Tag Archives: Review

200 Word Review: ETTO on Merrion Row

Etto. A restaurant that I had heard many whispers about, but never had the chance to visit.

Sitting at the bar, myself and my partner glanced over the menu and gave each other a knowing glance – this looked very promising.

It was the first time that both of us weren’t seated at a table, but that didn’t matter, we still felt right at home.

Continue reading 200 Word Review: ETTO on Merrion Row

Word of Mouth: Inspiration aplenty at the Waterford Harvest Festival

A last minute notion struck my Mam and I to head down to Waterford for the weekend for their annual Harvest Festival, that was in conjunction with Grow it Yourself (GIY) International.

A celebration of food heritage and culture aimed to suit all tastes, the harvest festival has been around since pagan times acting as a way for the community to celebrate the fruits of their labours.

Pairing up with GIY to form GROWfest, the organic and gardening aspect of the festival, it was described as a weekend that would educate “people in the appreciation of good, clean, fair food, showcasing all the gastronomic delights the region has to offer”. A promising statement indeed!

Taking about two hours on the train, I arrived down to the city of Vikings to rain that poured from the heavens and soaked everything in sight. I was so glad to hitch a lift to the hotel off the Mammy!

For the weekend that was, we were booked into the Waterford Marina Hotel tucked away from the bustle of the centre overlooking the River Suir. Nestling into a twin-bedded room that was quiet and clean, we soon freshened up, off-loaded our bags and set sail in search of food.

On recommendation of the hotel receptionist and feeling a bit on the lazy side, we strolled down to the local Thai restaurant Pa Pa where we ordered the perfect comfort food: curry (more on that soon!)


Up early for breakfast and looking forward to the day ahead, we headed down to the hotel restaurant which had a mix of continental and hot food on offer.


Now I’m a sucker for the Irish fry so you can guess what I got.

Though overall a good filler for the morning, I definitely wished that a bit more care went into their eggs. The scrambled completely lacked flavour and were watery, and plastic comes to mind with the fried one. A real shame for such a great food.

Onto the festival itself, and we headed off to the GROWfest, which had a particular focus on growing your own food, cooking it, looking after it and general gardening advice.


Just €10 for the each event in the tent and €47.50 for a weekend pass, we opted to pay per event and headed into where Ella McSweeney was speaking to Joanna Blythman.

For those who don’t know, Joanna is an award-winning investigative food journalist from Scotland who has covered everything from intensive pineapple production to the causes of obesity.

She broadcasts and writes frequently on the “secret food industry” that we’re expected to trust, and it was such a pleasure to hear her share her findings.

Among all of the fascinating things she talked about, one of the biggest things that struck me was when she was talking about “clean” labels and what actually goes into commercial products.

Ella had brought in an unnamed carrot cake that she had bought from a shop, and well, let’s just say a basic carrot cake really only needs to contain six ingredients: sugar, oil, flour, egg, a raising agent and carrots.

Have a listen to this snippet (which by the way isn’t even the start of the list!):

Despite some minor sound issues, Ella McSweeney did a great job and kept the ball rolling!

With a bit of time on our hands to explore the festival in its entirety, Mam and I sauntered around and waded through the crowds.


From sheep shearing and food stalls, to a real outdoor flower bed and historic re-enactments – one of the things that really gets you at the Harvest Festival is actually how family-friendly it is. One honey producer Déise, actually brought in bees and explained the process to curious children and adults alike.

  



Popping into the tent again for a panel discussion on “hospital food: it’s enough to make you sick”, we got to hear a variety of opinions from experts in the field.

The biggest issue that came up in the discussion was procurement, with the emphasis that hospital food should be of a standard that would speed up and aid recovery, rather than making us feel worse.

Would you believe that a survey of hospital patients in Ireland found 80-85% satisfaction with the quality of food? I was stunned!

Topping off the night and what could possibly be described as my favourite event from the weekend, was the GIY dinner in Momo Restaurant. Treated to fantastic meal using local, fresh produce (with even a few bits and bobs grown in the GIY HQ), it was a dinner that sparked excitement and exhilarated the palate.


With things like cucumber beer, stuffed savoy cabbage, beetroot ice cream and a salad with fresh strawberries, it truly was a feast at €40 a head.


  
Kicking off our Sunday, while Mam zipped off to the GROWtent, I headed to see Johann and Tom Doorley cook up fresh food in the GROWHQ Kitchen.

With a splash of delightful humour we were shown how to make some great but simple dishes like braised lettuce and peas and fried courgettes in garlic and vinegar. You can definitely tell that they have fun when they’re cooking!


Seeing Holistic grower and horticulturist Fiann Ó Nualláin in action was to be our final event of the weekend, and he shared with us just a snippet of his wealth of knowledge with regards to healing potential of plants (unfortunately we couldn’t stay for the full talk).

Slipping out of the tent and nabbing a falafel roll from the Lebanese food stall, I dashed off to grab my train back to the Big Smoke.

I was surprisingly restrained with the bits and bobs I brought home, the only two things that I forked out on was an exquisite bottle of heather-infused vinegar (€10) from Wild Wood and a wedge of honey comb (€6) from Déise.


All in all, the festival is definitely something that’s worth heading to and I’ll be keeping a note of it in my diary for next year. Apart from a few hiccups, it really is a jam-packed food-fuelled weekend with people that inspire you to take up a shovel and grow it yourself.

Tips for those thinking of heading next year:

  • If it’s on, book a seat at the GIY dinner. It’s fabulous – no more words needed.
  • Bring some toilet tissue when you’re roaming the festival – though there are portaloos, the tissue disappears quite quickly.
  • Might sound obvious, but definitely carry a small umbrella around with you – the chance of rain is always very high.
  • For the producers’ sake, try and have small change if you can and small notes. It can be pretty tough to deal with €50 notes on a stand!
  • The Waterford Marina Hotel is a nice hotel to book into if you’re looking for somewhere that’s quiet – I was only able to hear the bare murmur of music from the bar from where our room was. As I said, the breakfast offerings aren’t perfect but I found their staff to very, very pleasant and accommodating when it came to leaving our car in the carpark (which is very secure) for a few hours after checkout.

200 Words: Ha Noi Ha Noi on Capel Street

The rain poured down so hard that I almost slipped off the footpath – I needed something hot, and fast.

Hanoi Hanoi on Dublin’s Capel Street is one of the latest Vietnamese restaurants to crop up in the city and being one who’s obsessed with noodle soup, I had to give it a lash.

Unassuming on the outside, the establishment boasts a rather large interior with plenty of space to accommodate diners (though it may take you a few seconds to recover from its choice of décor).

First up was the nem rán (or spring rolls), and there’s not a single thing that I could find wrong with them.

With a crispiness that crumbled, and flavoursome filling that meshed so beautifully with the dipping sauce, it was the perfect start to my meal.


Onto the phở gà: Though the soup had the base for a perfect broth, I was left disappointed with the slightly overcooked chicken and fatty bits that I found. There were other places that definitely did it better.

That being said, the curiously extensive menu, excellent pricing (I spent just €11) and the polite, attentive service makes me want to give this place another bash.

I’ll be back.

Come again? Bring your friends! There’s plenty of room.
Rating: 3.5/5
Website: https://www.zomato.com/dublin/ha-noi-ha-noi-city-centre-north

200 Words: East Side Tavern on Leeson Street

East Side Tavern on Leeson Street, though decorated with dark tones, manages to pull off a homely feel.

The downstairs bar has a magnificent display of liquors stacked high on its shelves and the upstairs hosts a restaurant with a modern twist.

Spaghetti marinara made its way to my table and despite my request to remove one vital ingredient (I’m not a chili person!), it still tasted wonderful.

  
Now my partner is very particular about his steaks, in fact, it’s rare that he ever gets a good one and so I made a note of looking at his expression as he tackled the 10oz rib-eye.

  
The meat was beautifully chargrilled and I was lucky enough to get a bite. He was in love to say the least!

Feeling in the mood for something unusual, my eyes wandered to the rather curious “carrot sorbet”.

Dipping the liquorice wand into the coconut yoghurt and twirling it around the sorbet and ground nuts; I was astonished.

It was satisfaction on a plate, and I was finally delighted to taste a dessert that excited me with texture.

Service was swift and top-notch and I got the impression that they really cared for the customer.

Come again? That carrot sorbet needs to be tried again.
Rating: 4/5
Website: http://www.eastsidetavern.ie/menus/

200 Words: Musashi Noodles and Sushi Bar on Capel Street

A complete sucker for sashimi, this week I had a Japanese food craving that needed to be tackled.

Musashi, with its grey exterior and simple design, is tucked away on Capel Street and easy to pass by in favour of the more popular competition.

I hadn’t been back in three years, but I’m glad I finally did.

After much debating, but with the certainty that I’d definitely be getting sashimi, I settled on a big bowl of ramen with a selection of meat.

In the past, I’ve found Musashi to have very slow service, but much to my delight we were served swiftly with a waiter that could have gotten the award for the “most polite man of the year”.

Though the ramen’s broth could have been on the clearer side and the tofu was slightly overdone, the noodles and overall combination of food had a hearty feel. It was a filling meal.

But my winner was the raw salmon. My sashimi along with its soy and wasabi, was like a juicy kiss with the freshness of the fish heightening its flavour.

A hidden gem amongst some overpriced and not-so-nice sushi hubs in Dublin, Musashi is well worth a visit.

Come again? I need that sashimi again!
Rating: 3.5/5
Website: http://musashidublin.com/

  

Word of Mouth: Something amiss at the Guinness Storehouse

The home of the “black stuff” has always been a spot that I’ve meant to wander into and so on a whim with the rain drizzling down, Mr. POH and I headed to the iconic Guinness Storehouse.

Open seven days a week from 9.30am, we arrived late enough into the afternoon to a bustling entrance that was jam-packed with nattering people.

Forking out €18 each for adult tickets (because we didn’t book online and thus didn’t save 10%), we were told that our experience would include a self-guided tour and a free pint of Guinness.

We kickstarted our experience in the Atrium by standing at the bottom “of the world’s largest pint glass” and gazing up through its seven storeys.

Excited by the prospect of losing myself for a few hours, we weaved our way through the ingredients and the craft brewing, cooperage and transportation, advertising and sponsorship, before we ended up in the Gravity Bar on the top floor.

    



Now I don’t want to spoil the experience for those who are absolutely determined to head here, so I’ll be brief.

There were elements that I liked about the Storehouse and there were things that I didn’t. I really enjoyed watching the cooperage videos, learning about the ingredients and the fact that you’re able to take away Guinness recipes – but does it need all of its floors? Not really.

There were areas that I felt were just set in place and used as a crowd filtering device. While the building may seem impressive when you open your tour map; there’s actually just a lot of weaving, which is fine in the beginning when you have a lot to distract you but then everything begins to filter out.

I was also pretty surprised about the lack of staff that were available on each floor. It seemed that the tour was completely dependent on what was on the walls or in the videos rather than any hunman interaction (apart from the tasting experience and Guinness Academy).

My partner also pointed out that some of the descriptions about brewing would make more sense to those who actual knew about beer rather than someone, like me, who was more of a novice.

There was a personal touch that was missing that you get on other tours, where you can ask questions and feel more involved.

I’m not saying that I didn’t completely enjoy it, but when the most memorable thing about the Guinness Storehouse is actually the breath-taking 360 degree view on the top floor and not the drink itself, then something’s not right.

For the price of it, I don’t feel like I would go back again but also because I feel like if you’re really soaking it all in properly, you won’t need to.

 

The nitty gritty:

Pricing: Adult save 10% when booking online (€16.20), otherwise €18 on the door. Student over 18 €14.50, Family €42.50, Student under 18 €12.00, Senior Citizen €14.50, Children €6.50

At the moment the Storehouse has an offer for early bird adult tickets at €14.40 which ends on August 31st, 2015.

I don’t think it’s really something to bring the kids to because they’ll miss out on key elements like tasting. It’s one of those things that for me you’d head to once but then it’s done.

The venue is open 7 days a week from 9.30am – 5pm (last admission is at 5pm) with a late opening during July and August until 7pm (last admission is at 7pm).

The Storehouse is open all year apart from Good Friday, Christmas Eve Dec 24th, Christmas Day Dec 25th, and St Stephens Day. More details can be found on its website here.

For something a bit more interactive and that would suit the kids, see my review of the Smithwick’s Experience here.

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(Lead image via Guinness Storehouse on Facebook)

200 Words: Rathmines’ Manifesto

The flames from the oven caught our eye from the front of the restaurant. They had always intrigued us but we’d never gotten the opportunity to head in – until today.

On quick glance of Manifesto in Rathmines you wouldn’t think much. The exterior is a dark, gloomy brown, but the chance of eating a wood-fired pizza was too much of a temptation on a drizzly day.

Plonking down, I settled on a Quattro Formaggi (four-cheese) pizza and my partner opted for the Sophia Loren.

I’m not a massive pizza lover, but when I do order one, I like them to be thin, crispy and absolutely flavoursome. Our pizzas didn’t disappoint.

Crispy with oozing cheeses flowing across the crust and hidden basil leaves lurking in the golden – it was the perfect lunch filler.

Sophia Loren was a beauty with rocket, cherry tomatoes, Parma ham and cheese, bursting with flavour with each bite.

Soon the building filled up with hungry couples and happy families and I can definitely see why.

With several more options on the menu and coming in at €10 with a drink on the lunch special, how could I not come back? It was a choice well made.

Come again: You can count on it
Rating: 4.5/5
Website: http://manifestorestaurant.ie/

Review: Generous portions and curious food at Castlegregory’s Milesian Restaurant

I was brimming with curiosity when I heard of Milesian – a restaurant in Castlegregory that was the talk of the town and being back home in the Kerry for a month or so, I was definitely up for something new.

A cottage-style restaurant in the heart of the Irish countryside and teamed with great food, it sounded like the perfect evening out with friends.

Milesian
Main Street,
Castlegregory,
Kerry
Phone: 086 362 1984
http://milesianrestaurant.com/

We were a party of six and after making our way from various corners of the Kingdom, we were looking forward to having a good night out.

In Irish mythology, the Milesians were descendants of Míl Espáine – who displaced the Tuatha Dé Danann in Ireland. The restaurant itself was established 20 years ago as a family run business, with head chef Greg O’Mahoney taking over in 2010.

The place was bustling and on a wet and generally miserable night, it was a delight to peek in the window and see cheerful looking faces munching away at their meals and sipping wine.

We arrived slightly early and were directed across the road to one of local pubs where we ordered a round and spied a French couple tucking into the most divine looking cote de boeuf (later we discovered that they were in fact eating food from Milesian, who brought food over from the restaurant for those who hadn’t booked in advance – clever thinking).

After 15 minutes we shuffled back to the restaurant and made our way to the loft area where we would be dining for the night.

The menu sat on one page, with a simple mixture of meat and fish and as our drink orders were being taken, my eyes wandered towards the Kerry mountain lamb and the chargrilled monkfish (as it turned out for whatever reason they were out of monkfish so that make my decision all the more easier!)

tuna

Service was swift and my seared tuna starter with various purées and vegetables turned out to be fresh and simple, with the flavours doing all of the talking – I quickly polished the lot and one my companions remarked that his soup tasted incredibly homely. It was off to a winning start.

As we waited for our mains, I eyed up the cottage’s features and although the paintings, Irish maps, books and various memorabilia dotted around, the place didn’t feel too twee with modern music and not trad piping through the speakers.

Less The Quiet Man and more an upscale country kitchen, the menu suited the location and the place held an atmosphere of warmth and homeliness.

inside

I absolutely adore lamb and when it arrived I was surprised by the generous portion. Sitting on a bed of Basque-style potatoes, five slices looked at me and I greedily tucked into them.

The lamb was undoubtedly tender but despite the meat being demolished by our table in less than 20 minutes, there were little things about it that niggled at me.

The dish itself wasn’t particularly hot and I felt like the potatoes were lacking in seasoning and any major oomph. I knew that the highlight was obviously the lamb but felt it needed more of a lift to be outstanding. It was hard to tell whether I was meant to combine the potatoes with the purées or the lamb and so I was left with some guesswork with flavour – yes, it was very, very good, but considering that I was forking out almost €23 for it, I wanted it to be stunning.

photo 5
(The lamb)

food
(Hake fillet)

So far the evening was like a wave, I had a high with the tuna and then a slight lull with lamb and I hoped to hop up again with dessert.

I had noticed a few wibbly-wobbly panna cottas making their way to nearby tables and was intrigued by the fact that they were said to be infused by basil. Fingers crossed, I thought, this would be it.

Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed.

pannacotta

The herb panna cotta was light with a hint of the basil running through it and though it was teamed with a rather glorified granola (a spoonful at most), it proved to be rather delightful. Heaped on a spoon with the strawberries, the flavours were summery and fresh.

I managed to nab a bit of the chocolate brownie and when our dishes and drinks had been cleared, we all agreed that the meal had been, all-in-all, a success.

For a party of six the total was quite respectable, two of us didn’t have wine with only three of us going for starters and five of us for dessert.

Overall the service and food was very much above average and I’m very much looking forward to coming back again soon.

Total: €217

Review: Lunch without personality from Wuff in Dublin

For months myself and my other half had been trying to dine out in Wuff in Dublin 7 – not because it was booked out, but because every time we thought it was open, it wasn’t – our own faults I might add!

So when we finally got the opportunity to head there, we have to admit, we were excited.

Wuff
23 Benburb Street
Dublin 7
Phone: (01) 532 0347
http://www.wuff.ie

The lunch menu sounded right up our alley and after a quick glimpse inside, we decided to wait an extra half an hour until the main lunch crowd had departed.

Greeted by its friendly waiting staff, we sat down with ease and glanced at the menu – my other half remarked that he would’ve loved to try nearly everything on it and despite the fact that we had a few club sandwich disasters in the past few weeks, he settled on the classic dish and I on the pulled pork.

Wuff is a moderately-size room teamed with greys, blacks and browns, with a grid pattern on its windows – which works well in making the place feel modern but not too industrial – almost cosy in fact (I quite like the fact that I didn’t immediately compare it to anywhere else because of its own sense of style).

The staff are professional and sound like they’re actually interested in serving you and making you feel welcome.

So when the food arrived, I was already enthusiastic about tasting and easing myself into sandwich heaven.

My pulled pork sandwich, priced at €8.50, was sadly a disappointment.

Fiddly and sitting on top of a serviette, which sat on a plate, the bottom of the sandwich stuck to the tissue and made it unpleasant to finish the lower half. Though the colour of the pork was quite vibrant, it looked pretty lonely on my plate and I was glad that I had decided to order the chips as an accompaniment. It tasted fine, it was edible and I ate it, but I was puzzled.

Across the table my partner was happily tucking into his club sandwich – which incidentally was not a sandwich but a meal atop a slice of bread – combining the bacon, chicken, chutney and bread onto his fork and munching away.

photo 1(1)

“Was there something I missed?” I thought.

He offered me a bite and I could understand his enthusiasm. The flavours were there, the layers were there and the taste was there. The bacon was simply cooked, with not the overbearing taste of salt that often lingers; the chicken was juicy and the chutney though plentiful, didn’t turn the bread soggy or overpower it.

So I had missed out, but I shouldn’t have – a pity.

I stuck with my lonely pulled pork and wished there had been a side salad, some onions or a bit more flavour between the slices of Blaa.  The side-order of chips certainly filled my appetite and I glanced back at the menu of what I could have gone for.

Overall the meal was quite reasonable with our total just exceeding €20 so I didn’t feel completely let down, but I just feel like there was some personality missing in their presentation.

Funnily enough, I’m still curious to set foot in there again and sample something more exciting or at least their club again. Fingers crossed next time.

Total: €22.95