offer means that the small tasty plates can be shared amongst groups. And did I mention that it's got the tastiest burger in town?

Yamamori Izakaya, 12-13 South Great George's St, Dublin 2
Tel: +353 (0)1 645 8001
Twitter: @Izakaya_Dublin

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