Pay As You Please

Pay As You Please

We were in Killarney on New Year’s Eve to meet someone off the train. We went early in order to mooch around the town for a while. Of course we were there at lunch time and I remembered having heard of a restaurant where you paid what you thought the food was worth. A quick search of Google and we managed to locate the premises in New Market Lane.

The room is small and furnished in a shabby-chic way. Some of the tables were old school desks complete with inkwells. The chairs were a mixed lot too and some of them were quite comfortable formal dining chairs. An old black and white vampire movie was projected on one of the walls. And on the opposite wall was the open kitchen area.

We were greeted by a very friendly young man who showed us to a table and gave us menus to look at. There was not a lot on offer but the place is small and with no fixed price I didn’t expect a huge menu. There was soup of the day (parsnip and apple), a few different bruschettas, three different types of pizza, some salads  and a dish of the day which I have already forgotten! We ordered  pizzas. I opted for the  bacon, mushroom and thyme one and Mr W chose the Serrano ham, rocket and Parmesan  one. We asked for tap water which was served, chilled, in a bottle. They don’t sell wine but you can bring your own.

Sample Menu

The pizzas arrived within fifteen minutes of our ordering. The base was thin and crispy with some bubbling of the dough (all good!). The tomato sauce struck me as being a bit to runny but it tasted fine. The topping was sparse enough there was a hardly one medium-sized mushroom on the pizza and the bacon was pretty meagre too. Mr W also thought his pizza was a bit short on the toppings. The flavours were good. We weren’t supplied with cutlery – just pizza cutters – or napkins. Seeing as the pizza sauce was so runny this was a major drawback.

To finish Mr W ordered coffee and I asked for a hot chocolate. The coffee came in a big cafetiere and there was easily enough for two people. I also received a very generous jug of hot chocolate and an enamel mug. I wasn’t too impressed with the mug as memories of burnt lips on camping trips flooded my mind. I only half filled the mug and I was very tentative when drinking from it. Fortunately the mug didn’t conduct the heat too much and I survived the hot chocolate without any medical emergency.

Unfortunately I didn’t notice one of the most novel dishes on offer. Soup in bread. It wasn’t until I was halfway through my pizza that I noticed it on their blackboard. I was cross that I missed it especially when I saw it being served to another customer.

Soup In Bread

 The decision on what to pay involved much debate. We had eaten pizza recently in Skinflint Dublin  and the pizzas cost a little more than ten euro. We thought we’d pay ten euro for each pizza even though if we’d had such meagre toppings in Dublin, at that price, we would have been quite unhappy. We thought €2.50 for each drink was fine considering we only wanted one cupful of drink. In the end we left twenty five euro in the box to and also a tip. In hindsight I think a tad we were too generous.

This ‘Pay As You Please Restaurant’ is a novel concept and definitely worth supporting. The local community appears to have embraced it as a lot of the customers were repeat visitors and many of them were of more mature years.

(Photos from Pay As You Please Facebook Page)

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iDeals and eDeals

This year my mission is to explore more ‘value’ based restaurants. You can expect to see a lot more posts covering affordable eateries. It is my intention to make full use of online deals in the coming year. To this end, I already have a few vouchers in the bag! These internet deals generally offer great savings but one needs to be very careful when purchasing them. I have occasionally seen ‘deals’ which offered no saving at all on the regular menu. Caveat emptor.

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Eden

Eden

I didn’t have my reviewer’s hat on when I dined here recently with my in-laws. However, I remembered later that Eden is listed in The Dubliner – 100 Best Restaurants so I had to rethink my decision. So here goes…

Mr W and I were the first to arrive. We decided to wait in the reception area  for the rest of our group and  I ordered a Gin and Tonic to sip while we perused the menu. It took a bit too long for for my drink to arrive. When it finally appeared it was lifeless and dull without a bubble in sight.

Once the full group arrived we were shown to our table and a friendly waiter described the specials of the day. The soup was tomato and fennel and there were two special main courses -one venison and the other being stone bass. Not being familiar with stone bass I asked for more information. I was told it was a deep water fish and that it was wild,  not farmed. I wasn’t too convinced. I know all about sea bass, which is a lovely fish, but I worried that stone bass might be to sea bass as rock salmon is to salmon. So I decided against it.

There were six of us dining. The orders for starters included eden smokies, crab salad, chicken liver mousse and my own order for pumpkin risotto. Three of us opted for the venison as main course, two ordered hake and there was one order for steak. We ordered a couple of bottles of  Crozes-Hermitage as well.  We nibbled on bread from the complimentary basket of bread while we waited for the starters to be prepared. I’m still wondering why the bread was so described on the menu. The Eden is pitching to a market that expects the bread basket to be included and there is no need to make a feature of it being free. That said, I had a slice of delicious, fresh tomato bread.

The starters arrived and the Eden smokies were served in square gratin dishes. Nobody had bothered to wipe away the melted cheese that dripped down the edge  of the dish so marks are lost for presentation . The pate looked delicious and the crab salad was pretty on the plate too. My risotto was very good and I really enjoyed it. The rice was creamy with a bite to it, the pumkin was cooked perfectly and I really liked the sprinkling of toasted pumpkin seeds that was added to finish the dish.

The mains arrived. The venison came rare – and at this point I remembered that we had not been asked how we would like it to be cooked. In my experience to date  I have almost always been asked how I’d like it done or I’ve been told that how ‘chef’ likes to serve it. It didn’t bother me, I am happy enough to eat rare venison. It was a pleasant dish, not outstanding. The meat was tender enough and it was served with a kind of potato cake which had a large, whole carrot on top of it. Very rustic looking. The hake eaters really enjoyed their dish. In fact one of them had eaten hake very recently at Fishy-Fishy in Kinsale and he deemed Eden’s dish to be the superior one. That is quite a commendation.

I couldn’t manage dessert but some of the others ordered raspberry parfait and the cheeseboard and we all had coffees.

In summary I would have to say that The Eden has seen better days. It doesn’t help matters that there is a building site right beside it but the restaurant interior is drab and in need of a refurb. The formica topped table that I sat at had a chip gone out of it and the underlying timber was exposed. It wasn’t pretty (or hygienic, I’d imagine). We also sat very close to the kitchen area and we could see, and smell, what was going on. Every now and then some deep fat fryer steam wafted in our direction and I was worried that I would come home stinking of chips. It can be interesting to see ‘the theatre’ of a kitchen but nobody reeally wants the ‘backstage’ experience which is what I experienced on the night. Perhaps, when Meeting House Square is returned to the City of Dublin,  Eden will invest in an upgrade.

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Skinflint

I got two tweetseats at this ‘pop-up’ restaurant recently. A group of four of us arrived so we made up a table of both freeloaders and paying customers. Skinflint is another of Joe Macken’s pop up ideas (like Crackbird) and serves, mainly, pizza and also a daily meatball offering. (Menu).

Tweetseat Chicken

It was three thirty on a Sunday afternoon when we arrived and the place wasn’t a bit busy. The room is basic, which is part of the popup concept, and the tables are made from old doors with legs fitted and topped with a sheet of glass (or possibly perspex). The server showed us to our table and popped the ‘tweetseat chicken’ in front of us! It didn’t take too long for us to make our decisions. I ordered the lamb meat balls with pink peppercorn mash and celeriac salad. The others ordered the vonie, the susie and the simply red. I ordered a lemonade and Mr W ordered a beer (Howling Gale from Eight Degrees Brewing). When our server delivered our drinks she tried to coax us into ordering starters. In my opinion she should have done this when we ordered our food and not as an afterthought.

I sipped my lemonade while we waited for the pizzas to arrive. They weren’t too long coming and they broke from tradition by being rectangular (ish). They looked really good and I was jealous. My bowl of meatballs topped with mash and topped again with the celeriac slaw did not look as pretty!  It was odd to be served with just a spoon to eat  my meal. I managed fine but I would have prefered to have been given a fork as well. The celeriac slaw was really tasty, the rest of the dish was OK – certainly not amazing. The pizzas were enjoyed and given the thumbs up all round.

The Vonie

We decided not to bother with desserts and we asked for coffee. I requested an americano and was informed that they only had filter coffee. I was hugely disappointed as I had an amazing coffee in this very room when it was the home of the original Crackbird.  Mr W also declined to have filter coffee. Within ten seconds the server was back to inform us that we could have espressos as there was an espresso machine. How odd was that! My understanding is that an americano is simply an espresso with some extra hot water. Clearly someone in Skinflint needs to learn this.

How To Make an Americano

In summary the pizza eaters were happy, the service was mediocre and the product knowledge was limited. It is cheap -ish.

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The Chart House

The Chart House

Mr W loves this restaurant and we visited here recently. It is one of the few restaurants in Dingle that opens during the winter months. We hadn’t dined here for a long time and we were delighted to see their new menu (new to us, anyway!). Their signature starter of Annascaul black pudding and apple wrapped in pastry is gone from the menu much to Mr W’s disappointment. But I was very eager to try the replacement starter of black pudding hash, poached egg and hollandaise sauce.

The Chart House Interior

When we dine in Dingle we generally try to eat fish because, after all, it is a fishing harbour. However, the night in question was extremely cold and wintry and we needed something more warming and hearty than fish. I ordered the ‘new’ black pudding starter and himself went for one of the specials – breast of pigeon with polenta and salad. For mains I ordered a slow cooked rabbit stew and Mr W opted for venison. We decided to try a German Pinot Noir which proved to be very drinkable and well priced.

Some lovely bread was delivered to the table. We weren’t told what the bread was and we forgot to ask but we enjoyed it regardless! Since our last visit I noticed that they have invested in some beautiful new water jugs from Annascaul Pottery. Our jug was a rather expensive piece too as the price tag of €59.95 was still stuck to its base!

Our starters arrived and my black pudding offering was very prettily served and the pigeon looked really good too. I hadn’t expected such a tidy dish as my mental image of a ‘hash’ dish was of a more casual, messy affair. I’m glad I didn’t get what I was expecting! What I actually got was a lot prettier and very tasty too. The only improvement I would make is to use a little less black pudding in order to balance better the egg/pudding proportions. It was a bit dark for photographs – but I’ve posted this one.

Black Pudding Starter

The main courses arrived. My rabbit stew came in a large bowl with two portions of rabbit, a generous serving of slightly sweet sauce and some potatoes. The rabbit was loose on the bone but not falling off it. I didn’t have to work too hard to get at all of the meat. The portion of wild venison was very generous, tasty and beautifully cooked. (Thanks Mr W – for sharing!). A dish of seasonal vegetables accompanied the main courses.

I couldn’t manage dessert but himself ordered bread and butter pudding which we shared. It came with homemade ice cream which was absolutely delicious. The pudding was gorgeous too – it definitely was not made with supermarket sliced pan! We finished with two lovely coffees. The bill came to €109.30 before service.

The Chart House has been awarded the prestigious Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand recommendation on numerous occasions.

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Pielows

We were invited out to dinner at Pielows in Cabinteely recently. I had never heard of this restaurant before but Lucinda O’Sullivan has seen fit to give it a plaque so I expected something decent. Alas this was not the case.

Pielows in Cabinteely

To begin I ordered chilli scallops which, when served, were like rubber bullets. The chilli sauce was way too hot and we should really have been advised of this when ordering. I can manage a fair bit of heat but this was excessive. Had the scallops been soft and succulent, the chilli would have destroyed them.

For my main course I was tempted by the retro offering of steak rossini and I ordered mine to be cooked medium. It must be over twenty years since I had this dish, indeed it must be just as long since I’ve seen it on a menu and I was looking really forward to it. Further disappointment followed… the steak was overdone and a bit chewy. The ‘pâté’ turned out to be a little sliver of liver (chicken perhap?). If it wasn’t liver then it was a foie gras so heavily fried that, by some alchemy, it turned back into liver. It was served with sides of dauphinoise potatoes and seasonal vegetables which were fairly bland.

My dessert of strawberry pavlova redeemed the situation a little and the coffee was reasonable. Our hosts paid the bill so I don’t know what it amounted to but I certainly won’t be rushing back to dine here.

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Salamanca

I had a ‘bargain’ lunch at Salamanca, the one on the corner of Dame Street and Parliment Street, recently. For ten Euro you could have a starter or a glass of wine or a beer or a dessert and a main course and coffee. The menu options looked fairly good. My host had dined here before and had really enjoyed her meal.

Salamanca

We arrived at about one o’clock and there were a few customers. We took a table by the window. There were quite a lot of tables in the room and I was surprised by the lack of customers. Initially I put it down to the recession but after experiencing the lunch I think it is because lunchtime diners are quite discerning about where they spend their money.

Chicken Burger

I decided to have a salmon, cream cheese and red onion pincho to start and a Caribbean style chicken burger with hand cut chips for mains. My host had sausages and mash with gravy and onions and creme brulee for dessert. The pincho was tasty but it came with far too much rocket. The main courses were a bit disappointing. My friend had enjoyed her sausages and mash so much on her previous visit that she ordered them again. But she said that the accompanying fried onions were so dry and crispy that she didn’t recognise them as having ever been onions. I didn’t fare much better. The chips were overcooked and sodden, the very thin slice of chicken was scorched and dry. The burger bun was nice though – it was a flat bread and alovely change from the usual type of bun. But a novel burger bun cannot make up for the attempts of the arsonist in the kitchen.

The Creme brulee arrived and looked like any creme brulee I’ve seen before. Sadly, when my host cracked it open the custard hadn’t set and it was extremely runny. It tasted fine but the texture and consistency wasn’t right. This was the same dessert she had here on her previous visit so she was expecting a proper brulee.

We finished with two americanos which were faultless but I won’t be returning to Salamanca – not even for decent coffee.

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