Eating out: Paolo Tullio at Maudlin's House Hotel
"The Maudlins has a menu that's strong on the old favourites, and I'll bet you have a friend or a family member who likes food like that. "
It's a big temptation when reviewing restaurants to keep going to the ones that have just opened. It keeps you in the loop, you'll get a meal that's right up there with the latest in gastronomy and you'll be able to write about the latest trends.
Tempting though this is, not all readers like cutting-edge cuisine. Not everyone looks at a menu that reads "sea urchin foam served with samphire" and thinks "that's for me". There are those who will scan the menu further, looking for a steak or a lamb chop, or anything that they recognise. Foodies might call these people unadventurous, but the fact is they're traditional, choosing to dine on what was normal fare 30 years ago.
There remain restaurants that haven't changed their style for many years. The Lobster Pot in Ballsbridge springs to mind, where you can dine as you would have 30 years ago. And for many people that in itself is a big attraction. They're the people who prefer what they know to what they've never tried.
Which just proves the point that we don't all like the same things, and that variety is as important in restaurants as it is in any other field. So bearing all of this in mind, this week I went with my son Rocco and his partner Ruby to eat in a restaurant that's been plying its trade for many years.
We went to Naas, to the Maudlins Hotel, which is on the Old Dublin Road at the Dublin end of Naas. From outside it looks like an old coaching inn, covered in creeper. Whatever garden it may have had is gone, replaced with parking at the rear.
Once inside we learned that the main dining room was being set up for a Communion party, so we were shown to a room that had 'lounge' written on the door, but was set up as a small dining room for the night. We got the menu and the wine list and started reading.
There's a short wine list that covers the basics, but what I did notice was that it's fairly priced. The list doesn't give much information about each wine, but €35 for a Chablis, no matter whose, is good value. House wines were priced at €23, which sadly is getting rarer and rarer as prices creep relentlessly upwards. We were very restrained and decided upon just a half bottle between us, so we picked the best red of the two half bottles on the list, a Châteauneuf de Pape at €30.
See if you notice what I did about this menu... The starters were a soup, smoked chicken salad, grilled goats cheese en croute, a red onion and pancetta tartlet, smoked salmon roulade and chicken liver pate. All good, tasty dishes, but with the exception of pancetta, that list could have been written 30 years ago.
It was much the same with the main courses – steak, duck breast, pan-seared salmon, supreme of chicken, braised lamb chump and spring rolls of feta, sun-dried tomatoes and spinach. Only the spring rolls of feta wouldn't have been on the menu 30 years ago.
This isn't a complaint. I have no objection to classic dishes. In fact I think it's a pity that we let fashion get in the way when we lose dishes like prawn cocktail, crepes Suzette or boiled bacon with parsley sauce, simply because they're out of fashion. When I think about it, in Italy dishes like tagliatelle al ragù, spaghetti in a tomato sauce, or a Margherita pizza, have all been on menus for a couple of centuries and they're still going strong.
So the Maudlins has a menu that's strong on the old favourites, and I'll bet you have a friend or a family member who likes food like that. I have friends who get slightly frightened by words like 'foam', 'veloute', 'nage', 'mire poix' or 'sous vide', preferring instead to see 'sirloin steak with onion rings'. If that sounds like you, this is the dining room for you.
We started with the salmon roulade, the goats cheese tartlet and the chicken liver pate, all well done and all at €6.50. If they had a fault, it was that the presentation was a little clumsy, but the quality of the food itself was good. There were good homemade breads as well to go with the starters, so we all made a happy start to the meal.
For main courses we'd chosen the chicken for Ruby, the sirloin steak for Rocco and the lamb chump for me. The latter is often called lamb shank and the one in front me had been slow-cooked and then had the bone removed; the shank was sitting on a bed of puréed potato. That was also how Ruby's supreme of chicken was presented, sitting on a bed of mash. Rocco's 10oz sirloin steak came with a brandy and pepper sauce (served separately) and well-made battered onion rings.
We couldn't resist a dessert, so we shared the sticky toffee pudding, and I have to say it was the best dish of the night, a very well made pudding with a delicious toffee sauce.
A herbal tea and a couple of espressos brought us a bill of €121.50 for the three of us.
ON A BUDGET
The early bird is great value — two courses are priced at €15.95 and three at €19.95, about a fiver cheaper than it would be in Dublin. It's a reduced menu, but at these prices who would complain?
ON A BLOWOUT
Dining off the à la carte won't blow your budget much.
All the starters are priced at €6.50 and main courses are all €17.50 except for the steak at €22.50. With desserts at €5.50, you can't spend more than €34.50 for three courses if you have the steak.
No question, the really good sticky toffee pudding.
I thought a lot could be done in this dining room simply by working on the presentation of the dishes. A bit of thought there and it would show off the quality of the food better.
8/10 value for money
The Maudlin's House Hotel, Dublin Road, Naas, Co Kildare Tel: 045 896 999.
Whispers from the gastronomicom
The Cork and Kerry Food Forum will take place in City Hall Cork on Monday, June 30.
The Forum has been launched by a partnership including the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) Cork & Kerry, Cork City Council, Cork County Council, Bord Bia and leading Irish retailer, SuperValu.
Food lovers will particularly enjoy the showcase of artisan produce from all over Cork and Kerry, with tastings and demonstrations of a variety of food, from unique cheeses, to farm-fresh herbs, confectionery, meat and fish products as well as cookery demonstrations with celebrity chef and SuperValu ambassador, Kevin Dundon.