Carpaccio is a recently opened Italian Restaurant in Dunboyne, we decided to go on Tuesday evening to bid farewell to our friends who are leaving tomorrow for a 7 week sabbatical in the Southern hemisphere. Honestly we wanted cheap and cheerful, possibly an early bird and definitely a glass of wine – after all it was Tuesday! When you go to a restaurant with the expectation of cheap and cheerful, you can hope for the exceptional but it will probably end up average or below average, sometimes you can be pleasantly surprised but more often than not it is normal fare. Carpaccio’s did not exceed our expectations. We (a group of 5, myself and 4 guys) were the only customers in the restaurant apart from one other couple, perhaps this was because we chose to go out on the dreaded budget day, not many people were in the mood for going out for dinner. What the atmosphere lacked, the décor made up for, well really the chairs made up for. We sank into luxurious soft chairs with armrests which made us feel comfortable apart from one member of the party who suffers from a bad back and prefers the rigid straight-backed option. Our waiter was friendly and the owner also came to our table and introduced himself, we were also told that we could still order from the early bird menu even though it was after the designated time of 7.30; those were the positives of the service, unfortunately there were also negatives which I will get to. I ordered off the early bird menu which was scant, 3 choices for both started and main. I ordered the fish cakes and the Old Italian reliable spaghetti Bolognese; the lads ordered a range of bruschetta’s, mussels, calamari and salads followed by three pizzas and one other chicken pappardelle dish. We also ordered a bottle of the house red and some Peroni’s. Unfortunately we waited what seemed like a very long time for the starters, especially when the customers were so few. They finally arrived and my fish ‘cakes’ had morphed into singular ‘cake’. It was pan- fried and when I flipped it over, the underside was completely burnt, definitely non edible, I called our waiter and he apologised and brought my dish away. The lads enjoyed their starters and when they were finished, my replacement fish cake arrived. Comically, I flipped this replacement over and to my horror/sadistic delight; I discovered it too was also cremated!! On this discovery, the entire table let out a roar of laughter which brought our waiter running. He apologised again and called the owner who also apologised profusely and informed us that is was the Spanish chef’s first day, this left me feeling a little sorry for the Manuel- like figure in the kitchen. I said not to worry and that I would peel the burnt bits back, which I did. Sadly, the fish cake was not up to much, it was bland and a forensic detective would have had a hard time trying to decipher what sort of fish it was supposed to be, it was edible but other than that, unremarkable. Now the owner returned with a tangible apology – another bottle of the house red, free of charge, which by the way was very good and affordable considering most house wines are hover around the 20 euro mark ( Which I think is far too expensive) it was €16.95. After another intolerably long wait, the mains finally arrived, my Bolognese was almost worth the wait, it was very tasty with a rich depth of flavour which is achieved from a long slowing cooking. The pasta was also perfectly al-dente and the dish was finished with shaved parmesan and black pepper. The boys also had no complaints with their main courses, the pizzas were well cooked and generously topped, and the pappardelle chicken was also good. We didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when it took another good ten minutes for the bill to arrive after we asked for it; it finally arrived, handwritten with more apologies that the till had broken. With 2 coffees the bill came to €130 for 5 people with wine and beer which is quite unbeatable but as I have said, the food is not exceptional.
My mother has recently charged me with the responsibility of making the Christmas soup and trust me that is a BIG daunting responsibility. I come from a family of foodies who are especially picky about soup. Soup is practically a food group in our family; from about September to April, you will always find at least one version of homemade soup in our fridge, possibly 2 kinds. At this moment, in the fridge there is a Moroccan chick pea soup and I have just made this Celeriac batch. I have previously made a roasted butternut squash soup in the hopes of it being the Christmas soup, but unfortunately it didn’t make the cut, very high standards in our house! My family will have 16 for Christmas and St Stephens day so anything I can do to help is welcome. I came across this Celeriac soup recipe on the RTE website after watching an episode of ‘The Restaurant’ where Marty Morrissey the sports presenter got 4 stars for his menu. I have made celeriac soup previously but this version features a curry crème fraiche which adds a lovey zing to the finished product. Tried it out on the brother and father this evening and got the thumbs up, success!!
1 head of Celeriac
4 Rooster Potatoes
2 litres stock
Salt & pepper
Curry Crème Fraiche
Tub of crème fraiche
Juice of half a lime
1 tsp curry powder
· Sweat the onions, potatoes and celeriac in olive oil for a few minutes
· Add the stock, bring to a boil then simmer for an hour
· Blend, to serve add a dollop of the curry crème fraiche which you make by combining all the ingredients and seasoning
So after many conversations, cravings and consternations, I finally made it to CrackBird on a wet Wednesday night. From friends I had heard reviews that ranged from ‘downright middling’ to ‘absolutely amazing’ so I was keen to form my own opinion. We arrived a little after six and in perfect time as there was already a queue forming outside. Because there was only two of us (my boyfriend Ken and I) we were ushered through but warned that there were only sharing tables available at the moment. That suited us, we were hungry and really didn’t care about our proximity to the other diners as long as we were fed. We were seated at a bench facing each other between two girls and another couple; there was plenty of elbow room so no complaints about the seating arrangements. Conveniently, the place mats are the menu and from one look you realise that if you don’t like chicken or are a vegetarian you’re pretty much bang out of luck! The menu is genius in its simplicity; choose from either buttermilk fried of soy garlic chicken, half a bucket (4pieces) or a full bucket (8 pieces). For the more health conscious there are also salads and an option of skewered chicken that is grilled and not fried. Ken and I are obviously lacking the ‘health’ chip (pardon the pun) and ordered a full bucket of buttermilk chicken, 4 chilli crispy chicken tenders and sides of slaw and potato salad, I am rather embarrassed to be writing this down as it really was an awful lot of food and the leftovers were scant. The chicken: extremely tasty and also succulent, not over cooked and the buttermilk marinade really broke down through the skin to tenderise the meat. The coating was crisp and salty but after my second piece I found myself discarding the skin and crispy topping to delve straight into the meat which was truly delicious, chicken can be so bland and tasteless this chicken was a welcome change. The sides were also very good, Ken preferring the creamy potato salad and me the slaw which had a nice kick of mustard to provide a tang to the creaminess. I also ordered a side of the mild jalapeño sauce which gave my bites an extra punch, Ken was not a fan. The service was good, I was a little wary when the waitress did not write any of our order down, she just seemed to memorise it, but she was friendly and our order arrived in its entirety. By the time the meal was over the place was heaving with a queue out the door, the atmosphere is fast paced and quite dark, with the lighting being provided by a single light bulb suspended over each dining pair’s head. This ambience does not lend to long lingering dinners and when we were finished it was let’s get the bill and go. Dinner for two with too much food, a glass of white wine and funky homemade lemonade in a kitsch jam jar was €40, which we agreed was very reasonable. One final point, perhaps being haunted by too-much-chicken, amusingly I woke up in a cold sweat last night after having a nightmare where someone was trying to force me to eat more chicken! Analyse that as you will, ironically, I’m making chicken teriyaki for dinner tonight…