Refuel: L Mulligan Grocer * * *
18 Stoneybatter, D7. Tel: 01 6709889
I'm a beer aficionado. Honest, I am. Or at least I was. Had fate not dragged me down a different path in life, I might never have assumed this exalted station, scoffing and quaffing all around me.
Instead of donning the anointed bib, I'd still be in Brooklyn, shaking the tip jar and shooting from the hip at Sparky's Alehouse -- home to 150 bottled beers, 30 more on tap, and one mean old dog.
When I returned to Ireland I was swiftly reminded that if you don't drink lager you drink stout, and if you don't drink stout there's something wrong with you. I found it hard to swallow, given how devoted I was to beer in all its flat and fizzy mutations.
I should therefore have been right at home in Mulligan's of Stoneybatter. An old sinkhole, newly spruced up and operating as L Mulligan Grocer: a gastropub and exotic beer emporium that, sweet Jesus preserve us, does not serve Guinness. I know this because when I asked for a pint, the waiter threw me a look that waddled between sadness and superiority -- in a place I'd call patronising. He clearly didn't know with whom he was trifling.
Try an O'Hara's, he said, handing me a menu -- concealed in a book called Fanfare For A Witch by Vaughan Wilkins. My companions, Ui Rathaile and The Cartoonist, found this amusing, or appropriate, or something.
One side of the menu featured beers: Big Daddy IPA, Payback Porter, Blue Frog Ale and La Chouffe -- a full-bodied Belgian Blonde. I ordered a big bottle of Blue Frog IPA for the Cartoonist and I to share. Ui Rathaile drank wine.
Foodwise, the menu is short, subject to change, and refers to itself as a "victuals inventory". It offers just four starters and four mains. Nobody wanted the shallot soup to kick off, nor was there any takers for the stuffed aubergine with pan-fried polenta. So we had a bit of almost everything else.
Organic black pudding was excellent: thick wheels, with a crusty shell and a moist spicy interior that melted into pungent crumbs on your tongue. It was paired with peppery rocket and a delicious but scant rhubarb relish.
The Scotch egg was not so enticing. Ui Rathaile had some kind of nostalgic regard for the thing. But, to me, the sausage meat was dry and mealy, the egg was overboiled, its yolk as grey as it was yellow -- and again there wasn't nearly enough onion compote to accompany it.
Scrimping on the accoutrements is a recurring theme at Mulligan's.
Potted crab -- nicely presented in a glass pot -- was so delicate in flavour it bordered on insipid. Having manoeuvred it out of the narrow glass neck of the pot, it was frustrating not to have enough toast to go with it: four measly soldiers. Left with enough buttery crab to slather a whole battalion, I got stuck in with Ui Rathaile's fork.
The Cartoonist had left his beloved Roberta chained to a lamp-post outside and for fear she might be defiled by some local hoodlums, he was eager to get going. He drained his beer glass and left myself and Ui Rathaile to our main courses. Steak was ordered medium-rare but arrived medium-well -- in other words, destroyed. A pat of butter sat on top of it, stubbornly refusing to melt.
The pork belly was better. Ui Rathaile was greedy for its fat unctuous layers. Again, I was underwhelmed. I like some pork with my pork. However, the sticky caramelised Sailor Jerry reduction was stunning -- especially if you love rum as much as I do. The colcannon looked like straightforward mash to us, and as such it was perfectly good, the fibrous bulbs of fennel, however, were less inviting. A side of twice-cooked chips with their skins intact were dangerously good.
Coffee is prepared in a French press -- that's a cafetiere, or plunger, to you and I. It yields a giant mug -- too much after a meal.
For dessert we split a chocolate brownie which tasted flat and filled me with an irrational urge to brush my teeth. Mulligan's needs to try harder, but it does have a good heart. If you go for a pint of ale and a plate of pudding, you won't be disappointed.
TYPICAL DISH:Pork belly
RECOMMENDED: Organic black pudding
THE DAMAGE: €100.50 for three starters, two mains, one side, one dessert, and one coffee, two large bottles of beer and three glasses of wine
ON THE STEREO: Nothing
AT THE TABLE:Locals