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 31, 2014

[Competition] Win a pair of tickets to Alltech International Craft Brews and Food Fair

The Alltech International Craft Brews and Food Fair returns for the second time to Dublin over the weekend of February 7th - 8th and Stitch & Bear are delighted to have a pair of tickets on offer for a lucky reader. See below for details on how to win.
The festival will be Ireland's largest craft beer festival with oer 50 breweries from around the world paired with 15 of Ireland's finest artisan food producers. Tickets are now on sale for €15 each on and each ticket includes 4 free drinks! You can learn all about food and beer pairings at The Pair and Taste Pavilion where experts will demonstrate how to effectively pair a beer or spirit with various foods.

In addition to beer and food, there's plenty of entertainment lined up, including live music from Paddy Casey  (Friday 7th), a live screening of Ireland's Six Nations match against Wales (Saturday 8th) plus a Nations Rugby Beer Grand where beers from Ireland and Wales will go head to head.

More information about the event is available at or follow them on Twitter @Alltechbrews.

To be in with a chance of winning the pair of tickets, simply leave a comment below or email with the answer to this simple question. Please don't reply anonymously as I need contact details for the winner.

Where will the 2014 Alltech International Craft Brews and Food Fair take place?

The competition will close at 8pm on Wednesday, February 5th. The winner will be notified and their name will be placed on the guest list at the event. Good luck!

The list of confirmed attendees (so far) includes:

  • Trouble Brewing (Ireland)
  • Mountain Man Brewing (Ireland)
  • Rascals Brewing (Ireland)
  • Blacks of Kinsale (Ireland)
  • N17 (Ireland)
  • Kinnegar (Ireland)
  • Redwell (UK)
  • Independent Brewing (Ireland)
  • Bru Brewery (Ireland)
  • Birra e Blues (Spain)
  • Carlow Brewing Company (Ireland)
  • Rye River Brewery (Ireland)
  • Kentucky Beers (US)
  • White Gypsy (Ireland)
  • Independent Craft Brewers of Ireland (Ireland)
  • Galway Hooker (Ireland)
  • Hardknott (UK)
  • Espigna (Ireland)
  • Cosibo Beer (Denmark)
    Hunters (UK)
  • Windsor and Eton Brewery (UK)
  • Elgoods (UK)
  • Hilden (Ireland)
  • Dingle Distillery/Porterhouse (Ireland)
  • Irish Whiskey Museum (Ireland)
  • Franciscan Well (Ireland)
  • Black Paw (UK)
  • Stone Barrel (Ireland)
  • Grand Cru (Ireland)
  • Molta Birra (Spain)
  • Welsh Beer Alliance (Group) (Wales)

Artisan Food Producers
  • Ballymaloe Relish
  • Bretzel Bakery
  • Brodericks
  • Burren Smokehouse
  • Carrigaline Cheese
  • Cashel Blue
  • Connemara Pies
  • De Mad Food Company
  • Ed Hick Butchers
  • Gilligan's Meats
  • Keogh's Crisps
  • Kinsale Gourmet
  • Little Milk Company
  • Man of Aran Fudge
  • Seymours Biscuits
  • Sheridan's Cheese
  • Wright's of Howth

Sunday, January 19, 2014

[Review] Aussie BBQ, Rathgar, Dublin 6

Last summer, I ate my way through a fair amount of Dublin's burgers in my research to find Dublin's Best Burger. Back then I promised that I would no longer hold back when I encountered a burger that I felt should be best avoided. Since then, I've only spoken out about one offender (at House bar on Leeson Street) but that's probably also because I'm being selective. I don't order burgers in many places any more simply because I think that place won't produce a good burger, and there's no point in wasting my time, money and simple enjoyment. I'm just not into masochism. 

One name that popped up time and time again on my radar was Aussie BBQ. This started out as  "Ireland's Only Authentic Barbecue Restaurant" on South Richmond Street and the menu certainly has some exotic items like crocodile and kangaroo steak. I did sample their burger during the course of my taste testing, but a bog standard bun and weak patty doomed them to a non-ranking in my results. 

But clearly things are going OK in the land of Australian barbecuing in Dublin as Aussie BBQ have opened a second outlet right in the heart of Rathgar. And one night, Himself had a hankering for a burger. Not a gourmet, posh burger but a proper burger. The kind that often accompanies several pints and the need to line your stomach. And so dear reader, we walked to Rathgar to check out Aussie BBQ. 
The Brizzy Burger
His Brizzy Burger (€6.00) is described was described as a half-pounder with chili relish, jack cheese, jalapeño peppers and the usual trimmings. To be honest, it looked just like a regular old chipper van burger with it's un-toasted, pasty white Bundy-type bun, but it hit the spot. A portion of Boomerang fries, double cooked apparently, were exceptionally good (€3.00). I am quite partial to leaving a bit of skin on fries and these didn't disappoint, especially as they appeared to be dusted with Aromat, or something similar. 

Disclaimer:  I love Aromat. Who cares that MSG is a primary ingredient? It's delicious stuff and takes me right back to memories of late-night cooking with my father. Long live Aromat, and especially its cousin, Meat Aromat which is great on a cheese toastie.

Boomerang Fries
I had chosen the Original Meat Box which is a half-pounder, corn-fed chicken fillet and your choice of organic pork sausage or pulled pork (€9.00). It arrived on a paper-lined wooden board, with a very disturbing looking dollop of sauce on top of the pulled pork. To be brutally honest, the look of the sauce nearly deterred me from trying it at all. Overall, the chicken fillet was the best thing on the board. Simply cooked, it was uncomplicated. The burger was grainy in texture and the taste reminded me of a Findus pancake from the poverty days of the 80s. I sometimes buy a particular type of food for my dwarf hamsters than contains dried meal worms, and this burger made me think of that. The dubious sauce on the pulled pork turned out to taste quite nice, which was required as the pork itself appeared to have been sitting around for a while. 
The Original Meat Box
You could argue that Aussie BBQ is just a fast food joint, but they do claim themselves to be an Australian Barbecue venue. You could argue that the prices are low, and I couldn't disagree with that. But that's about as far as I can go, bar those exceptional fries. Aussie BBQ is probably best suited to fulfill the post-pub stagger home. Don't expect any more than that. 

Aussie BBQ, 9 Orwell Road, Rathgar, Dublin 6
Tel: +353 (01) 412 5555

Friday, January 10, 2014

[Review] Pizza E Porchetta, Clanwilliam Terrace, Dublin 2

Last Sunday, while sipping a Negroni in the new Pizza E Porchetta, I reached for my phone to take the usual mandatory picture. But instead of using the standard iPhone camera app, I went for Hipstamatic instead, resulting in the photo below. I downloaded Hipstamatic years ago, but rarely use it, so I don't know why I chose it for this particular shot. 

Of course the dominant photography app is Instagram, but I've never even downloaded the app. I don't quite know why. I love to take pictures, whether they are quick snaps on my iPhone or more serious efforts on my DSLR. My laptop is overflowing with pictures, while more are stashed on an external hard drive and others reside in my Dropbox. I upload some of my better efforts to Flickr, but never Instagram. I groan when I see people posting Instagram links on Twitter as I know it means a veritable Ice Age will pass while the photo loads. I think it's just not for me (and I'm OK admitting that!).
A mean Negroni
Anyway, back to Pizza E Porchetta, which is located on the site of the former Bar & Bistro. A large pizza oven radiates warmth as you enter through the glass doors, while the space underneath the bridge arch has been roofed in cream (easily removable in case the CIE inspectors need to check out the bridge). Uplights add even more gentle warmth and the whole space feels insulated and cozy. 
The comfortable interior
The menu is dastardly simple at Pizza E Porchetta. As the name suggests, there is pizza and there is porchetta. There is also a selection of starters, salads, pasta and desserts. We order a Negroni (€8.50) and Elderflower Fizz (€7.50) as aperitifs, then sit back and wait for the magic to happen. 

His parma pizza, made with San Daniele prosciutto is excellent (€14.00). A thin, light crispy base has little touches of char from the oven, and is topped with rocket, cherry tomatoes, shaved parmesan and prosciutto. Although I cannot sample the base for myself, the little bits of topping I sample are simple and perfect. I'm told that gluten-free pastas are also available and they are looking into the possibility of gluten-free pizzas, although that will be somewhat trickier due to the need to avoid cross-contamination.

Since he chose pizza, I chose porchetta (€19.00). Pronounced "pork-etta", it's essentially a boned and rolled pork joint, seasoned with layers of herbs. In a piece of divine coincidence, I had seen a porchetta being prepared on Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives just a few days beforehand, so I was anticipating the salty crackling and juicy interior. And I wasn't disappointed, especially with the crunchy, sticky crackling. Essentially this was roast pork with potatoes and apple sauce, but sometimes a meal is much more than the sum of its parts.
Parma ham pizza
The eponymous porchetta
We sat back for a while before ordering dessert, taking it all in, and trying not to stare too much at the ex-Irish rugby star seated near us. We were warned by the friendly waiter that the panna cotta had not set properly, but that didn't deter us in the slightest, and it was still creamily good (€6.00). I particularly liked that the white chocolate was not throughout the panna cotta but instead came as a thin base.
Raspberry & white chocolate panna cotta
Despite only being open a short wet week, Pizza E Porchetta is already a polished affair, which is no surprise given that it comes from experienced Dublin restauranteur Ronan Ryan. I suspect that it's also going to be a good spot for potential celebrity spotting and word is spreading rapidly on Twitter. This means that it's probably also going to be inundated with the beautiful people (grits teeth). Ah well, when something is good, it's not going to stay a secret for long.

Proper Italian restaurants are often simple to the point of pain, and that is a good thing in a world which is sometimes too full of choice. In Pizza E Porchetta, the choice starts with meat, pizza or pasta. Simples. Sit back, sip a Negroni and munch on a crispy pizza. La Vita e bella

Pizza E Porchetta, Clanwilliam Terrace, Grand Canal Quay, Dublin 2.
Tel: +353 (0)1 
Twitter: @pepspizzeria

Pizza E Porchetta on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

[Feature] What Stitch & Bear Liked in 2013

2013 was the year that a Michelin-starred chef and a newspaper restaurant critic came to very public blows. In Dublin, Bunsen Burger, Bison BBQ and Pitt Bros rocked us with juicy burgers and cracking BBQ and there seems to be no end to the burrito takeover. The Michelin inspectors rectified last year's odd choice by demoting Locks Restaurant and then proceeded to award not one, but two stars to Kilkenny (Campagne and the Lady Helen at Mount Juliet). However, the Michelin inspectors continued to have a blind spot when it came to The Greenhouse and the cooking of Mickael Viljanen.

But what did Stitch & Bear like in 2013?

Fine Dining

We travelled into the West and became entranced with Aniar in Galway. Nordic style, Irish ingredients and plates of extra potatoes (you are in Ireland after all) combined to make this our best meal of 2013.
Delicious duck hearts at Aniar
A lunchtime tasting menu at Vila Joya on the Algarve was a wonderful experience, while back home in Dublin, we enjoyed superb dinners from Mickael Viljanen at The Greenhouse and Graham Neville at Restaurant Forty One. Over on the Northside, The Hot Stove Restaurant is quietly and calmly providing excellent and keenly priced food. I even managed to take a break from work while travelling in the UK and had an interesting dinner for one at Heston Blumenthal's The Hinds Head. 

Casual Dining

Mexican restaurant 777 has simply gotten better and better since it opened. Not only it is home to Dublin's best margarita, but the food has moved to another level with the arrival of a new head chef. We love their oyster shots, ceviche and pretty much everything else. The flavours are crisp and refreshing and the margaritas go down easy.
Fabulous oyster shots at 777
Stitch & Bear is very lucky to have the talented Ian Ussher cooking nearby at the lovely Bijou Bistro in Rathgar. We dined there several times over the course of the year, and always left impressed.

Several BBQ restaurants have opened in Dublin, but our vote goes to Bison Bar & BBQ. The brisket  & ribs here are insanely good, leading to many episodes of meat coma.  Add in €5 whiskey sours, and you'll find it hard to leave.

If you want a really proper steak, then Stitch & Bear recommends the newly opened Beeftro in Dundrum Town Centre. Forget overpriced middle of town steakhouses, this is where we will be going. Simply put, this is the best cooked steak I've ever enjoyed in Ireland.

Down home in Cork, the Electric Fish Bar was a literal breath of fresh air, lifting our spirits with a stunning interior and beautifully cooked seafood.

Rock Lobster, originally of Donnybrook, has now expanded to Harvey Nichols in Dundrum Town Centre. A whole split lobster with fries and salad for €20? Why, yes please. And if that doesn't appeal, the tasty nibbles and steak might just do the trick. 

Ethnic Restaurants

Stitch & Bear are spice-fiends and we can often be found spitting out Sichuan peppercorns and chewing on dried chills at M&L Szechuan Restaurant, in the shadow of the Pro Cathedral. The lovely Angie and her staff are always ready to recommend a dish for you to try.
Seabass at M&L Szechuan
For Indian cuisine, we find it hard to beat Kinara Kitchen in Ranelagh, a classy restaurant that combines delectable Pakistani food with fine cocktails from Paul Lambert. This is a restaurant where the same faces serve us time and time again, leading us to deduce that this is a restaurant with good management.

On the other side of our home we have Tani Sushi, a neighbourhood gem in Terenure which is a favourite Saturday lunch spot. The soft-shell crab rolls and miso paste-topped dengaku come recommended.

There's a real lack of good Chinese food in Cork, except for the bright light that is Yuan Ming Yuan. The interior may be a little OTT, but the dim sum is delicious. It's often a stopping point for us when in Cork.

Local Food Producers

I was born and reared in Gaeltacht Mhuscraī, or the Muskerry Gaeltacht, in Cork. I've long accepted that the people down there are more than a bit special, but they outdid themselves in 2013.

Sligo native Phil Cullen is brewing Mountain Man beer in Renanirree, while over in Ballyvourney Gordon Lucey will shortly launch Nine White Deer, named after the local legends surrounding Naomh Gobnait.

Dicky and Sinead Willems continues to produce their top quality Dutch-style Coolea Cheese, continuing the tradition established by Dicky's father Dick. Máirín and Peadar O'Lionáird andThe Leonard family enjoy continued success with their Folláin Preserves and Relishes taking home a veritable haul of Great Taste Awards in 2013.

My neighbour Ned McCarthy decided to attend a yogurt making course and is now producing a range of McCarthy Natural Dairy products. The lemon lebnah (strained or Greek yogurt) comes with high praise, while my father has a fridge full of drinking yogurt. At the other end of the parish, Johnny Lynch made the move from milking Friesans to milking buffalo, leading to the production of  Toonsbridge Buffalo Meat and dairy products. The range has expanded from the original mozzarella to include ricotta, burrata and even halloumi.

And finally…

As the year drew to an end, and we left Cork to return to Dublin, we just couldn't resist a bag of chips, carton of curry and a batter burger from the iconic Jackie Lennox's. When all is said and done, Cork chips are best.
Chips from Jackie Lennox's
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