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!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

[Travel] A Sunny Weekend in Cork

An old joke starts with "What's the only good thing to come out of Cork?" The punchline of course, is the road to Dublin, but trust me when I say that there are many good reasons to flip this joke on its head and take a trip to this small city which has buckets of attitude. Dowtcha Boy!

We were staying at the Clarion Hotel Cork, which has taken excellent care of me in the past and is a great base for a visit to the city. As usual, it was raining in Cork and despite the short distance, we grabbed a taxi to our destination, the Cornstore Restaurant. On the drive down, we had already decided to order the Chateaubriand for 2 people but it was not available on that particular night, having been replaced by ribeye on the bone for two people. The ribeye arrived thickly sliced, perfectly cooked and served with our requested Béarnaise sauce and chunky Jenga-style chips. Add in a well-mixed Negroni cocktail, and it was as good a Friday night as you could ask for.
A welcoming treat at the Clarion Hotel
Next morning was beautifully bright and clear, albeit chilly, and we walked from the Clarion to Fenns Quay Restaurant. We used to live just around the corner, and my old dentist Dr. Fenn has his surgery across the street from Fenns Quay. I never knew if Dr. Fenn was connected to Fenns Quay, although I often thought to ask. (Perhaps a reader might know something).
Cork Courthouse looking magnificent in the morning sunshine
Fenns Quay does Brunch only on Saturday only and it is very much worth making the effort to visit. A veritable mountain of freshly-baked scones and pastries tempted me with their wheat-laden evilness as we read the short menu. Home made baked beans with chorizo (€6.00) were hearty and warming while his pancakes with bacon were fluffy and light (€6.00). Two mimosas with freshly squeezed orange juice helped get the day off to the right kind of start. Chef Kate Lawlor even poked her head out from the kitchen to say hello.
Brunch at Fenn's Quay: homemade baked bean with chorizo and pancakes with bacon
Suitably fortified, we headed off into the English Market for a stroll. This had the dual effect of both delighting us, and making us miserable that there is no such equivalent in Dublin. The visit of Queen Elizabeth II to the English Market is noted in photographs throughout, surely making her the most famous visitor ever to this historic market. It was good to see that several new cafes had opened since we moved to Dublin, and some of the food stalls have had a facelift.

Everywhere we looked, there was something tasty and delicious on view. Macarons from Cafe Anraith, garlic olives from the Real Olive Company, tripe from one of the many traditional butchers, fragrant coffee from Coffee Central, ripe cheeses and fresh pasta at Iago or trays of take-away pizza slices at On The Pigs Back.

I have so many memories linked to the English Market. I first bought Chinese ingredients and spices at Mr. Bells. Himself cooked his very first meal for me using ingredients purchased from Iago and other shops in the market.  As a student on a budget, I cooked curries and stews using cheap cuts of beef from whichever butcher had the best price on the day. 

As always, Kay O'Connell's fish stall made me smile. A large whole monkfish was on display, causing squeals from younger kids. A Japanese tourist (complete with camera) was snapping pictures of the fishmongers at work as they cleaned, descaled and filleted fish under the ever-running taps.  Just down from O'Connell's, tasty samples of smoked fish were on offer from the excellent Hederman's Smoke House, based in nearby Cobh.
The English Market: Hederman's smoked fish, O'Connell's fishmongers, the Roughty foodstall, Healy's bakery and Cafe Anraith
Meet Mr. Monkfish at O'Connells Fishmongers
An alternative view of Mr. Tayto at the Market Lane entrance
After some more strolling around Cork, we broke for lunch and headed to the very slick new Fish Bar at Electric Cork. An excellent seafood lunch here put us in a very good mood indeed. Then it was time for me to cross back through the city over to North Main Street, where Bradley's Off-Licence and Foodstore is located. This Cork institute is currently run by Michael Creedon, a 4th generation family member. A firm wine-lover, Michael has developed a significant craft beer selection from Ireland and all over the world. At last count, 300 varieties were in stock, but I'm sure that number is already outdated.  I picked up several bottles of stout for himself, as well as some Irish hopped beers for a friend before heading back to the hotel.
 A portion of the extensive craft beer collection at Bradley's, North Main Street
By now, the sun was steadily shining in Cork and I stopped in at Idaho Cafe, which is owned and ran by husband and wife team Richard and Mairead Jacob. A former greasy spoon, the Idaho has been lovingly transformed by this dynamic pair into a cosy cafe, always packed with delicious baked treats. This impromptu pitstop came on the foot of a Twitter invitation from Richard, and was a welcome chance to put down my bags and enjoy a glass of light Beaujolais, accompanied by some wonderful macarons from Treat Petite (strawberry & balsamic, greedily followed by peanut butter).
Idaho Cafe in the sunshine; a perfect strawberry and balsamic vinegar macaron
The rest of my weekend was spent with family, but that's not a bad thing as Cork is significantly quieter on a Sunday. If you do find yourself in Cork and you require brunch on a Sunday, then Evin from 40 Shades of Life has a good listing on her blog, although I don't see the Castle Cafe at Blackrock Observatory on the list. I really would have liked to fit in a trip to Fota Wildlife Park, which is full of both childhood and adult memories, but that will have to wait for another day.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

[Review] Tani Sushi, Terenure Road North, Dublin 6W

Watching a skilled sushi chef at work is a real pleasure. The careful cutting of fish into precise sashimi slices, the ritual assembly of maki and nigiri along with the smooth practised motion of dipping the knife into water before letting the drops run down the blade. It's a peaceful, nearly spiritual experience. Dublin has several really good sushi restaurants, but you can always do with another venue, particularly when it is close to home and not in the heart of town.

Tani Sushi is a newly-opened Japanese restaurant in the heart of Terenure Village. It used to be occupied by Spoon Cafe, but has now been stripped out and redone with Japanese touches. The interior is simple with light wooden floors and tables, with Japanese wall hangings and a little bamboo screen. It's possibly too sparse as the room feels slightly bleak. Each table is simply set with glazed dipping bowls (mine was a vibrant azure blue), chopsticks and adorable egg-shaped toothpick holders that rock back and forth at the slightest touch. 

The menu lists starters, sushi in many varieties, along with cooked dishes such as cha han and teppan noodles. Everything is very keenly priced and I find myself dithering over different dishes, which is a good sign. We are visiting at Saturday lunchtime, but the restaurant is strangely empty with only a handful of people dining. Perhaps it was due to the bank holiday weekend exodus from Dublin. 
The cutest toothpick holder
The interior at Tani Sushi
My dengaku starter consisted of pieces of silky tofu, aubergine and mushroom, all coated in the lightest, flakiest batter and topped with a delicious homemade miso glaze. Seaweed salad was bright, nearly luminescent, green, with a slightly gelatinous texture, coated in a sesame dressing and served with mixed leaves. 
Dengaku (Miso glazed tofu, aubergine & mushroom)
Seaweed salad
His tuna set plate consisted of nigiri, thick sashimi slices, maki and fat ura maki rolls. With sushi, the devil is always in the details, and I loved the little leaf-shaped lump of wasabi paste, complete with vein-pattern. I am a fan of the American approach to sushi rolls and I had to order the Kani roll, a mix of soft shell crab, avocado, roe and crab meat. It came rolled extra wide, with crab legs  protruding from the final piece. If you haven't tried soft shell crabs before now, then you really should. The gentle crispiness is a lovely contrast to the smooth firm rice in sushi.
Tuna plate of sashimi, nigiri, maki and ura maki
The loveliest portion of wasabi ever
Kani roll - soft shell crab, avocado & crab
Overall, we really really liked Tani Sushi. Our server was lovely, even going back to the chef with a question from me about the dengaku. Ultimately, it's all about the fish, and we could not fault the sushi. There are lunch specials, including bento boxes, on offer during the week, but the regular pricing is good value where sushi is concerned.

Tani Sushi's internet presence is non-existent, but they do offer take-out on Just-Eat, and for the first time ever, I find myself tempted by home delivery sushi. Hopefully, the sparse interior will not deter punters, as this is a welcome addition to dining in Dublin 6W.

Tani Sushi, 93 Terenure Road North, Dublin 6W
URL: Tani Sushi on Just Eat
Tani Sushi on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 9, 2013

[Review] Electric Fish Bar, South Mall, Cork

I remember visiting ACC Bank on Cork's South Mall as a child, in tow at my mother's side. I was gradually beginning to cotton onto the fact that my mother was some kind of extreme saver (and couponer too, way before it was cool). For my mother, it's a case of neither a borrower nor a lender be, but instead be a saver. She did try to instill this worthy habit in me by signing me up for a Henry Hippo saving account in Ulster Bank which came with a suitably cool money box. It was a decent effort on her part, but you can only go so far with me.

Little did I know then what I know now. Over the space of 20 years,  I would acquire several novelty money boxes, proceed to spend my childhood savings in college and start my career, all while Ireland's banks would crest and crash. ACC has long been gone from their premises on the South Mall, which have been occupied by bar and restaurant Electric for several years.

For my first blog post about Electric, we dined outside on the upstairs terrace. That terrace is now closed up and remodeled into the beautiful Fish Bar. This dining room is a sharp, slick affair. Crisp blue glassware and stunningly white wall tiles cause the room to sing with light, but all attention is drawn to the open kitchen area.  It's all thoroughly modern Millie, but still reminds me of a long ago holiday eating tapas in ancient San Sebastian bars (thankfully sans napkins wadded on the floor).
The open kitchen area in the Fish Bar
Sharp touches - copper napkin rings, bone-handled knives and the iconic menu
We ordered a selection of small plates to start, perfect for sharing amongst friends. Ceviche, or a Peruvian dish of marinated raw fish, was light but substantial, served alongside sweet plantain chips (€8.00).  I would have preferred it to be sharper, but a squeeze of lemon fixed that nicely for me. A half dozen oysters were silky smooth, and while he likes his oysters au natural, I definitely appreciated the sharply sweet mignonette dressing (€10.00). Seared tuna was beautifully cooked, and had us running our fingers over the plate to get every last drop of the wonderful sesame ginger dressing (€9.00).

Our fishy delights were accompanied by two dirty martinis (€8.50). Some cocktail purists pooh-pooh the addition of olive brine to the martini, but I'm big fan of how the oily gin is transformed by the salty brine. It really is one of the best cocktails, and I've always thought that it suits me pretty well. Turns out that it also suits seafood pretty fine too.
Ceviche with cracked pink pepper and plantain crisps
Half dozen fresh oysters
Seared tuna with sesame ginger dressing
We decided to get in the mood for our upcoming Portugese holiday by ordering the whole grilled sea bream, which came with herb pesto and roasted cherry tomatoes (€16.00). Perfectly cooked, the flesh came away from the bones with little persuasion and was sublime when dipped in the cooking juices. I particularly liked the charred lemon, but I would have preferred to see the gills removed from the fish. 

Over the last few years, I've felt that the dining scene in Cork has fallen behind the vitality and pace of Dublin. Yes, there are some really good restaurants in Cork, but it's also felt a little staid at times. The Fish Bar is fresh like a brisk sea breeze, and a celebration of all things fishy.  The construction of the menu means that dishes can be shared easily between groups, or hoarded jealously by the gluttons amongst us. Word of warning, the Fish Bar does not take reservations, so get in early to get your seat.

Electric, 41 South Mall, Cork
Tel: +353 (0)21 4222 990
Twitter: @ElectricCork
Electric on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 4, 2013

[Listing] Ben & Jerrys Core Tour comes to Dublin

Those lovely folk at Ben & Jerry's keep coming up with new flavours. Even more importantly, they like to give away ice-cream samples. Read on for details of the Ben & Jerrys Core Tour, which hits two locations in Dublin this May.

2013 welcomed the launch of two euphoric new Ben & Jerry's Core flavouts, Peanut Butter Me Up and Blondie Brownie. In keeping with Ben & Jerry's ethos of "If it's not fun, why do it?", fans will get the chance to experience the new flavours in the most delicious surroundings as the Core Tour returns to Dublin with two events; the first on May 9th in Dundrum Town Centre between 4pm-8pm and the second on May 11th in Barnardo Square, Dame Street between 2pm-6pm.

Bringing peace, love and ice cream to flavour fans across Dublin, the Core Crusader van will be parked up alongside a brand spanking new Ben & Jerry's Barn area, where fans can enjoy their chosen scoop of either Peanut Butter Me Up, Blondie Brownie, Karamel Sutra or Dough-ble Whammy, while chilling on hay bales, enjoying the sunshine and listening to top tunes from some of Ireland's best up-and-coming bands. And to  remember the core-tastic experience, fans can pose for their own Ben & Jerry's photo, which will be printed to take home as a momento.

The Core flavours combine not one, but two Fairtrade flavours in a tub, with an udderly amazing core sauce running through the centre. Peanut Butter Me Up combines peanut and vanilla flavoured ice creams with chocolately covered peanut buttercups wrapped around a sumptuous raspberry jam core. Blondie Brownie boasts a soft salted caramel core, surrounded by chunks of blondie and chocolate brownie pieces, nestled in vanilla and chocolate ice creams.

It's one free scoop of ice cream per flavour fan, until stocks last, and there are only so many of our lovely fans we can fit into the barn. So, remember to get down there early. Explore the Core Tour at or or @BenandJerrysIRL.

Terms and conditions apply, got to for  full details. When you've picked your locations, there's a link through to the full T&Cs.

[Listing] Glenisk Pop-Up Store

Irish firm Glenisk has just opened a pop-up store on Dawson Street in Dublin. Named Glenisk Upfront & Personal, the store will remain open for 10 weeks, demonstrating the versatility of Glenisk organic yogurt, through a series of creative flavour combinations, both sweet and savory. 

Glenisk Upfront & Personal is managed by Christine Jordan, who has spent three months developing recipes for the store. The dishes feature many leading Irish food producers, including Goatsbridge Smoked Trout and Burren Smokehouse Organic Salmon, while also embracing global food themes. In addition to the smoked fish, savoury options include carrot, beetroot & apple salad with orange harissa dressing; Greek salad and Mexican bean & avocado combinations. Each savoury dish is served with rosemary & olive oil crostini, baked especially for Glenisk by the Paris Bakery on Moore Street.
Irish smoked salmon 
Sweet treats include Greek style natural yogurt with dark chocolate, orange, pistachio & honey; Turkish figs in spiced syrup with toasted almonds; fresh fruit, granola & honey; and banana, caramel and milk chocolate. The store will also offer a wide selection of delicious cheesecakes and smoothies, prepared with Glenisk organic yogurt and crème fraiche.
Dark chocolate, orange and honey
Glenisk MD Vincent Cleary comments "Glenisk celebrated 25 years in business last year; our fantastic growth in recent years has been achieved largely through embracing new ideas and developing new products. As we embark on the next 25 years, our Upfront & Personal store hopefully demonstrates our ongoing commitment to innovation. We're delighted to have the opportunity to meet our customers in person and share our ideas; and we look forward to welcoming them into the store to hear their views. We can promise them a brand new approach to enjoying yogurt and the best of Irish ingredients."

The recipes will be updated each day and Glenisk hopes that customers will share their own suggestions for flavour combinations. Savoury yogurt dishes and smoothies are priced at €3.50, while sweet dishes and cheesecakes will cost €3.00. Glenisk's range of organic yogurt, fresh milk, cream cheese and crème fraiche will be available in the store, along with the brand's goats milk and goats yogurt. 

Glenisk Upfront & Personal will also host a selection of foodie events, cookery demonstrations and supper clubs. To find out more information, visit, connect at Glenisk's Facebook page, or follow on Twitter @glenisk for daily updates. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

[Review] Kilkieran Cottage, Castletown, Co, Kilkenny

I've been visiting Portlaw in Waterford and the surrounding area for over 13 years now. I thought that I knew the area reasonably well, but this is the Irish countryside where nothing is ever certain. When the name of Kilkieran Cottage popped up on Twitter, I was intrigued. Google Maps showed me that it was located in the middle of the countryside and when I asked Mr. & Mrs. H., they were not familiar with the venue. Asking the same question down in the local pub on Saturday night also drew blanks. Anyway, the night continued on the in the pub with much merriment, which meant that on the following day we were all in the mood for a good hearty Sunday lunch.

The drive from Portlaw through Owning was beautiful, reminding us how stunning the Irish countryside can be when there is even just the tiniest bit of sunshine. The terrible spring weather so far has meant that farmers haven't been able to let their animals out from winter housing. However, on this bright Sunday, we could see cattle grazing in fields. It seemed as if spring was finally here, albeit a few months behind schedule.

Kilkieran Cottage sits perched in the middle of the countryside with a valley opening away below and an old walled cemetery just a field over. From outside,  the restaurant appears small and cute with it's red half-door, but looks can be deceptive and once inside, the dining room open up with high ceilings and a modern interior. It's smart enough for us city slickers, yet still comfortable enough for all the grans. We were seated in the conservatory area where we had panoramic views of the valley sweeping away from us. Over the course of our meal, the view varied from bright sunshine, to sleeting rain and back again, often all within several minutes. Welcome to an Irish spring. 
The half-door entrance to Kilkieran Cottage
Sunday lunch is well priced with two courses for €20, or three for €25, including tea/coffee. My Ardsallagh goats cheese panna cotta shivered most delicately on the plate, but deter me one iota from enjoying it's smooth creaminess, which still retained a nice tang from the goats cheese. Perhaps the beetroot puree could have packed a little more bite to counteract the creaminess, but that's picking at fine points. His (also ordered by Mrs. H.) home-cured salmon with pickled cucumber and wasabi mayonnaise was really exceptional, with sweet and salty flavours from the curing process lingering on the tongue. Mr. H. went for the soup, which was somewhat over-salted, but very flavoursome and solid with vegetables.
Ardsallagh goats cheese panna cotta with dried cherry tomatoes and beetroot puree
Home-cured salmon with pickled cucumber and wasabi mayonnaise
Given that this was a Sunday lunch sitting, the main courses are designed for this audience. Himself and Mr. H. both opted for traditional roast beef, which arrived cut in thick slices, coated with a rich, meaty gravy along with a not-very traditional (if you're Irish) Yorkshire pudding. Mrs. H.'s grilled breast of chicken was served atop some sauteed wild mushrooms and another rich gravy. Being served dreary mixed diced vegetables often causes a little piece of me to die inside, but there was no cause for concern here. Bowls of smooth mashed potatoes and crunchy sugarsnap peas provided the required vegetable accompaniments.

I chose a somewhat non-traditional Sunday lunch dish of pea and leek risotto which was beautifully cooked, retaining a nice crunchy nub in the rice. Fresh peas and crisp leeks added texture to the smooth, creamy rice.
Traditional roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and delicious gravy
Pea and leek risotto
Accompanying vegetables and mashed potato
We declined dessert as we were driving back to Dublin, and didn't want to run the risk of the post-Sunday dinner snooze while on the motorway. As we left, all were in agreement about the quality of the food,  and several mentions were made about returning for an evening meal when we could enjoy a broader range of dishes from the a la carte menus. 

I found out later on Twitter that the head chef at Kilkieran Cottage is Neil McEvoy, a former winner of the Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year award. Neil has previously held the post of Head Chef at Kevin Dundon's Dunbrody House Hotel & Cookery School (as well as stints at L'Ecrivain & Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud). A native of Piltown, he is close to home in Kilkieran Cottage, but his flair and style shines through, even at Sunday lunchtime. It's really is quite something to find such a lovely  venue and quality cooking deep in the countryside.
Ireland of a thousand seasons - wet and sunny all in one day
A picturesque setting, very good food and the most incredibly pleasant young staff combine to make something a little special. I'd be delighted to eat food of this standard anywhere in Dublin. To find it in the countryside, all on its lonesome, is something special. If you ever find yourself down in that little triangle where Tipperary, Kilkenny and Waterford meet, then make the effort to detour to Kilkieran Cottage.

Kilkieran Cottage, Castletown, Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Kilkenny
Tel: +353 (0)51 645 110
Twitter: @kilkierancottag
Kilkieran Cottage on Urbanspoon
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