French lessons: The French Table, 1 Steamboat Quay, Limerick
Taking the time to savour a long, leisurely lunch is so very civilised, says Lucinda O'Sullivan, who finds not one, but two perfect spots to do just that
It's a case of two 'Fs' this week -- lunch in both The French Table in Limerick and The Fatted Calf in Athlone. Taking time for lunch is something many of us don't have time to do -- we just grab a sandwich to go.
You won't see this in France where, once noon strikes, they down tools to have a proper lunch. And so, as we approached Limerick, The French Table on Steamboat Quay seemed an appropriate destination. This is a very civilised spot in a world of hurly-burly, and it wasn't surprising to see a couple sitting with their baby and ordering a second lemon tart as they had enjoyed the first one so much.
Franco-Irish couple, Thomas and Deirdre Fialon, own The French Table. Thomas is from the Alsace region of France and his cooking is totally assured in that confident French way: nothing is over the top, everything is executed perfectly. His menus include lapin, foie gras, escargot; everything you would expect. The decor is contemporary: lots of walnut with crushed-velvet upholstery. You could be forgiven for thinking you were sitting in a steamboat as you look out through the wooden plantation blinds at the Shannon hurtling past.
The lunch menu offered tremendous value and variety dishes, priced from €8/€16, including a warm goat's cheese tartlet with smoked duck, garden leaves and sauteed potatoes; grilled chicken; or fish of the day. Croque monsieur and madame were there with bechamel sauce and sauteed potatoes -- priced at €8/€9 respectively. The evening a la carte can also be had at lunchtime. The table d'hote had 2/3 courses at €16/€20 and I kicked off with a really delicious chunky fishcake, topped with a Provencal-style herbed butter, and dressed with perfectly anointed sprigs of lamb's lettuce, cherry tomatoes and lemon, while Brendan's fine bowl of broccoli soup came with beautiful breads. For the main course, I had a fine tranche of perfectly cooked hake complete with a puff-pastry crescent, a little white jug of champagne sauce, a quenelle of carrot puree and a broccoli floret. Brendan had a lovely pan-fried, very lean sirloin steak (€3 supplement) similarly garnished, but with a red wine jus. The vegetables alone deserved a medal -- a beautiful dish of perfectly cut and cooked French beans, courgette, celery, carrots, and diced sauteed potatoes. To finish, we shared a fine French crepe with berries and cream. With two coffees for €5, and two glasses of wine (€12.50), and optional service, our bill was €63.50.
Feargal and Fiona O'Donnell have been fattening up the denizens of Athlone at their Fatted Calf gastropub at Glasson since they took over The Village Inn last year. It was hopping on a recent Sunday visit.
Starters (€3.95-€10) included aromatic confit of duck; mussels with coconut, coriander and lemongrass; risotto; or McGeough's black pudding salad with new potatoes, crispy hen's egg and mustard dressing. It was onion bhajis (€7.50) for me. Any Indian restaurant would have approved of them, complete with lemon-mint raita, dressed rocket and sun-dried tomatoes -- delish! Vegetable soup (€3.95) with crusty breads was also great.
Mains included poached Clare Island organic salmon, tandoori-spiced chicken, lemon sole, a home-made burger with Moon Shine Farm organic cheese and Waterford blaa. I had rare and outside roast rib of Donald Russell Irish beef (€15), which was fabulous. Brendan's roast loin of Horan's Irish pork (€15), apricot and cider compote, and a mustard cream was also excellent. Both had all the trimmings of roast potatoes, and very nicely cooked vegetables. We were too sated to eat pudding, and with a bottle of Elias Mora Tinta de Toro 2008 (€30) our bill with optional service was €85.95. It's loosen-the-belts time!
The French Table, 1 Steamboat Quay, Limerick.
Tel: (061) 609-274
The Fatted Calf, Glasson, County Westmeath.
Tel: (0906) 485-208
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