Continued from Restaurant Review: The Old Convent – Part I.The fifth course – a palate-cleansing Organic Lemon and Ginger Sorbet – caused arguments. The Cousins, who are identical twins, thought that the ginger was more pronounced. The rest of us were definitely on the lemon side – as the wine kept flowing, we wondered if the world is divided into lemon-tasters and ginger-tasters.
When you’re going out for an eagerly anticipated eight-course meal at a restaurant in the middle of the Tipperary countryside it would be nice to turn up a little early, take some time to appreciate the setting and relax while perusing the wine list. In an ideal world. As it happened, ten minutes after we were supposed to arrive, the Boyfriend and I – plus my Clonmel-based and Dublin-based Cousins, accompanied by the Chilli-Intolerant Husband and the Ex-Planner Partner – were still chugging along in a Clonmel taxi that seemed to be in no hurry to get us to our destination. As we pulled up outside the imposing frontage of The Old Convent, just outside Clogheen, there was a mad scramble to pay, figure out when we should be collected and get out of the taxi but, as soon as we set foot on the black and white tiled floor of the elegant hallway, all stress was over. Calmly greeted and smoothly ushered to our table by proprietor Christine Gannon, we settled into an evening of superb food, wonderful wine and great service.
Last night’s Slow Food evening was the perfect introduction to Harry’s Café Bar in Dún Laoghaire. Since reading about the Polish food on offer there, especially the pierogi (dumplings), this had been a long-anticipated – but never quite realised – trip. Although there was no sign of pierogi on the menu circulated with the email about the event, the mention of dishes such as Marinated Roast Beef (Pieczen Wolowa) and Roast Pork Shank (Golonka) were more than enough to convince me.
If anyone’s around Dublin for the weekend and at a loose end – although that might be unlikely given the time of the year! – the National Crafts and Design Fair is on at the RDS in Dublin this weekend. The Dublin-based Cousin and I went along last night and discovered plenty of ways of spending our money on arty, crafty bits for Christmas, plus a whole room devoted to a variety of food products, whether you’re looking for regato style goat’s cheese from Cloon Goat Farm or tubs of soft Springwell Sheep’s Cheese, to stock up for Christmas on Filligans’ chutneys, mustards and jams (make sure you check out the Irish Peach & Cardamon Chutney), mini caramel waffles from Wicklow Fine Foods and Boozeberries festive-coloured liqueur.
Thursday was a searingly hot day in Dublin and, even come evening time, there was little respite from the heat in the city center. Sun-warmed crowds pooled outside bars and restaurants, Mediterranean-style. It was not an evening to be indoors so, when the Boyfriend and I arrived for a 7.30pm booking at Grafton Street fish restaurant Mackerel and I spied seats outside on the narrow balcony, we grabbed them as soon as we could hot-foot across the room.
I’m at two-day Irish music festival Oxegen this weekend, although fortunately – considering the rain and muddy conditions in Punchestown racecourse yesterday – not camping. The less said about food there the better! Normal service will resume next week.
Friday afternoon was a good time to be at the inaugural Taste of Dublin event as blazing sunshine encouraged a cheerful and good humoured crowd to linger, sample and wander around a Dublin Castle courtyard crowded with stands and stalls. My €35 ticket (I managed to keep the dreaded Ticketmaster booking fees to €2 by buying from the Ticketmaster outlet in Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre) entitled me to €20-worth of florins, the festival currency, but the sky was the limit as soon as you set foot inside the event areas. With sample signature dishes priced from €5 to €8, that €20 didn’t last long and I’ve even read of people spending another €70 on top of that. I was well behaved though – after spending my first €20, I just bought €5 extra – and, although portions were less than generous, I would have been hard pressed to find something I really wanted to spend more on.
Watch out next month for Taste of Dublin 2006, running from 22 June to 25 June in the gardens at Dublin Castle and described in the press release as Dublin’s “first outdoor gourmet food and drink festival”. Ha! There’s a reason why there aren’t more outdoor events in Ireland – talk to the shivering, drenched stallholders at any of the markets around the country and see why. Anyway, festival visitors can expect signature dishes from a selection of the city’s restaurants, including a few of my favourites – the lovely Silk Road Café in the Chester Beatty Library and the more sophisticated Cellar Restaurant at The Merrion.