Archive for September, 2009

Bang Café, Dublin

IMPORTANT: Sadly, Bang Cafe is no more, according to this article. An incredible loss to Dublin’s restaurant scene. I have some very fond memories of dining here.

It’s true what the newspapers are saying about restaurants; there is really is some great value to be had in Dublin these days. I’ve long been a fan of Bang Café and often recommend it to people. Even in the days when the “Celtic Tiger” was roaring and the phrase “early bird” was never to be uttered, I always felt that Bang was extremely good value. The menu always offered a great selection of dishes to suit every pocket. Head chef Lorcan Cribben’s dishes were always creative and superbly executed.

The restaurant is currently offering a value menu for both lunch and dinner which offers plenty of variety. I took lunch there recently and was so impressed by the chef’s “Slow roast shoulder of lamb” that I vowed to return as soon as possible for a meal with The Wife.

Gravlax with Beetroot Purée

I started with a “Gravlax of Salmon with beetroot puree, orange salad, citrus dressing“. Such a great combination of clean and light flavours, I loved the balance between the citrus flavours and the sweet beetroot.

Slow Roast Shoulder of Lamb

Slow Braised Shoulder of Lamb with colcannon, organic carrots rosemary jus” was incredible comfort food with some stylish restaurant presentation. I’m a huge fan of slow-cooked lamb and this meat was perfectly cooked, braised to almost melting tenderness. The rich, buttery colcannon made a great accompaniment.

Coffee Creme Brulée

I must admit I’m a little precious about crème brulée. What is it with chefs putting things like stewed rhubarb into creme brulee? The point of crème brulée is that it’s rich and silky. Adding fruit ruins the consistency. Add flavourings like coffee or liquer is a different matter, however. I finished off with “Coffee Crème Brulée with apricot and pistachio biscuit“. It was pretty damn good, the coffee flavour was not too strong. I did think the sugar topping was caramelised a little too much, but overall it was a winner.

I’m very pleased to see what is probably my favourite restaurant in Dublin roll with the punches of this recession by offering even more value to diners. It never disappoints.

Verdict: 8/10

Bang Café [website]
Merrion Row, Dublin 2
Tel: 01-6760898

Cheese & Pineapple Sticks – The Comeback

I’ve been doing some googling on Cheese & Pineapple Sticks, you remember those? They were trendy in the 80s, before we all discovered Nigella and disappeared up our own arses.

I found a good article printed in The Independent (UK) where chef Mark Hix,executive chef of Le Caprice and The Ivy, offers some trendy updates on the cheese and fruit theme. Suggestions include “Manchego with Membrillo paste” and “Stilton with Port Jelly”. Check out Mark’s suggestions here.

How to Store Ginger

I often find myself binning ginger because it either shrivels up or goes rotten. A great tip I found recently is to peel your ginger and portion it into thumb-sized pieces. Pop them into a zip-lock bag and store in the freezer. They do tend to lose a little bit of their zing, so they’re not much good for juicing, but they’re fine for a curry or a soup. If you don’t want to freeze your ginger, store in a paper bag in the fridge and it will last a lot longer. Give it a try.

Byron Proper Hamburgers, London

Byron Burger

Every city seems to be awash with “up-market” burger joints these days, but I find myself unable to get excited about them. I really do think a burger is only a burger and that despite the restaurant’s claims, all of these places offer a pretty similar experience. Giles Coren, restaurant critic at The Times, in his funny reviews of Bryon and Maze Grill, writes about what he calls “burger twats”. (He’s an insufferable knob, I know, but check out the reviews anyway).

Byron’s key differentiator seems to be their focus on quality and provenance. They use only well-aged cuts of Aberdeen Angus beef and are proud of the fact their buns are made by a “4th generation family baker in the East End”.The Wife and I ordered a couple of cheeseburgers with a side of chips and onion rings. It’s true, the quality of the ingredients definitely shines through. The menu offerings are simple and unadorned, which I very much approve of. I’m not sure we need all the flim-flammery you get at the likes of Jo’burger. The burgers, ordered medium, arrived distinctly rare, but we didn’t mind. They were tasty and extremely juicy. The Wife had a little trouble with the soggy buns (ooh-er, matron…), but I had no such trouble as my burger didn’t last that long. I also liked the pickled gherkin served on the side.

Fries & Onion Rings

The fries were excellent, very rustic and already well-seasoned by chef. The onion rings were unusual, the batter seemingly flavoured by some sort of dried herbs, but I disagree with Giles Coren – I quite enjoyed them. One thing I can’t understand, and this is common across all gourmet burger joints, is why the huge price difference in a cheeseburger and the unadorned version? £1 for a slice of cheese? Come off it, guys…

The service was very good, efficient and friendly, which you really need in a place like this. One thing though, the restaurant floor was littered and grubby, which doesn’t make a great impression as you walk through the door. Bit of attention needed here. Overall though, a good “cheap eat” option if you’re in London. We visited the Gloucester Road outpost but you’ll find several branches in London.

Verdict: 7/10

Byron on Urbanspoon

The Market Bar, Dublin

The recession must be over. On walking through the door of a certain city-centre restaurant (whose name no-one can seem to pronounce…) the missus and I were patiently informed by a waiter that they did not open for another five minutes. O-kayy. There was no “would you like to order a drink while you wait?“; no “sure, come on in anyway“. It didn’t piss me off or anything, I was just surprised. Funnily enough, we weren’t really in the mood to stand outside the door for five minutes, so we went elsewhere. All I can say is that business here must be positively booming…

So we opted for the nearby Market Bar. It’s on Fade Street, just off George’s Street. It fancies itself as a tapas bar, but in truth there’s only a smattering of tapas-like dishes on the menu. It’s a strange place, like it can’t make up it’s mind whether it’s a bar or a restaurant.  There is some limited seating at the bar, but if you want to sit at a table you must wait to be seated. It’s not a great place for a drink because the waiting staff are usually all over you to order food. Despite this, I like it a great deal. On reflection, I’ve been here three times in the last month and each time I visited I’ve been delighted at the great value it offers.

On my last visit to the Market Bar, I was accompanied by The Editor. Many of the dishes on the menu are available in small and large versions. Greedy-guts that we are, we ordered large versions of  far too many dishes: A dish of meatballs accompanied by fried potatoes, skewers of chicken and chorizo and that old favourite, patatas bravas. We also munched on a basket of bread and a dish of  marinated olives. The olives, which came complete with stones, were truly some of the best I’ve ever eaten in a restaurant (nothing soggier or sadder than stoned olives in a restaurant. Salamanca, please take note…).

Two hours later, after much eating, drinking and nattering we were presented with a bill for €40. Wow. I know a lot of people that don’t like the Market Bar; granted, the place is a bit cavernous and noisy. But the food is excellent and it offers some great value.

Verdict: 7/10

The Market Bar [website]
Fade Street, Dublin 2

“Cheap” Cuts of Meat?

Lamb Shoulder

Did anyone watch “Economy Gastronomy” last night? It’s a new BBC cookery show presented by Paul Merrett and Allegra McEvedy which attempts to educate people on how to eat better for less money. In last night’s show, Paul Merrett stated that lamb shoulder was a “cheap” cut of meat and claimed a 2kg shoulder should cost about £12. That’s less than €14. Perhaps Paul and Allegra should pay the Emerald Isle a visit. I’ve never paid less than €20 for a shoulder of lamb. I find myself getting frustrated by reading food writers who claim that cuts of meat like beef shin, pork belly and lamb shoulder are cheap. This is absolute rubbish.

According to Tim Hayward in the Guardian, the current economic climate is the cause of rising prices for cheaper cuts, but I don’t agree. These “trendy” cuts were never cheap here. So, are we being ripped off? Again…?

Read Tim’s article here.

Come on boys, you can do it!

Carrots

My dreams of slurping on carrot and coriander soup are almost ruined. With just two weeks left until harvest, my children, I mean, my carrots are not exactly thriving. But there’s still hope… Come on boys!! (Those folks at Suttons are full of shit, man… 😉 )