Posts Tagged 'cork'

Augustine’s, Cork

Augustine's

What a treat. Sometimes a restaurant ticks all the boxes. The atmosphere was buzzing, the room cozy and restful, the service friendly and professional. The dishes here are uncomplicated but exceptionally good quality. I believe Augustine’s is rammed at the weekends, and after eating here, it’s no surprise why.

I take my hat off to our server, who I suspect may have been the restaurant manager. When taking our drinks order, she asked if we wanted “still, sparkling or tap“. This is something you don’t see enough of in restaurants. I’ve started ordering tap water in restaurants lately, as it’s better for the environment and my pocket. All too often I’ve encountered snooty waiters who are programmed to turn up their nose at the mere mention of the word “tap”. Next time you order tap water in a restaurant, check your waiter’s expression. It’s probably a good indicator of the general standard of service there. I was so pleased that I was given the option of tap water (easily pleased eh?) that I ordered us a couple of bellinis and a good half-bottle of Bordeaux for myself. Restaurateurs, please don’t instruct your waiters to discourage customers from ordering anything other than bottled water. You might think you’re putting manners on the cheapskates but you also run the risk of alienating customers who might otherwise spend big.

Consommée

An amuse bouche of “Tomato consommée” was a nice surprise. Well seasoned with serious depth of flavour but I felt that the herb element was too strong. I would have preferred if the tomato was more prominent which would have made the soup fresher and lighter.

Black Pudding

Quail

The Wife, already a Clonakilty fan, was in black pudding heaven. She ordered the “Boudin of Clonakilty black pudding with apple compote, onion marmalade, cider jus & apricot preserve” to start. To be honest, I couldn’t locate the compote, marmalade, jus and preserve in this dish. All I could see was a mound of black pudding in a bright red soup. It looked very curious but it tasted absolutely sublime. I would have been suffering from “dish envy” were it not for the fact that I was raving about my own choice: “Warm organic salad of pan-roast quail with green beans, port soaked raisins, pistachios and spaghetti of parsnip“. It was a wonderful dish. The flavours and textures were so distinct and yet worked perfectly together, I loved it. The chef here certainly knows how to match flavours. For me, the best dish of the meal.

Hake

Beef Wellington

Onto mains. The Wife chose a daily special of “Slow Roast troncon of hake with a smoked bacon and puy lentil casserole, served with pomme purée“. This dish was really good, but she was unable to finish it as it was very filling. I ignored the glorious summer evening and ordered what I consider quite a wintery dish: “Beef Wellington served with braised red cabbage and potato gratin“. It was a good match for my Bordeaux and everything a Wellington should be – crisp and buttery pastry, a well-flavoured duxelle and the beef was cooked perfectly medium-rare as I had ordered it. It was served on a vast mound of lightly-spiced red cabbage along with a side portion of gratin dauphinoise. I was sceptical about the dauphinoise as it looked quite dry, but I suspect this is how it’s supposed to be cooked. It was not swimming in cream, but it was soft, buttery and perfectly seasoned. This is what I consider to be a “complete” dish and certainly the best “Beef Wellington” I’ve ever eaten.

Chocolate Fondant

At this point, we were both completely stuffed. The Wife refused to order a dessert but I managed to persuade her to share my “Chocolate fondant, cherry sauce & pistachio ice-cream“. The waiter was happy to bring us two spoons. After such a high-quality meal, the fondant was everything I would have expected: molten and unctuous. The sharp cherry sauce was a nice counterpoint to the rich fondant and the ice-cream gave a nice nutty crunch to the dish. I really don’t want to analyse it too much but here was yet another dish that’s perfectly balanced in both flavour and texture. I don’t know who the chef is, but he has serious talent.

The people of Cork are truly lucky to have a restaurant of this calibre in the city. Our bill came to around €130 and was worth every cent. I’ll be back…

Augustine’s, 7 Washington Street, Cork City.
http://www.augustines.ie/

Les Gourmandises, Cork

Les Gourmandises

I’ll start off with a pet peeve of mine. I know it’s awfully trendy, but whatever happened to serving food on a good old-fashioned white plate? There are few dishes which are improved by serving on a piece of black slate. The four (out of six) dishes we ordered at Les Gourmandises were no exception. I no more want to eat a meal off a piece of slate than I would want to eat off a breeze-block. Serving four out of six dishes on slates is just silly and a little pretentious. Just my personal preference.

I’ve been eating in good restaurants for many years. So, while I know I’m no AA Gill, I can tell the difference between good, bad and indifferent when it comes to restaurants. I’d love to report that my recent visit to Cork’s “Les Gourmandises” was great, but it was just… okay.

Greedy-guts that I am, I couldn’t resist the “Tasting Plate” starter while herself opted for the “Rillette of guinea fowl, white wine jelly, asparagus, olive croutons & lemon dressing“. The tasting “slate” consisted of a goat’s cheese pannacotta, Clonakilty black pudding with foie gras, smoked salmon and a duck and foie gras terrine. All the components were good; I particularly enjoyed the excellent smoked salmon which I think came with a little horseradish cream. For me, the portion size of the goat’s cheese pannacotta was perfect as I can never eat much goat’s cheese. The Wife’s “guinea fowl” was well-flavoured but she felt there was too many components on the plate.

Tasting Plate

Rillette of guinea fowl, white wine jelly, asparagus, olive croutons & lemon dressing

After our rather dinky starters, we were looking forward to our main course. I ordered the “Roasted John Dory, organic beetroot, pomme noisette & balsamic dressing“. The Wife made the wine selection a little easier by opting for fish also with “Pan fried sea bream with new potatoes, crab mayonnaise, tomato & roquette salad“. We assumed the starch element of our meal was taken care of, given that both dishes included potato. However, once again greediness got the better of me and I ordered a side of “Thyme pomme purée“.

Roasted John Dory, organic beetroot, pomme noisette & balsamic dressing

Pan fried sea bream with new potatoes, crab mayonnaise, tomato & roquette salad

Thyme pomme purée

The Wife fared better with her main course, I think. My “John Dory” was dressed with a curious sauce which reminded me of Chinese food. I suspect it contained something like anise or clove, not the balsamic dressing proclaimed on the menu. It was well-cooked and well-presented but the spice flavour in the dressing killed any flavour the fish had. A little disappointing.

My biggest gripe however, is that both dishes were a seriously low on carbohydrate. My “pomme noisette” turned out to be four marbles of deep-fried mash (see photo). They were tasty, but bloody hell, there was only four of them!! Good job we ordered the extra mash then? Well no, the mash was served in a minuscule ramekin. Two tablespoons of mash does not qualify as a side dish, even if it does cost €3. Maybe the chef is distracted by creating pretty pictures on a plate and forgets that diners need sustenance as well as good flavours. Not good enough, folks.

Still hungry, what could we do but order dessert. The Wife ordered “Almond & raspberry tart with raspberry granité & almond panacotta” while I went for “Lemon posette with poached rhubarb, blackcurrant sorbet, lemon gateau“. Both dishes were very good but the possette was a little too sharp for my taste. I prefer posset to have a nice balance of sweet and sharp. The blackcurrant sorbet was the best part of the dish, absolutely sublime.

Almond & raspberry tart with raspberry granité & almond panacotta

Lemon posette with poached rhubarb, blackcurrant sorbet, lemon gateau

Our bill, including a reasonably priced bottle of white, came to €130. Not outlandish for an evening meal, but not cheap either. After we paid up and left the restaurant, we felt hungry and a little ripped off. This fortunately, is a new experience for me. Never before have I paid this much for a meal and left a restaurant hungry. I’ve encountered a few people (morons) over the years who are rather dismissive of “fine dining” and think that such restaurants charge big money while serving tiny portions of grub. Les Gourmandises is not doing anything to convert these people. Decent food but poor value, a dangerous combination in these difficult times.

Eating & Drinking in Cork

Cork's English Market

I’m just back from Cork, had a great weekend and naturally, eating and drinking was the focus of my visit there. I’ve been hearing about the English Market for years, saw Rick Stein heaping praise on it and including it in his “Food Heroes” series. All I can say is “wow”. If this market was in Dublin, I’d be in there every day, it really is something special.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t purchase any perishables as we were travelling back to Dublin on the Sunday when the market is closed, but we did treat ourselves to an excellent sausage sambo and some choccies from “The Chocolate Shop”. All delicious. We were tempted by the Farmgate Café upstairs but we weren’t really that hungry and there was a huge queue. Hence the sausage sambo.

Anyhoo, we picked two great Cork restaurants for dinner on the Friday and Saturday nights. Both do “French”. Both are at the upper end of Cork’s price range. But, one restaurant offered significantly better value and delivered one of the best meals we’ve had in the last year. Reviews to follow…

Update:
Review: Augustine’s
Review: Les Gourmandises