Tag Archives: Northside

1014

At first she was smiling, eyes half closed. Then a discreet smirk of pleasure lit her face like she was indulging in a happy dream. Appreciative noises modulated to a crescendo, “mm mm, mm..” somehow segued into “Yes, yes, yes!”. Screams of ecstasy followed, quintessential passion, all inhibition fled. Oh my God, I thought, she’s having a Meg Ryan moment. But she’s not faking it!

 

Mind you, the crab claws were bloody good. They couldn’t have been fresher if the crustaceans had crawled down the coast road and given themselves up. The Not Quite Blonde was out to relish every last morsel. My ballotine of beef, good as it was, seemed mundane by comparison, close but no G-spot.

 

Restaurant Ten-Fourteen – or is it 1014? – stands on the seafront at Clontarf, near the upmarket Indian restaurant, Kinara. But for the lack of a Gitanes cloud you could be back in a Paris bistro in the heyday of Les Halles. The mosaic floor and the brass lamps with their clustered globes also put me in mind of the temperance bar in Douglas, Isle of Man, where my father and his boozing cronies used to gather on holiday Sunday evenings, forced to drink pints of sarsaparilla and dandelion-and-burdock by the vagaries of the local licensing laws. ‘Retro’ and ‘comfy’ are the best words I can find to describe the ambience.

 

In the open-to-view kitchen a chef of reassuring girth, was sweating away, accompanied by a couple of acolytes. Given that the place was packed it seemed like a hard station. My immediate thought was that these guys were working their tripes off, manpower pruned to a minimum so the business could be kept lean, fit and profitable through these indigent times.

 

The restaurant has an interesting raison d’etre. It’s owned by CASA – the Caring & Sharing Association, a voluntary organisation, established in 1981, whose goal is to develop friendships and social outlets for people with disabilities through a variety of activities comprising regular social events, holidays, respite breaks, and pilgrimages. Originally CASA had intended to run a coffee shop at these premises; after some discussion plans were up-scaled and a bistro, majoring on local and fresh produce, replaced the original concept.

 

While The Not Quite Blonde was endeavouring to extract the last shards of flesh from the crab claws without damaging the heel of her shoe, I studied the wine list. It was of the genus ‘sensible’ – not over-long; sourced from one reliable supplier and capable of providing a kaleidoscope of decent drinking from around the vino-sphere. From it I selected an interesting Semillon/Sauvignon blend from the Bordeaux hinterland, made by two lovely girls and their crabby papa, all of whom I’d met. The wonderful thing about being involved with wine is it allows you to make these connections; drink wisely and there’s a memory in every glass.

 

I had first crack at the mains and plucked the whole lemon sole with lobster off the blackboard ‘specials’. The fish was large and meatier than lemon soles are normally wont to be. It came with three generous chunks of lobster, springy and succulent. The chips, unfortunately, were hiding under the sole, so I couldn’t tell whether they were properly crisp or not, a minor blemish. I surveyed The Not Quite Blonde with interest as her eyes flitted between carte and blackboard. A probationer on my roster of reviewing guests, she surprised me by taking the daube of beef, causing me to mark her up a couple of notches. The daube came, not in the traditional marmite but as a presentation on a plate, along with a chunk of absolutely superb medium-rare fillet steak. Take a bow, mister butcher, whoever you are. The main event was fettled from beef cheek, sixteen hours’ simmering producing ‘died and gone to heaven’ flavours akin to those of the crab claws, putting TNQB on course for a second orgasm.

 

The Not Quite Blonde, herself a chef and I came to the conclusion that 1014 (named for the date of the Battle of Clontarf) is one serious restaurant. Service was swift and friendly without being smarmy, just what I needed being still traumatised after my Moroccan ‘Carry on Up the Casbah’ episode a fortnight ago.

 

I enjoyed my fruit salad, replete with tangy berries and accompanied by as good a home made ice cream – pistachio flavoured – as you’ll get. Meanwhile, my companion was detumescing over the sticky toffee pudding, which didn’t quite meet her stringent expectations. She’s an expert at this dessert apparently and proclaimed that 1014’s was, compared to her own, a mere STP lite. A few dates, apricots or figs in the middle wouldn’t have gone amiss, she opined.

 

Two fit and proper espressos later we were rolling home in a taxi. As I dropped The Not Quite Blonde off at her place she enquired not “How was it for you?” but “Well, did I pass the test?” “Darling,” I said, searching for the word, “You were… er… climactic.”

 

Verdict: Fine sensitive cooking, first class ingredients, decent wines, warm welcome

 

Rating ****

 

Restaurant 1014, 324 Clontarf Rd, Dublin 3 Tel: 01 805 4877

 

The House

Southsiders regard it as a little bit of home that’s been somehow geographically severed from the main. Northsiders claim it to show just how pleasant living on their side of the Liffey can be. The locals, possibly the most inward-looking people this side of Albania, refer to it as ‘The Peninsula’. Yes, this week, I’m in Howth with my mate The Taxman, striding along the promenade past the ice cream parlour yacht club beloved of the late C.J.Haughey, looking for a restaurant called ‘The House’.

I know a good few restaurateurs in Howth, fine people all. They look out for each other, co-operating in an annual taste fest that’s well worth a visit if you haven’t been. At the same time, catch them privately and they are not averse to dealing a slight knock to their neighbours and competitors – “Ah yes, they’ve been doing a fine job for years but lately I feel they’ve got a tad expensive”, or, “Well I’ve heard the food is very good but there are other places I prefer to dine.” As a public front-up, it’s a different story. Every last restaurateur will tell you that The People’s Republic of Howth does a better job of tickling the public’s taste buds than the combined efforts of Dublin 1-6.

The House is up on the hill, beyond the Abbey Tavern, the boozer that gave birth to The Dubliners, rock’n’roll, jazz and salsa, that’s if I believed the local who gave me directions. When we arrived I recognised the place, knew there had been a restaurant there before, as to what it was called I couldn’t for the life of me remember. Inside, I’d hazard a guess to say they’d inherited the furniture and accessories, as well as the neon sign glowing in the window that said ‘open’. The interior was all very reminiscent of restaurants that have existed in genteel seaside resorts since time immemorial. Southwold; Thornton Cleveleys; Abersoch; Bangor, County Down I remember them from my youth, with their chintzy teapots and the sort of home cooked ham that would win my mother’s approval.

With the arrival of the menu and wine list all nostalgia ceased. The cooking here is modern bistro-style, as you’d expect from a chef who’d cooked at The Mermaid Cafe; the wine list was modern too, with some very smart picks at sensible prices. We both took smoked fish for starters. Taxman went for the trout, me for the medley offering trout, salmon, white fish and mussels. Portions were generous, the seafood all beautifully cooked and nicely garnished.

The Taxman took the rump of lamb. I scammed some and it was very tasty indeed, obviously a well-sourced joint of meat. Fine mash, too. I contemplated the rib eye before opting for the burger, seduced by thoughts of a Mount Callan topping. For those who haven’t tasted it, Mount Callan is the Irish cheddar that comes closest in taste and texture to the great English farmhouse artisan cheddars like Montgomery, Keens and Quickes. I’d recommend it highly.

Of course these days you never get asked “How would you like your burger?” as the food police have decided anything less than mince cooked till grey is bad for us. The House burger arrived as what you might call ‘barely legal’ and a whopper it was, with bun top and bottom and a generous amount of cheddar on top and oozing down the sides. The onion rings in their tempura batter were absolutely spot on and the chips also excellent. To accompany this meatfest we chose a big, bouncing Barossa shiraz, Mitolo’s ‘The Jester’ 2006 and it did the job perfectly. A tad more than I normally stump up, I warrant, but when you are out to dinner with a tax consultant you might as well go for broke and hope he’ll find a way of keeping you solvent.

Desserts didn’t wink at me. I’d have loved the gooey-looking carrot cake but The Taxman got there first. I picked the Eton Mess, fast becoming a staple for restaurants that don’t really do desserts. There’s not much can go wrong with strawberries, meringue and whipping cream unless you OD with extra sugar, which is what I suspect they’d done here. It was rather too sweet and cloying for my taste, a bit too much of a kiddies’ treat. Coffee (Illy?) was of the “4/10, could try harder” kind. More training needed.

We both greatly liked The House. Smart confident cooking, generous portions and friendly service made it a place I want to return to. Subsequently, we found it very hard to leave ‘The Peninsula’. The last DART departed at 11.15 and we were on the minute. What’s more, it only went as far as Connolly, causing me to ask my guest “Can I claim back the cost of a taxi?” “Who was it said ‘there’s no such thing as a free dinner?’” he riposted. Bastard!

The damage: €114.25, ex-service for 2 x starters, mains, desserts, coffees and a very good bottle of wine.

Rating: ***1/2

Verdict: Another great addition to the Dublin bistro scene. Emphasis on local sourcing and a casual, relaxed atmosphere.

The House, 4 Main Street, Howth, Co Dublin Tel: 01 839 6388