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, March 24, 2015

[Review] Söder + Ko, South Great George's Street, Dublin 2

Did you ever notice how things clump together? It's similar to the old story about waiting ages for a bus, and then three come along at once. Or that bad things happen in threes. In my case, we had a weekend away booked in Copenhagen (thanks to Ryanair's newly launched route), so of course we ended up in a Scandinavian influenced restaurant the night before. 

Newly opened Söder + Ko is literally the hottest restaurant ticket in an already over-heated town. Chef Kwanghi Chan has left the famous Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore and moved to Dublin to take over  this Scandinavian and Asian influenced kitchen. The interior of the former Dragon bar has been renovated into an open dining area with a stunning long bar. 

The menu is split into 5 main sections: raw, dim sum, hot, sides and steamed buns. At dinnertime, €25 will get you a choice of 3 courses from the RAW, DIM SUM or HOT sections, along with a side of your choice. In my opinion, this was the perfect way for us sample as much of the menu as possible. Once ordered, the dishes arrived in a steady stream, coming out from the kitchen in the order of preparation.

Our RAW dishes kicked off the meal magnificently. My scallop ceviche was beautifully sweet balanced with soft coconut flavours and a gentle touch of coriander and chili. Tuna sashimi was dark red in colour with a seaweed salad and wasabi mayo. DIM SUM dishes of pork and shrimp dumplings were juicy and flavoursome, while squid tempura arrived in a joyful riot of battered fronds and a lemongrass dipping sauce.
Scallop ceviche
Tuna sashimi
Pork and shrimp dim sum
Squid tempura
At this stage, we were convinced that the €25 three course menu was definitely the right option. And then the main courses arrived.  Chargrilled peppered beef was interspersed with glutinous mounds of sticky rice topped with tiny exquisite quails egg yolks. This dish was presented with the precision of Kwanghi's Michelin heritage, but the chopsticks provided were inadequate for the size of the beef pieces. A piece of steamed cod was topped with gently waving bonito flakes, adding a sensation of motion to this classically delicate Asian dish.

Our main three courses had all been excellent, but we disappointed with our choice of roasted aubergine with garlic and chili, and fried sweet potato with parmesan. Looking back at the menu, I think we should have chosen more green vegetables to better suit the dishes ordered. 
Charred peppered beef fillet with sticky rice
Steamed cod with Shitake mushrooms and bonito flakes
Even though we had eaten 6 dishes (and 2 side dishes) at this stage, the steamed bun section of the menu was still looking very attractive. A spicy kimchi bun with bean sprouts, red onion and coriander  in a light fluffy pun was packed full of flavour and got the seal of approval (€4).

Söder + Ko will have a full cocktail menu (and a beautiful bar to match) but on the night we visited, only a few cocktails were available. I tried the Söder Sura (Zapaca rum and grapefruit), as well as a Stockholm 866 (a Negroni variation) with fresh herbs and a rock salt rim. The Scandinavian herbal bittersweet influences came through on both drinks making me look forward to the rest of the menu.
Kimchi steamed bun
Stockholm 866 (or a Scandinavian Negroni)
I have to admit that service was extremely shaky on the night we visited, although the restaurant manager did a great job of keeping things moving. There were several small errors on the final bill, but I do need to point out that it's early days for Söder + Ko and I'm optimistic that these issues will shake themselves out in time. Therefore, it's not fair to consider this a proper review, but rather an early dispatch.

In short, Söder + Ko is beautiful and delicious food, with a healthy vibe, served in a modern relaxed bar. I can't see how it will be anything other than a high success.

Söder + Ko, 64 South Great George's Street, Dublin 2
Tel: +353 (0)1 478 1590
URL: www.soderandko.ie
Twitter: @SoderandKo

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

[Review] Tankardstown House and Brabazon Restaurant, Slane, Co Meath

Ever since I first visited Tankardstown House back in 2011, I have been waiting to return. I had fallen in love with the 18th century manor house and the old stables which had been converted into self-catering cottages. On our first visit, we really enjoyed our dinner in Brabazon restaurant, but since then Chef Rob Krawczyk has reputedly turned up the heat in the Brabazon kitchen and I was keen to investigate. 

We arrived on a bright Sunday afternoon and following check-in, we immediately headed to the honour bar to watch the Irish Six Nations match. We weren't alone in this idea as several other couples were also in the bar, pouring their own drinks and cheering on the men in green. Following the match, we walked outside to our stableyard cottage to relax before dinner. The cottages are really finished to the highest standards with lovely sofas and chairs, fitted kitchens with Belfast sinks, a Nespresso machine and the loveliest bedrooms tucked in under the eaves. For a few extra Euro, we could have upgraded to a room in the main house, which I'm sure would have been just beautiful, but I was delighted with our cosy cottage.
Interior of our cottage at Tankardstown 
Kitchen area in our Tankardstown cottage
Having a pre-dinner drink
Drawing room at Tankardstown House
Our stay at Tankardstown was courtesy of a Pigsback.com voucher which included a 5 course dinner at Brabazon. This turned out to be based on the 7 course Tasting Menu from Land & Sea, so we definitely got to experience a wide range of the cooking on offer. We started with an amuse bouche of light-as-air pork crackling, followed by crusty mini-loaves of home-made bread with smoked butter. 
Amuse of crackling at Brabazon
Selection of breads
A starter of scallops, sand, seaweed and gold oxtail vinaigrette was beautiful to behold and exquisite to eat. The scallops were cooked to absolute perfection and were the star of the show, supported by the delicate flavour of the oxtail. Beef tartar was innovatively flavoured with smoky, mineral charcoal and served with pickled shallots, hen's egg and watercress. 
Scallops, sand, seaweed and gold oxtail vinaigrette
Beef tartar with pickled shallots, hens egg, charcoal and watercress
Both our main courses featured pastry in one form or another and both were perfectly suited to a menu that was waving goodbye to the end of winter. A perfectly pink piece of trimmed hay-smoked duck breast came with a Wellington, charred leeks, parsnip and a plentiful drift of artistic snow. My only complaint was that I would have liked the duck fat to have been slightly more rendered.  His pork loin was gently spiced and served with a little pithivier, burnt apple and sunchoke (also known as Jerusalem artichoke) and some fermented cabbage. 
Hay smoked duck breast with Wellington, parsnip, leeks and duck jus
Spiced pork loin, pork pie, burnt apple and sunchoke, fermented cabbage and granola
A chocolate parfait and crispy chocolate lattice was restrained from too much sweetness by the use of 70% chocolate, olive oil and yogurt. If you haven't already tried it, the pairing of dark chocolate, salt and olive oil is one of life's treasures. I really enjoyed the use of textures in this dessert, making it about more than sweetness and taste. A 20 minute wait was required for the creme fraiche soufflé which came served in the now-mandatory tea-cup. It was a perfectly made soufflé, with the typical buttery sugar crust, but the creme fraiche flavour just didn't really come through for me. The preserved blackberry sorbet was the highlight. A little plate of petits fours followed, with my favourite being the toffee in a clever edible cellophane wrapper. 
Parfait and lattice of chocolate, yogurt, honey, olive oil, rose petals and pistachio crumb
Creme fraiche soufflé with preserved blackberry sorbet
Petits Fours
The next morning, we woke up to a light scattering of snow, which made the Tankardstown grounds look even more beautiful. Breakfast is served in Brabazon, but this time it was full of bright daylight, rather than the intimate atmosphere of the previous night. A buffet offering is available, and this is supplemented by a selection of fresh-cooked items. A portion of scrambled eggs and smoked salmon was perfect for a Monday morning before we packed up and headed back to Dublin for a late working start. 
Morning sunlight in Brabazon restaurant
Smoked salmon and scrambled eggs
Chef Robbie Krawczyk smokes his own meats and makes charcuterie to be served at Tankardstown, (his father is an experienced charcutier making it a family tradition), so I must admit that I was a little disappointed not to get some charcuterie in our meal or at breakfast. It seems a bit of an omission to leave out something that is individual to to Krawczyk and Brabazon. 

Tankardstown House was every bit as charming and gracious as I remember from our first visit. Every aspect of the main house has been beautifully restored and the tempting honour bar ensures that guests feel relaxed and at ease. Robbie Krawczyk's clever and artistic food definitely merits a visit to Tankardstown, and the Brabazon gin bar will ensure that you float to sleep in your comfortable bed. 

Absolutely recommended for a gourmet break and relaxation.

Tankardstown House, Slane, Co Meath
Tel: +353 (0)41 982 4621
URL: www.tankardstown.ie
Twitter: @Tankardstown
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Thursday, March 12, 2015

[Listing] West Waterford Festival of Food 2015

The West Waterford Festival of Food returns for the 8th successive year between Thursday, April 9th and Sunday, April 12th. The coastal town of Dungarvan will play host to some of Ireland's best chefs, producers, stall-holders and all-round lovers of fine food. 

The theme of this year's festival is Generations in Irish Food, which will shine a spotlight on some of our home-grown heroes and the generations of Irish families who continue to produce, cook, sell and run some of Ireland's greatest and best-loved restaurants and food businesses. 

One of the festival's key events, Celebrating Generations of West Waterford Food Stories, will take place in Dromana House, which incidently this year celebrates 800 years of ownership by the same family. Local chef Eunice Power will create a tribute to local West Waterford food families, such as the McGraths, Flahavans and Barrons, by showcasing not just their continuing history and narrative, but also their delicious ingredients.

Other highlights will include The Emerging Generation, a series of demonstrations from up and coming members of established food families, where the next generation will cook with the the older generation lending a helping hand. The series will features Jack and Tim McCarthy, the award-winning Kanturk butchers, Richard and Duncan Blair (and their mother) of Georgina Campbell's Pub of the Year 2014 Blair's Inn, and finally charcuterie master Frank Krawczyk with his talented chef son Rob Krawczyk, who will demo together for the first time under the title of Charcuterie from Father to Son.

The Tannery will continue as a festival cornerstone by hosting Generations of Food Producers tasting menus on Friday and Saturday, which will be based on the family producers participating in the festival. On Saturday, the Tannery will host brunch featuring Flahavan's, a family enterprise since 1785 from nearby Kilmacthomas, while on Sunday, they will host a duck feast lunch, in association with Silverhill.

Cois Cé, or Seafood Saturday, will offer fun activities by the water, sensational seafood and inspiring demos. The Farmers' Market will set up in the main square on Sunday with over 100 stalls scheduled to take part. The Busanna Bia will return, with three different routes available this year, giving festival goers the opportunity to visit as many producers as possible on each route. Tickets will be on sale for the The West Waterford Festival of Food Restaurant Trails and booking in advance is definitely recommended.

As if all those activities weren't enough, there is also a special schedule of events for the little cooks, featuring Cócaireacht le Chéile, pizza workshops, Mucking Around with Kitchen Sink Science and baking classes.

Check out the website - West Waterford Festival of Food - for more information, or keep an eye on the @WdFoodFestival Twitter account for the latest news.
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