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

2 comments:

Caroline@Bibliocook said...

Start with Aniar, finish off with my favourite chipper. Lady, I like your style!

dudara said...

What can I say Caroline - I'm an all-weather type of girl.