Eating out: Lucinda O'Sullivan at Midleton's Sage Restaurant
When Lucinda visited Kevin Aherne's Midleton restaurant she came away impressed...
Since first opening Sage Restaurant some five years ago, in a tucked-away premises off Midleton’s Main Street, in East Cork, chef patron, Kevin Aherne, has continuously moved forward.
He opens for lunch and dinner six days a week; a couple of years ago, he introduced an inspirational 12 Mile Menu. He has now extended, by adding The Greenroom “cafe-wine-beer hub” and has just been voted Best Chef in Munster at the recent 2014 Irish Restaurant Awards in association with LIFE Magazine.
There is a very nice ambiance in Sage. Antique-style, mahogany dining tables, blending with vintage-style lighting and art, lend an enticing intimacy.
Chef, Shane Nugent, was at the stove on the night of our visit, and we marvelled somewhat at how, with quiet efficiency, plates of perfection were sent out around the room, including to a couple of sizeable parties.
Aherne sources the vast majority of his produce from within 12 miles of the restaurant, while the fish is caught by East Cork fleets in Irish waters.
Starters (€8.95-€10.95) were a carnivore’s delight, featuring rustic terrines and salumi. Sage black pudding croquettes are served with pickled celeriac and dried apple, while beef fillet carpaccio comes with Woodside Farm pig’s cheek, parsley, and smoked-cheese emulsion.
There is something, too, for the fishophile and the vegetarian, with prawns, carrot puree, Woodside Farm salami, braised gem and prawn aioli for the former, and a 12 Mile vegetarian tasting board for the latter.
We had a tasting sharing board for two people, at €22, which certainly had the wow factor. Set on a wooden board, it reminded me of a colourful chessboard, with matching food elements being the chess pieces, with a plump fishcake in the middle.
Each element was tweaked with pretty yellow flowers, nasturtium leaves, fennel, crisped skin, and accompanying colourful, mousse-y blobs. There was a square of chicken and carrot terrine, Woodside Farm pig’s cheek, home-made black pudding on celeriac remoulade, carpaccio of beef with smoked-cheese emulsion, cod and fennel mousse, Ardsallagh goat’s cheese with beetroot jelly and beetroot relish. That’s apart from the lovely breads and tower of herbed butter.
Mains (€22.50-€28.50) majored in local fish, lamb and steaks. Hake was given the Spanish treatment, being paired with mussels, black pudding, celeriac and smoked-bacon cream; while confit cod had a Nordic-style wafer of crispy skin.
Brendan jumped in rapidly with his choice of turbot (€25.95), which, in any man’s language, was above superb. Elegantly seared fillets of this king of the sea were moist and chunky, resting on a silky cauliflower puree, wilted spinach, shitake mushroom and parsley potato, with a nasturtium leaf and fennel fronds.
A duo of lamb (€25.95) didn’t let the side down, either, gambolling along in the form of an absolutely tender, pink canon, and slow-cooked, rich shoulder meat, enveloped, Wellington style, in pastry. Matched with wilted cabbage and rhubarb, my only problem was that I had too much after the very filling starter board. But ace.
The dessert menu was well priced at €6.95/€7.95. There was a choice of rhubarb, strawberries, jelly and ice cream; caramelised honey and lavender ice cream; raspberry cheesecake with white chocolate truffle; or toasted chocolate mallow pave. A 12 Mile cheeseboard with chutney and sourdough toast was well priced, too, at €8.95.
There are dessert wines and fortified coffees, but we resisted and, with a bottle of light fruity Galician Vina Costeira Ribeiro 2012 (€26), and optional service, our bill came to €110.
Sage Restaurant, The Courtyard, Main Street, Midleton, Co Cork
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