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!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

[Review] Restaurant Breda, Amsterdam

Breda is a city in the south of the Netherlands, that's probably not very well known to us tourists. It's also the home city of young gun chefs Freek van Noortwijk and Guillaume de Beer and sommelier Johanneke van Iwaarden. Having enjoyed huge success with their first Amsterdam restaurant Guts & Glory, they then proceeded to open Restaurant Breda on the beautiful Singel canal. 

Ever since it opened, Breda has been gathering the accolades for its modern international cuisine, and I decided to book ourselves in for lunch as part of my goodbye to Amsterdam. Lunch is available in different lengths with 3 courses for €29.50, 4 for €37.50 and 5 for €45.50. From the outside, it's unassuming. Inside, the dining room is high ceilinged, as you'd expect from an Amsterdam grachtenhuis (canal house) and the decor is on the smart right side of shabby chic. But yet, the tables are covered with fine linen, silver and crystal. Intentions are being signalled loud and clear.
Stitch & Bear - Breda - Bread and butter
Bread and butter

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

[Review] Nightmarket, Ranelagh, Dublin 6

I've spent the past 16 months travelling every week for work, flying out to Amsterdam first thing on Monday morning, returning late on Thursday. But now it's all over, and I'm back in Dublin for the foreseeable future. On one hand, I'm delighted. Normal life can resume again, rather than living permanently out of a suitcase. But on the other hand, I'm already missing my flights and hotels, and of course, I'm desperately missing Amsterdam, a city in which I've spent close to 2 and a half years working. 

But being home does allow me to start visiting all those new spots I haven't tried yet.  And first up was Nightmarket, Ranelagh's newest restaurant, taking over the location left vacant by the recent closure of An Bhialann. It's so new that signage is still to be erected and the website is still in launch mode.  Owned by by Conor Sexton (known for Dublin's well-loved Koh restaurant) and his wife R, Nightmarket promises traditional regional Thai food. Sounds great.
Stitch & Bear - Nightmarket -  Yum Makeua Yao salad
Yum Makeua Yao
We were passing by on a recent Saturday when Nightmarket's brunch menu caught our eyes. I'm not a huge fan of brunch in general, as I find it all very samey samey. However, a spicy Thai brunch sounded just the ticket. 

With 15 dishes to choose from, ranging from small to large, it took a little bit of effort to settle on our choices. My eye was immediately drawn to the unusual sounding Yum Makeua Yao, a delicious and fragrant salad of grilled Thai aubergines with a soft-boiled egg and loads of fresh herbs (€8). Strongly flavoured by dried shrimp floss, this is definitely one of more unique dishes I've eaten, and I loved it. 

Kai Jiew Goong Sup, or Thai omelette with prawns and spring onion (€9), was light and fluffy, while Ping Moo, Gai & Nuea (beef, pork and chicken skewers) were beautifully grilled, served with name jim jaew dipping sauce (€8). Our final choice was a bowl of the classic chicken coconut soup Tom Kha Gai (€7), which was both intensely tasty and prettily decorated with drizzles of chili oil. 
Stitch & Bear - Nightmarket -  Thai omelette
Kai Jiew Goong Sup or Thai omelette
Stitch & Bear - Nightmarket - Tom Kha Gai
Tom Kha Gai
Stitch & Bear - Nightmarket - Thai brunch
Brunch at Nightmarket Ranelagh
Stitch & Bear - Nightmarket - Interior
The outdoor seating at Nightmarket
All dishes impressed us immensely with their depth of flavour and striking authenticity. Beautifully presented, and accompanied with punchy, aromatic sauces and dips, Nightmarket has made a really strong impression on me. According to Conor, there are more exciting developments planned, so keep an eye out.

And a word of warning, approach the chili-infused fish sauce with caution!

Nightmarket, 120 Ranelagh, Dublin 6
Tel: +353 (0)1 538 5200
URL: www.nightmarket.ie
Twitter: @nightmarketd6
Instagram: @nightmarketd6
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Thursday, April 6, 2017

[Review] Bodega 1900, Barcelona

When Aer Lingus told us that they were cancelling our planned flights to Porto, I was very disappointed. I had been immensely looking forward to visiting the port houses in the Vila Nova de Gaia district and sampling a few fine ports while sitting on the banks of the river Duoro. To compensate, Aer Lingus did offer several rebooking options (at no extra charge!) and so we found ourselves back in Barcelona. 

The last time we had visited Barcelona, I had tried to get a reservation in one of Ferran Adria's locations, but I was not successful. This time out though, I secured a reservation at Bodega 1900, a relaxed tapas and vermouth (or vermut) bar, with a focus on traditional recipes, prepared from a modern perspective. 

And, oh boy, did Bodega 1900 deliver. From the minute we walked through the narrow green doors, I felt at home. It's gloriously traditional, with lino on the flooring and cupboards lining the walls. Pictures from the history of Bulli line the walls in fantastic disarray. But despite all this, you catch glimpses of waiters using fine kitchen tweezers to delicately position meats on boards, and suddenly you feel that there might be something else going on. 
Stitch and Bear - Bodega 1900 - Spherified olives
Spherified "olives"

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Sunday, March 12, 2017

[Review] Lucky Tortoise Dumpling Pop-Up

I got a little bit excited recently. That kind of excitement usually only happens to me when I get near the vicinity of real Chinese food. As a result, Capel Street and Parnell Street have the kind of effect on me that you normally only get when purchasing illegal pharmaceuticals. Show me genuine Sichuan or Hunan food, or some top notch dim sum and I am one happy lady. 

So you can imagine that my ears perked up when I heard about The Lucky Tortoise, a dumpling and dim sum pop-up at The Hill Pub in Ranelagh. Firstly, I really enjoy the Hill Pub. Friends and owners Derek Marsden and Darragh Nugent have done a great job revitalising this traditional pub with superb pub food and a fantastic selection of craft beers. Secondly... dumplings! Thom Lawson, the man behind the Lucky Tortoise, is bringing his creative take on high quality and affordable food to the historical tradition of the dumpling and dim sum. 

Stitch & Bear - Lucky Tortoise - Lucky Tortoise

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Sunday, March 5, 2017

[Review] Greenes, MacCurtain Street, Cork

Greenes Restaurant on Cork's MacCurtain street is one of the grande dames of Cork's dining scene. It's located in a former bonded warehouse in the city's Victorian quarter (by the way, when did that moniker appear?)  which it shares with Isaacs restaurant and the boutique Hotel Isaacs.

As restaurant entrances go, the entrance into Greenes of Cork is pretty special. Step off the continual bustle of MacCurtain Street past the wrought iron gates, under the cobbled archway and enter into their little courtyard. Cork is a city of steep hills, and you are reminded of that when you see the sheer rock cliff surrounding Greenes, and their famous waterfall cascading down.

Greenes has been around for yonks, and in that time there have been ups and downs. Many head chefs have come and gone, but it's maintained a special spot in the city. Award-winning chef Bryan McCarthy currently holds the head spot and he has done much to elevate Greenes. There's a strong focus on modern Irish food, using the fresh, local produce, combined with traditional preservative techniques such as fermenting and pickling. 
Stitch & Bear - Greenes - Trout with crab
Goatsbridge trout with crab

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Saturday, February 18, 2017

[Review] Mr Fox, Parnell Square West, Dublin 1

It's not often you walk into a restaurant to be greeted by a magnificent taxidermied fox, standing upright, holding a perplexed looking pheasant with a jaunty looking shotgun broke open over his shoulder. I never figured that Mr Fox was the kind who needed to resort to weaponry to catch his prey.

This fine fellow is part of the foxy decor at the smart Mr Fox, a basement restaurant located on Dublin's Northside. Previously occupied by Joy Beattie's Hot Stove Restaurant, this location is just a stone's throw away from the illustrious Chapter One. The closure of Hot Stove however tells us that adjacency to Irish cooking royalty is not enough. Will Mr Fox be smarter?
Stitch & Bear - Mr Fox - Mr Fox
Mr Fox interior design

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Saturday, February 11, 2017

[Travel] 3 new Amsterdam hotspots

Amsterdam can be so cold during the winter months. But it's also a city that's never quiet. Tourists and weekenders are always thronging the streets, especially in the middle of town. There are always new bars and restaurants to check out, so here are three of my latest finds for you to enjoy.

Bar de Vlieg


Bar de Vlieg is a four month pop-up collaboration running until the end of March 2017 between the famous and historic d'Vijff Vlieghen restaurant and the Nolet Distillery from Schiedam which is run and staffed by bartenders from the Fabulous Shaker Boys. You may not immediately recognise the name of the Nolet Distillery, but you will know their range of Ketel One vodkas and Ketel 1 jenevers (Dutch gin).

The location is what makes Bar de Vlieg really special. It's located upstairs in a small, warm cosy room in a  complex of 5 17th century townhouses on Spuistraat that make up the d'Vijff Vlieghen restaurant. Every single inch of the room, from the brown wooden panelling to Dutch wall tiles and the original windows literally screams history. The bar staff are immediately welcoming and most importantly the drinks are exceptionally good, served in beautifully delicate glassware. Try the jenever martini for a blast of rocket fuel and feast on the Dutch bar snacks in order to prevent any consequences.

Stitch & Bear - Amsterdam - Bar de Vlieg
Cocktails at the Ketel One pop-up at Bar de Klieg

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Sunday, February 5, 2017

[Review] Kyoto Asian Street Food, High Street, Waterford

It's great to see the food scene in Waterford being reinvigorated, as some form of recovery finally takes hold in the Crystal City. Mr and Mrs H had recently been praising a new Japanese restaurant that had opened in the former Johnny Fan's premise on High Street, and so it was duly put on the list for our next visit. 

Kyoto Asian Street Food is firmly in the vein of many recent openings in Dublin. A light interior with solid wooden tables and benches reflect the Japanese heritage, while the menu also offers curries and dishes from other Asian cuisines. A series of hand-painted wall murals add colour to the sleek design. One of the most interesting things I noticed was the steady trade from younger customers, a sure sign that this restaurant has the right food for success.
Stitch and Bear - Kyoto Asian Street Food - Interior
Interior at Kyoto Asian Street Food

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Sunday, January 15, 2017

[Review] The Green Hen, Exchequer Street, Dublin 2

When you eat out a lot, it means that you tend to return to certain restaurants on a regular basis. A list of favourite spots develops over time, with new restaurants being added once they've proven their consistency. The reverse is also true, and I occasionally bid a sad farewell to a once-favourite that has slipped down the list, perhaps due to the departure of a chef, or a change in approach. 

One venue that has been on my favourites list for a long time now is The Green Hen on Exchequer Street. The reason it's on my list is three fold. It has French style food, it offers a great value set lunch menu, and finally, lunch is available on Saturday and Sunday (instead of being forced into brunch as is the case in so many spots now). 

The Green Hen has a classic French bistro vibe with a heavy red curtain buffering those inside from the cold outside. Inside, the brightness is dialled down, making for a secluded spot in the busy middle of town. A beautiful bar decorated with a large vase of fresh flowers, dark wood panelling and parquet floors complete the atmosphere. 
Stitch & Bear - The Green Hen - Wild game terrine
Wild game terrine with spiced chutney, crumb and toasted sourdough

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Thursday, January 5, 2017

[Review] Ember, Milltown, Dublin 6

I was intrigued when I heard about a new restaurant opening in Milltown. Oddly though, my major source of puzzlement was not about the venue itself, but trying to figure out where "Milltown Shopping Centre" was located. After a few seconds, it clicked with me that this was the fanciful name for the stretch of  local shops and services that are located outside the entrance to Mount Saint Annes. Fair enough, I'm going to rename Chez Cronin to Chateau Cronin. 

Ember is the latest in a very welcome series of local restaurants and bistros that are opening up around the suburbs. As it happens, it's a few minutes brisk walk from my house and is a very welcome alternative to schlepping around for a taxi to make me into town. Owner and chef Greg O'Mahony brings his fine dining credentials to bear in this very stylish venue. The interior is extremely smart and luxurious and will only get better over time as the parquet floor picks up some lustre and the red leather acquires a patina imparted by well-fed backsides. 
Stitch & Bear - Ember - Interior
The elegant interior at Ember

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