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, September 23, 2014

[Review] My Meat Wagon, Smithfield, Dublin 7

One of my first work projects involved spending a lot of time around Smithfield and the Four Courts area. I was reasonably new to Dublin and to be quite honest, some of things I witnessed in that area did little to enamour the area to me. In fact, if I was in charge of public health, I might have erected a biohazard zone in some places. Smithfield Square had been built, but even with the large Fresh supermarket, it felt like a big, grey, desolate space. The Celtic Tiger Thomas Read's pub failed, just like our economy, and a horde of marauding zombies probably wouldn't have felt out of place. In fact, they'd have brightened the place up a bit.

I wasn't the only person disappointed by the regeneration project at Smithfield, but slowly, inch by painful inch, the area is coming to life. The old Park Inn hotel is now the Generator Hostel, complete with Jameson whiskey bottle chandelier and a buzzing atmosphere. The Lighthouse Cinema has survived bad times and is now a well-established alternative cinema. But any self-respecting area cannot consider itself as truly regenerated until the hipsters arrive. If only hipsters could exist without jam-jar glasses, if only.
Standing outside My Meat Wagon
And if my visit to the recent Big Grill festival taught me anything, it was that hipsters like BBQ. It's like catnip to them. BBQ, craft beers and RayBans seem to complete the hipster trinity. Therefore, the opening of My Meat Wagon, an American BBQ restaurant, in the corner between the Lighthouse and Oscars is part of the Smithfield barometer. 

First things first, I really liked the decor at My Meat Wagon. There are jute sacks, rough wooden planking, galvanised zinc sheets and suspended pallets. We have many storage sheds with all these ingredients on our family farm, except that no West Cork farmer ever thought of setting up a BBQ in their shed. Despite all these design clichés, the overall effect here simply works, with low, warm lighting and original bluegrass music.
The simple menu at My Meat Wagon
Beef good (tofu bad) - seating at My Meat Wagon
We both ordered the Meat on a Board with a mix of Cow, Pig and Bird. To be honest, I was a little perplexed why beef and pork get named, but the source of "Bird" remained a mystery. Each board has a main meat, accompanied by a selection of other cuts and two sides. BBQ chicken has often been a disappointment to me, left dry and dusty by the BBQ process, but here there was a darkly golden laminated skin with juicy meat underneath. 

The Ole Hickory Texas smoker shipped over to sit at the heart of My Meat Wagon had been equally good to the soft, deliciously fatty beef rib, chorizo sausage and excellent pulled pork. Beef brisket, normally my go-to BBQ meat, was a little dry but tasted well. Sides were equally well executed with mash, fresh slaw and fries (served in a mini shopping trolley, perhaps a tribute to the River Liffey?). 
Meat board with pig, bird and cow
There is much to like about My Meat Wagon and it seems like Dublin is not done with BBQ food yet Two huge meat boards, a beer and a glass of white wine came to under €50 with friendly and efficient service. What started out as a small gourmet burger van has matured into a slick, fine BBQ, which would not be out of place in the US. In fact, I'd definitely rate it above quite a few US joints that I've visited. By the time we finished eating, my initial skepticism over the design had been utterly defeated by the fine meat treatment. Put the diet to one side and order the beef rib with sausage. Trust me...

My Meat Wagon, Smithfield Market Square, Dublin 7
Tel: +353 (0)1 874 8172
Twitter: @myMEATwagon

My Meat Wagon on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

[Review] Coqbull, French Church Street, Cork

We all have little things that make us happy. For me, one such thing is the view of Cork and the River Lee that opens up before you as you drive into the city from the Lower Glanmire Road. Sometimes, the rowing club will be out on the river, or perhaps the sun will be setting, casting a golden glow onto the serene waters of the river. Where ever I may go in this world, I know that Cork will always welcome me home. 

In recent years, I've felt that the food gap between Dublin and Cork has widened hugely. Cork has a real heavyweight in the form of the English Market, but the restaurant scene in Dublin has simply exploded. There are definitely some great eating spots in Cork, but it just doesn't have the buzz of Dublin. So when I heard about Coqbull, a burger and chicken restaurant, I wondered if a little bit of buzz had come to Cork.

New venue Coqbull straddles the gap between French Church Street and Academy Street, in the space vacated by the closure of Café Bar Deli. Apparently the design was done by a leading London agency and it certainly ticks all the cool boxes - pressed tin ceiling, parquet flooring and fancy lightbulbs. I had to smile when I realised that the enclosure for the now-mandatory hip lightbulbs were actually milking machine glass jars. I don't know how many farmers will pass the threshold of Coqbull, but those that do will surely enjoy that particular touch. 
Raspberry mojito
Coqbull details
I had rang earlier to reserve a table as my sisters were joining us, but was informed that reservations were not taken. Despite being reassured that there would be no trouble getting a table, it turned out to be reasonably busy when we did arrive. We settled in at the outside tables on Academy Street with a raspberry mojito (€9.50) and a Tiger beer (€5.50), but it wasn't too long before we were called inside  to our booth table.The restaurant was buzzing inside, as you'd expect to see on a Saturday night. It was that time of evening where soon-to-go-home shoppers were mingling with the early waves of the night out crowd. It definitely seemed that the industrial-milking parlour fusion design blend was working well in Cork. 

A shared portion of Coq wings served with a dish of blue cheese sauce (€12) turned out just fine. They had been coated with something along the lines of Frank's Hot Sauce, but the spice level was definitely (and disappointingly) on the safe side.
Coq wings for two with blue cheese sauce
A half rotisserie chicken looked substantial along with home cut fries (€13). Some internet reading informs me that the chicken is marinated for 24 hours in a sweet tea mixture (using Barry's Tea of course). The end result is good, a decent chicken dinner that will appeal to many. Some of the burger combinations sounded magnificent and I ordered the Supreme Bull burger with Cashel Blue cheese, bone marrow and crispy onion. (€14.50). The toppings were indeed delicious, but the patty was dense and dry, sucking the enjoyment out of the burger. Sweet potato fries were soft, not crispy, lying clumped together on the plate. 
Half rotisserie chicken with fries
Supreme Bull burger with sweet potato fries
There is a decent selection of craft beers and a self-described list of "tantalising coqtails". My raspberry mojito was good, but I struggled to pick a second cocktail from the limited list. The daiquiri was a contender until I realised that they served it frozen (or adult slushie-style) which isn't mentioned on the menu. 

Coqbull would appear to be a name chosen to deliberately raise some eyebrows. But it is a reflection of the restaurant's core offering of rotisserie chicken and burgers, all 100% Irish and locally sourced. The chicken comes from the famous English Market tenant, the Chicken Inn  while the burgers are made to a house recipe by Crowes on the Kinsale Road. 

Ultimately, Coqbull didn't excite me or linger in my memory for a return trip to Cork. While its arrival is a good thing for the Cork dining scene, it's hard not to compare it to Dublin where, simply put, there are places doing this kind of food better. For now, I'll be sticking the to its bigger brother, the Cornstore.

Coqbull, 5 French Church Street, Cork
Tel: + 353 (0)21 427 8444
Twitter: @Coqbull_Cork

Coqbull on Urbanspoon
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