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!

Friday, January 11, 2013

[Review] A Weekend in Limerick

Booking a break just before Christmas had seemed like a good idea several months beforehand, but as Christmas looked closer, I was beginning to think otherwise. However, my voucher for No. 1 Pery Square Hotel & Spa was going to expire, so we drove off down the M7 to Limerick. We'd stayed at No. 1 Pery Square before, so I knew what to expect at this soothing & charming Georgian hotel.

It's a perfect hotel for a little secluded getaway. Limerick is only about 2 hours from Dublin by motorway, which pretty much drops you into the centre of Limerick. The bedrooms are elegant with typical French chic colour palettes and there are wonderful drawing rooms in which you can relax with afternoon tea or a cocktail. There's a spa, complete with thermal suite and a wonderful restaurant on the first floor.  Trust me, you'd be hard pushed to leave the comfort of No.1 Pery Square.
A bedroom at No. 1 Pery Square (photo taken from hotel website)
On Saturday morning (well, late morning), our first stop was at Canteen, a simple pop-up restaurant on Mallow Street. We arrived after the breakfast service but before lunch service. There is only one thing that you can do in this type of scenario, which is to have cake and coffee. Paul Williams is the man behind Canteen, where he aims to offer healthy fast-food. Blissfully for me, this means that all the cakes and snacks are made with Doves Farm wheat-free & gluten-free flours, or even completely flour-free. 

A slice of Super Bee chocolate tart was one of the best cakes that I have ever eaten. The addition of bee pollen and Manuka honey allowed me to fool myself into believing that this was a healthy cake Everyone should have a slice of this indulgent and tasty cake. A flat white made with Badger & Dodo coffee was the perfect accompaniment.
Delicious Super Bee chocolate tart at Canteen
I had tweeted several weeks beforehand that we would be in Limerick for the weekend. I should have known better. Ireland is a small place where everyone knows everybody and everybody knows your business! I was incredibly honoured when Lorraine (@italianfoodie) offered to have a special wheat-free lunch available for me at her Italian restaurant La Cucina. Considering that La Cucina is pretty much all about the Holy Trinity of Pizza, Pasta & Pannini, this was an incredibly generous gesture.

La Cucina was buzzing when we arrived, and it stayed that way throughout our meal. It's a small location that packs a lot into the space available. We had to wait a few minutes for some tables to turn over, but we were soon seated. A starter of bresaola with rocket, parmesan and balsamic was colourful and simple (€6.00). As I couldn't sample the pasta, himself took it upon himself to order penne boscaiola with chicken, bacon, peas & mushrooms in a creamy tomato sauce (€10.00).

The daily special featured beef polpette (meatballs) served with truffle parmesan potato roasties (€10.00) and Lorraine had ensured that there was a special wheat-free portion especially for me. The meatballs were wonderfully juicy and I particularly liked the simple tomato and garlic sauce. The roasties were spot on in terms of crispiness with enough parmesan and truffle to feel decadent. 
Bresaola e rucola with pasta boscaiola
Daily special of polpette (meatballs) with truffled parmesan potatoes
Two excellent espressos and it was time for us to say "Ciao" to La Cucina. But not before we received another example of Lorraine's generosity. We left clutching samples of Real Italian Foodie pasta sauces and a large Christmas panettone. (More about that later). 

O'Connell Street and the surrounding area seem to be dominated by the restaurants of the Jasmine Palace Group. These restaurants offer mainly Asian fare, in a variety of venues, although more European food is also on offer. Personally, I've only eaten in the Jasmine Palace myself, so I'm open to guidance on the other establishments. However, there's plenty for me to like about the Jasmine Palace.  They make decent cocktails, and the food is high-end standard Chinese with plenty of flavour. Szechuan mussels were plentiful (€8.50) while salt & pepper chicken had enough bite to challenge the tastebuds (€6.50).
Szechuan mussels and salt & pepper chicken at Jasmine Palace
One could be mistaken for thinking that the surname of every pub proprietor in Limerick is Flannery. This might be a slight exaggeration, but there certainly are an awful lot of Flannery's in Limerick. However, there's no mistaking the pub owned by ex-Munster rugby star Jerry Flannery!
Outside Jerry Flannery's pub
We returned back to Dublin relaxed and well-fed after our Limerick weekend. And a little piece of Limerick came with us in the form of the 4 varieties of Real Italian Foodie pasta sauces. These lovely pots of fresh sauce were gratefully received over the next week or two as we came in late from work. The tomato & chili variety was heated up and fresh cooked prawns were added for a tasty dinner. We purchased good quality sausages from our local butcher and chopped them into large chunks to make instant meatballs, which were then added to the bolognese sauce for a warming dish. The good news is that Real Italian Foodies pasta sauces will soon be available from a major retailer - so keep your eyes open!
The Real Italian Foodies pasta sauces (photo courtesy of RIF)
And what about the panettone? Given that I don't eat wheat, I was going to have to be creative in my use of that gift. You'll be glad to hear that I put on my thinking cap and made a delicious Bread & Bailey's pudding which was served to my family at Christmas Eve dinner. 

No 1 Pery Square Hotel & Spa, Georgian Quarter, Limerick 
Tel: +353 (0)61 402 402
Twitter: @OnePerySquare

Canteen, 30 Mallow Street, Limerick
Tel: +353 (0)85 734 2320
URL: Facebook page
Twitter: @canteen_

La Cucina, University Court, Castletroy, Limerick
Tel: +353 (0)61 333 980
Twitter: @italianfoodie (Lorraine) & @mritalianfoodie (Bruno)

Jasmine Palace, O'Connell Street, Limerick
Tel +353 (0)61 412 484
Twitter: @jasmine_palace

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