Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Furama, Donnybrook, Dublin 4

For many the ultimate comfort food is a big greasy Chinese takeaway. Though I may come across as having a holier than thou attitude when it comes to food, I am not going to deny that I too can be partial to the odd Chinese pig out. Yes, I’m taking the works-deep fried battered chicken balls, gloopy sweet and sour sauce, a mountain of fried rice, as much prawn crackers as you can shovel and an extra side of MSG for good measure. I will never forget a girl in 2nd year who was convinced that your Friday night takeaway was good for you because it was ‘dinner’ and not McDonalds. But most of us know that this food is pure crap. And on another point this kind of “Chinese” food is as much Chinese as I am. Ireland doesn’t really do authentic Chinese, much less anywhere outside of Dublin.  On a recent trip to Letterkenny, every second business in the town was a cheap tacky Chinese (alternating with Polish barber shops in case you were wondering). It is no wonder when our towns have the capabilities to feed Beijing that we, as a nation are getting fatter and fatter. Irish people cannot get enough of it. Maybe it is possible that there are more fools out there like my old friend than I thought….

In Dublin there are a handful of places using good quality cuts of meat and the Chinese concept of cooking as a balancing act between sweet, sour, spicy, salty and bitter flavours. Most of these places are the most well established Chinese restaurants in the city, but a new generation has also sprung up around the Parnell street area. Many of the newer places cater specifically to the Irish-Chinese community and are doing pretty hardcore stuff. Astounding value for money is to be had if you are willing to take a few chances and go on a food adventure.

Furama in Donnybrook belongs to the former category mentioned above. For years I had heard great things about it but never got round to visiting until such opportunity arose on a recent quiet Tuesday evening. I was in the company of my oldest and dearest friend. You know those people who bring out the true you, making you feel great about yourself without flattery-well she’s my one of those. So no better way to spend a night before it had even begun.

The restaurant was quiet, though pleasantly so. The calm atmosphere was accentuated by dim lighting and soft panpipe music (ok, not to everyone’s taste!) A big bowl of prawn crackers was delivered to our table upon arrival which we dived into. Munching and chatting away, we are two of the most indecisive people so this was not helped by the fact that the menu was about forty pages long. In general this is a not a good sign but it is acceptable when it comes to Asian food, as usually there are only very slight variations between the numerous dishes. Craving a nice bit of meat and some bold flavours I went straight to the beef options and decided that Fillet of Beef with Green Pepper, Garlic and Black Bean Sauce (sizzling) was the one for me. After lots of humming and hawing mademoiselle went for the Roasted Duckling in Plum Sauce.

We were served in about half the time we took to order. Considering that there were only three or four other occupied tables, I suppose it was not so surprising. One generous portion apiece, accompanied by some fried and special fried rice we were made up. The fillet of beef was finely sliced, exceptionally tender and had that rather uncharacteristic delicacy that good Chinese restaurants can bring out of beef. As a cook I have always wanted to know what the trick is. My best guess is that it is a combination of the finest piece of meat, a good sharp knife and the touch of technique that only a professional chef can achieve. Now I am no carnivore and could happily skip meat for a week but knowing the existence of these exceptional taste moments, I could never give it up altogether. The rich flavoursome sauce packed a punch but by some marvel did not overwhelm the meat. The peppers were crunchy packed a punch but by some marvel did not overpower the beautiful meat. The peppers were crunchy and there were enough of them, without being too many. As a garlic fiend, the garlic came through especially to my liking balanced out by the earthy flavour of the black bean. The rice was oily enough to make it moist, but not so that it was greasy. Each lavish bite was a piece of heaven. The duck died a similar second death. It had all the elements which make this such an addictive dish-crispy fat, succulent meat and a sweet, fruity sauce. Having been served so quickly, my one quibble is that our plates were whisked away the second we had put our forks down (no chopsticks-sacrilege!). We hadn’t quite licked the plates clean but I would have happily made a go of it. When your plates are taken so quickly there is a sense that you are being swept out the door.

I wouldn’t usually go for a dessert in a Chinese restaurant, as even the best don’t make their own, but desiring something sharp to finish off my meal I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied without a lemon sorbet. It was one of those mass made ones that come in a lemon skin. Nothing special but it hit the spot. I can’t quite remember the total bill but we paid circa E20 per main and E5 per rice. I did note that the menu was pricier than the website listing which I had glanced at in advance. This annoyed me a bit, as it’s just careless and lazy not update your primary marketing tool as a restaurant. I hope Furama stays around, but they could do well to market themselves a bit better. The restaurant is rather uninviting from the outside and you have to ring a bell to get in. But I would guess that Furama has an older and loyal customer base, with whom they have a good rapport. Service was generally polite. The food was worth every penny. No need to rely on MSG to entice the customer here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Keshk Cafe, Upper Leeson Street, Dublin 4

Again and again D4 tops the polls as the most expensive place to live in the country. It comes as a nice surprise then that one of Dublin's few Greek restaurants takes pride of place in this suburb and is practically giving its meals away for free. I can’t imagine how Keshk Cafe on Upper Leeson Street works economically, but gastronomically it is a mint. Anyone who's tried getting a reservation in this tiny restaurant will know that it can be a challenge. But with a bit of forward planning, you should be in luck.

I visited last week with a good old friend who'd just returned from her summer abroad in the Big Apple with lots of exciting stories. Our tight purse strings, my companion’s vegetarianism and the BYOB policy of Keshk were the clinchers for us on this particular night. With lots to catch up on, she arrived with a nice bottle of rioja and the nights' entertainment (for me, my lips are sealed) unfolded. Straight away the waitress arrived at our table with a couple of glasses of iced tap water without us having to stingily ask-no pressure to go bottled, very nice indeed.

We decided to share a Greek Salad (E.7.50) to begin, to give us plenty of time chat and sip our wine. Having booked the table for 8pm, we were put under absolutely no pressure to vacate the table, granted it was a Wednesday night. The traditional salad, dressed with a little olive oil and lemon juice was a nice palate cleanser. It was brought to life by the Feta and some toasted pine nuts, both of which were plentiful. Unusually, the Feta had a creamier than crumbly texture but its quality could not be doubted. It is very tempting for restaurateurs to cut corners when offering meals at reasonable prices by using supermarket imitation brands, but it’s disappointingly obvious when they do.

For the main course I had the Moussaka with spicy potatoes. At E14.95 this was exceptional value for what was delivered. Of course the ingredient components of the dish are not too costly. But to pay staff to prepare and wait, as well as to cover overheads at these prices and make it economically viable, all without the relief of corkage most restaurants enjoy is a puzzle that would surely leave David McWilliams and co dumbfounded for once in their lives. Served piping hot in its own large ramekin the dish retained its heat while I happily deconstructed it. I was more than pleased with the offering; however I must stick to my critiquing guns. The Moussaka was covered with a thick layer of melted cheddar. I am not sure how traditional this is, but in my view the béchamel layer should more important than the cheese layer. This was not omitted altogether, though the cheese overpowered its delicacy. The minced lamb was well seasoned and plentiful, but to the detriment of the aubergine. As one of the central features of the dish its scarcity was noticeable. Despite these issues I still thoroughly enjoyed the dish. However I was particularly impressed with the included side of spicy potatoes. Like mini roasties, they were crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, without the greasiness of a chip. A generous sprinkling of cayenne gave them the kick that made them special. Even when they went cold I was still happily munching away on them.

The gallivanter went for the okra done in a tomato, coriander and garlic sauce (E13.95). Although I did not try it on the night, I have had this before and it is the best thing I have tried on Keshk’s menu so I would highly recommend it. The okra is al dente and the tomato sauce juicy and flavoursome. A squeeze of lemon juice and the coriander (not overpowering) gives it a fresh zing. It is a dish that is virtuous, yet hits the spot.

Having no room left for another bite, we both skipped dessert which has a range of offerings from the customary baklava to the usual run of the mill (and usually bought in) chocolate fudge and carrot cakes. Again the baklava gets thumbs up from me from one of my previous ventures. Whoever came up with the idea of interspersing layers of filo pastry with chopped pistachios, walnuts and almonds and then drenching the whole lot in a sweet sugar syrup was a culinary genius! It’s more an indulgent teatime pick-me-up in my view though than a standalone dessert.

Space is a little tight in Keshk, with tables crammed in against the walls meaning that some may find it uncomfortable. But this is a minor quibble from two happy customers who will be doubtless back for more good food and great value-as long as Keskh can manage to balance the books that is!


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Chez Max, Palace Street, Dublin City Centre

A twenty minute wait for Dublin Bus on a dull and dreary, rainy Thursday evening was not what I had romanticised when making a dinner date at Chez Max in Dublin. I had envisioned myself arriving casually, but fashionably late to my rendez-vous with some chic friends. Instead I arrived flustered and hair-blown having run down the not-so-classy Dame Street in the rain. But the transformation to Parisian chic did occur the minute I stepped through the front door of this quaint, but buzzy restaurant. Authentically so, the waiters and kitchen staff here are French and this adds significantly to the whole experience. I immediately spotted and joined my three companions nestled together at a slightly elevated table and relaxed into what was to be a laid-back, but thoroughly pleasurable evening of chat and food.

We decided to go straight to the main course, leaving room for dessert and cheese. It was a difficult decision so I made the immediate resolution to come back and explore the menu further (maybe judging a book by its cover but when it comes to restaurants I have found that my gut is normally right). Feeling 'like chicken tonight' I went for the 'Suprême de poulet, sauce au Beaufort,' served with pilaf rice. We also had the Moules Frites and the Steak Frits with pepper sauce. The French Onion Soup and a side of potato gratin made a meal for our last diner. So really by our selections, this was to be a test of ingredients and knowledge, rather than skills and frills. So often this is the case with proper French cooking, but here we really went back to basics. What we sought was flavour and depth, in comforting and satisfying food and we were not left short changed.

Three perfectly portioned plates of food arrived at our table in good time(after a catch up of news and gossip), joined by a deep bowl of rich brown, glossy goodness and a little side plate generously endowed with thinly sliced, oven hot layered potatoes. And instant silence fell as we tucked in. My chicken supreme (breast with wing attached) was perfectly cooked, moist and flavoursome and was served with just the right amount of slightly thickened but silky sauce, which was creamy with a tangy edge. The pilaf rice was perfectly cooked and moulded on the plate so that it retained its piping heat. Crisply sautéed in onion and cooked out in a good stock, retaining its savoury flavours-delish! A few pan-fried French beans brought the dish together colourfully. The steak, cooked medium (catering to Irish tastes medium and not French bloody medium) and moules delivered and more. The chips were homemade, medium cut and dark golden brown. And and not a trace of a soggy chip was to be found amongst the two portions served up to us. The French onion soup came not with gruyere toasts, but with croutons and grated gruyere on the side. Maybe not what you might expect but just as good. A good French onion soup needs time. Long slow cooking is the key here. Hardly likely to break their own rules, the onions had been slowly caramelised and the beef broth slowly simmered and reduced. Combined, a marriage made in heaven. As for the potato gratin, we are familiar with several varieties. These were the buttery, oily kind as opposed to the creamy, cheesy kind. Cooked through but with a bit of bite, it definitely required some good skill and timing to get them just right.

Service was very good-pleasant and attentive, without coming over every five seconds. Only when all had finished their meal were our plates whisked away, etiquette that is so often overlooked in restaurants and really gets my goat!

To round off the meal, we had one tarte aux fraises (strawberry tart), one crème brulée and one cheese plate. The tart was pretty as a picture and nice but lacking something. The crème pâtissière was not quite rich enough, nor was the pate sucree (sweet pastry). The pastry also had a hint of ginger as far as I could detect, which would not be to my preference, but this is nit-picking! The crème brulée was professed faultless and looked the part in a rustic ramekin with a nicely burnt top. A choice of two cheeses from a selection is offered. Our cheese aficionado choose the Sainte Maure (goat’s cheese) and the camembert. Upon delivery we remarked that for E5.50 the portion size was a bit scabby. But the phrase 'quality over quantity' came to mind as it turned out that a little went a long way. In the end the two small wedges were just right served up with some crusty French baguette.

After a superb meal our bill was very reasonable, working out at about E20 a head. Of course we stuck to tap water but an extensive wine list caters for all tastes and budgets.  I would say go for the early bird, but a similar selection appears on the a la carte for much the same price. The menu sings value and you won't be disappointed. Unless you can get flights return to Paris with Ryanair for less, just go. It’s the real deal and a more authentic experience you will not find on the streets of Dublin. And if you're a lady go for the barman/tall dark and handsome waiter. The best dish of the night. Just a shame I didn't get a taste...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Shanahan's on the Green, Dublin City Centre

I very excited to be treated to a meal in this iconic Dublin steakhouse earlier this Summer. So much so that I starved myself through an exam. As a high achiever I strongly recommend against this, how and ever an occasion as such had to be respected and fully embraced.

Ironically, the evening of our celebration coincided with the day of Gerry Ryan's (RTE broadcaster) untimely death. This was ironic because Shanahan's oozes with that exorbitant, excessiveness that he was more than well known for indulging in. There was an air about the city that night and everyone was talking about the news that still hadn't sunk in. Eating in Shanahan's that night seemed slightly in bad taste. Nevertheless, it didn't hold us back but it did set a backdrop to the mood and early conversation of the night.

As delicious as the starters sounded, we were all very wise and exercised enough self-restraint to hold back for the main course. But hell did we let loose when it came to the piece de la resistance! Of eight diners, all but one went straight to the steak menu. Now to the uninitiated, the selection process requires more than a little attention. The steaks range from the 215g filet mignon, to the 681g rib eye/T-bone. However the discrepancy in prices is much smaller, at E46 for the cheapest option to E52 for the whole hog. So you may as well go for the one that tickles your fancy the most. Unlike a similar experience in a real American steakhouse, Monty’s of LA though, the raw cuts were not presented to the table so it does take a bit of advice/knowledge to get what you’re looking for. Waste not want not six of us sensibly went for the filet mignon. The Gerry Ryan of the table (he won't thank me for that) went for the T-bone. Next you have to decide how you would like your steak cooked and as most know how they like theirs done this is the easy part. In so many restaurants this is not the case as medium can range from bloody to well done, depending on the chef. Granted, this is more likely to occur in mediocre restaurants, however I have experienced it in places you would expect better of. Not so in Shanahan's. As stated in the menu, their steaks are cooked to perfection and the specifications are bang on target.

The next minefield to conquer was which sides to choose? Everything sounded so appealing I think we went for a bit of everything: whipped potatoes with butter and chives; French fries, crispy fried onion strings, creamed spinach, roast butternut squash with rosemary oil and creamed sweet corn.

And so we waited in anticipation for our feast, accompanied by some fresh homemade breads. The bread was the best I have had in a restaurant. In fact as far as my memory allows me it was the best I have had, anywhere, ever (and I have a photographic memory of my food journeys). I would go back for the bread alone. I have more than a strong suspicion that this was achieved by copious amounts of butter baked into the hot, fresh bread. There were other flavours in the bread, but no more about the bread as I could write all day about it.

All at once the banquet appeared and in a matter of moments our white table-clothed and silver laid table was adorned with baskets, copper pots and big rounded plates. After much greedy reaching and passing around the meal commenced in earnest, and boy was it a marathon. The steak, medium/rare for me, was well sealed and caramelized on the outside, pink and slightly bloody on the inside but warm through. It was tender and flavoursome, certainly reaching expectations. The mash was smooth and creamy, not that awful gloopy purée that we are served up all too often. The French fries were cookbook perfect and the onion strings were excellent, having been soaked in buttermilk before receiving a light coating of flour and paying visit to the deep fat fryer. The vegetables were equally impressive, though not for all (some were intent on it being a meat fest). I was particularly taken on the creamed corn which had strong hints of nutmeg and a creamy, but textured consistency. Everything was really top notch, with nothing to disappoint. Even the sacrilegious black sole had by the black sheep of the party was declared exquisite. Reaching such heights of perfection is truly an achievement for places like Shanahan's where notoriety pushes the benchmark much higher. Red wine was had which complimented the steaks just beautifully-but that's not my forte.

Room for dessert? Always! As I recall there was a peanut butter chocolate torte with Toblerone sauce and peanut brittle shared between two, a rhubarb and ginger crumble for one and two cookies and cream cheesecake with vanilla and chocolate sauce for two gluttonous souls, including one belonging to myself. At E12.50 a pop, like nothing in Shanahan's they don't come cheap but they do deliver. Presented like gift wrapped creations, they have all the trimmings, white and dark chocolate swirls as well as a whole Oreo cookie for me and my accomplice. I can proudly declare that I finished and enjoyed every unnecessary bite of mine and similarly plates were licked clean all round. Coffees and whiskey’s (ordered by you know who) rounded of a wonderful night.

And so sums up the Shanahan's experience. An overindulgent gorge-fest, not for the faint hearted. And prices considered, not for every day either. Apparently Shanahan's is and has always been a loss maker. You pay for your steak, but sides are reasonable. At around the E9 mark each, they were portioned to feed a table of eight of us more than comfortably. Mr. R couldn’t even finish his steak. It in fact fed the family as we lived off reminiscent steak sandwiches for days (this is no word of a lie). If your pockets aren’t quite long enough, go to Shanahan’s for a reasonably priced E45 all inclusive lunch. You must be able to afford to take the rest of the day off to recover on the couch mind. Shanahan’s on the Green? Shanahan's on the money I say.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Dillinger's, Ranelagh, Dublin

A low key family celebration brought myself and four fellow family members to this newish Ranelagh establishment. A far cry from its predecessor, the Michelin stared (and priced) Mint, Dillinger's has a laidback, casual feel and recession friendly prices to go with.

Having checked out the menu online before we went, it looked exciting with strong New York/French Bistro influences. Arriving there, it was a bit of a let down though with some of the features missing-clearly the website’s menu is out of date. The menu was heavy on rehashed versions of dishes we have been offered for years in eateries like Tribeca (its close neighbour) and other similar establishments in the Grafton Street/Temple Bar areas of town. I was so uninspired by the menu that I went straight a main course, ordering the pork belly salad with chilli fried French beans, sesame and soy. Three starters were ordered: the Manhattan clam chowder with smoked haddock; the whipped goats cheese salad with roast squash, beetroot, honey truffle dressing and the calamari with spicy tomato salsa, garlic mayo and lemon wedges. The respective recipients were all pleased with their choices, with little complaint. The declaration on the chowder was that it had too many vegetables and potato and not enough liquid. This made it too heavy and filling for a starter course. However the broth that was there was delicious (I had a taste and can testify) and all slurped up. One word of advice though-those who like their chowders thick and creamy will be disappointed. The goats’ cheese salad was also oversized for a starter portion. Served with two thick wedges of ciabatta, the beautiful light but sharp cheese would have been better complimented by some crunchy crostini. The calamari, ordered by one who does not usually touch anything that swims was thoroughly enjoyed. This may have been helped by the fact that it was cooked perfectly in a delicate but crisp batter and came topped with plenty of garlic mayonnaise-a particular favourite of the fish phobic. Again, the plate could have been shared between two or three anticipating a main course.

For mains other than my pork, we had one 'Nachos Grande', one 12 oz Hereford striploin with garlic and herb butter served with duck fat roast potatoes, one sweet and sour sticky chicken with butternut squash and one salmon fillet and Dublin Bay prawn paella special. Mine was very tasty. The pork was fatty and moist but salty, brown and crisp on top. It was slightly overdone but not so that it took away from the dish as a whole. The pork was served warm over roast French beans and butternut squash. The sesame and soy dressing were unidentifiable but the 'chilli fried' aspect of the description made a more featured appearance than expected with actual chilli mince in the dish. It was all very good, but to nit pick the vegetables could have spent less time in the oven and been a bit more alive. The nachos were pretty non descript, but then when have we seen nachos any other way but with the usual combination of guacamole, sour cream, tomato salsa and grated cheese? I await the innovative kitchen that does something to spruce up this same-old, same-old tired dish. The steak looked and was pronounced delicious, perfectly cooked and seared on the outside, nice and pink on the inside. The potatoes could not be faulted, and were imaginatively served alongside in a little dish with blobs of sundried tomato paste. The chicken was plentiful and a real winner. A simple dish that could be easily imitated but that is not to take away from its success. The paella was enjoyed but could not be finished after the chowder starter. A strange concept to the purist, putting salmon with paella which would usually be associated with meat and shellfish but it seemed to work.

However the real winner of the meal was the side of French fries our youngest diner ordered. Brought to the table straight from the chip pan they were hot, and in a deep heated bowl remained so for quite some time. They, of the rustic kind (skin still visible), were medium cut, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. I am not the biggest chip connoisseur but cannot rate them highly enough. Even when they went cold, eventually, they were still great.

The dessert menu was pretty dull but then again maybe I am being over critical. The aim here is to keep the punters happy with tried and tested favourites. And to get a simple classic wrong in a restaurant is a big no no, so it does perhaps raise the bar. As an experimental home cook however, I like to see some creativity and experience new texture and flavour combinations when I eat out. Anyway this did not put me off enough to refuse dessert (sure I had to try for reporting purposes...). I had been looking forward to the key lime pie as it’s not a dessert we see often this side of the Atlantic, but alas it was not on offer. I went for the New York style baked cheesecake which was as expected, perfectly done-creamy in the centre and slightly more done around the edges. Plenty of real vanilla, freshly scraped from the pod sang through making for a sweet and mellow satisfying dessert. It was topped with a few bits of dark bitter chocolate which gave it a slight, but appreciated twist. Two crème brulees were also had. Crème brulee is crème brulee and the perfect sweet finish to any meal when done correctly. Here it was served with a scoop of berry sorbet. The fish phobic is also has a berry paranoia so that caused some distress but the whole dessert was not rejected altogether, which is usually the case, so that must be a good sign.

A phrase coined from many a school report, Dillinger’s ‘could try harder’. I don’t think it quite reaches its potential but it does have some great things going for it and deserves a chance. Go for the classics, burger, steak etc and don’t miss those French fries. Share starters and don’t miss dessert if you like a good classic.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cafe Paradiso, Cork City

By 9pm last Saturday night, myself and my five fellow diners had built up an appetite walking around Cork city all day. As we had two vegetarians among us, I had the inspiration to bring them to Cafe Paradiso, a well known and established foodie haunt. Being from Dublin and only having had the chance to visit on one previous occasion several years ago, I had delicious flavour memories and was excited to return. Oh dear...maybe I had set myself up for disappointment from the word go.

None of us being particularly flush, I tend to lose all sense of perspective when it comes to food. I suppose it's the foodie equivalent of the shopaholic. However noting the consensus of my compatriots, we decided to go straight for the main course. Probably for the best as it's a rare occasion that I say no to dessert. A few nibbles were provided on arrival-sunflower seed biscuits, cashew nuts and olives-a pleasant touch.

The menu was very appealing and I was torn between several options. I decisively settled on the roast aubergine parcels of Coolea cheese, walnuts & black kale with spiced fennel couscous cake and warm sungold tomato and caper salsa. Quite literally a mouthful! Each individual flavour was distinct and each bite was followed by a burst of flavour explosions. The aubergines had been grilled in olive oil before being stuffed with the tangy cheese and kale filling, bound with a mix of oil and spices. They were then roasted till hot and melting inside. The couscous cake was equally pleasing, with a crunchy top, although I had expected the fennel to feature more than the odd sliver. The inspiration of the plate however was the tomato and caper salsa-wow! Here is where one can appreciate the importance of good quality ingredients. It was comprised of sweet tomatoes with a tart edge, lightly cooked with juicy little capers in extra virgin olive oil. It made the dish. At a price of €25, I did think that it was a little steep for the time and effort required. Although the flavours were complex, the assembly and presentation were not particularly so. I also felt that there could have been more food on the plate and was very sad to admit to myself that I was still hungry having licked the plate clean.

My neighbour went for the sweet chilli-glazed panfried tofu with Asian greens in a coconut and lemongrass broth, soba noodles and a gingered aduki bean wonton. It smelt absolutely delicious, especially the sweet pungency of the tofu which had taken on a caramelised appearance. The broth appeared to be lacking, or maybe I was just expecting to see a big bowl of soupy noodles as we are used to in Asian restaurants. Anyway although I didn't ask for a bite, it got the big thumbs up. She, the only wine drinker of the night had a glass of sauvignon blanc which was well needed and hit the spot. Three of the others went for the almond pastry galette of feta and spinach with coriander crushed potato, harissa sauce and sugar snaps. The verdict on this was that it could have also been bigger and did not satisfy all tummies. I had a corner of my other neighbour's pastry and was expecting something more exciting from the inclusion of the ground almonds, however apart from being slightly shorter, it was no different to ordinary filo pastry! Again I couldn't agree that value for money was really offered with this dish at a price tag of €25.

Although I had decided on a dessert, I actually needed a dessert. Now, a dessert should not be a necessity. It should be something that we feel guilty for ordering so that we can savour every guilty and indulgent bite. Fancying myself as a bit of an amateur pastry chef, I was disappointed with the desserts on offer. They seemed a bit dull, lacking any real vision in an otherwise creative and inventive kitchen. I was tempted to go for the limone Paradiso-a trio of lemony sour desserts that hit you right in the cheek pockets. However fearing that this would not fill me up enough (I feel like I want to cry reliving this but maybe I am being a tad melodramatic...) I reluctantly decided on the Strawberry Baked Alaska, hoping that it would offer satisfying spongy, creamy comfort. Feeling the purse strings, only two of us ordered dessert and we both went for the Baked Alaska. Despite this we were kept waiting for at least 30mins before they arrived. A mountain of golden white, it didn't take me a second to get stuck in and I had made it clear that I was not sharing (at €9 a pop I could have nearly bought Magnums all round!). I did like the dessert but I didn't love it. Disappointingly there was far too much sweet, sickly uncooked eggwhite and far too little sponge and ice cream. The strawberry ice cream was undoubtedly homemade and tasty, but it was the stingiest tiny scoop. The sponge was nicely soaked in a strawberry syrup, however it was only a very thin layer underneath all the meringue. Unfortunately, the whole thing was overpriced and below par but at that stage I was just glad to have filled the gap in my stomach.

I don't mind paying for good food but on this occasion, I felt that the meals were overpriced and undersized. Maybe skipping on the starter was a mistake in a vegetarian restaurant where meals are typically going to be lighter, however remaining hungry after only a main course is not a good sign. (As a side note I am neither a horse nor a rugby player). Maybe I had built this place up too much and my expectations were too high but it was not as I remembered it. On my previous visit it had a more rustic and cosy feel. On this occasion it did take on more of a 'cafe' resemblance. Apart from slowing up towards the end of the night, service was fine but could have been more attentive. Would I recommend this restaurant? Yes but with a word of warning-make sure you've had a good lunch!