Restaurant review: Lucinda O'Sullivan at The Herring Gull and Foley's on the Mall
You really have to be gullible to order a blackcurrant fool for €8.95 at the Herring Gull in East Cork, says Lucinda O'Sullivan, who found the food uninspiring, and the service poor. She found a better bet in West Waterford, at Foley's on the Mall
'No problem, I'll change it for you" should surely have been, "sorry, I'll change it for you" from the lady in charge in the new Herring Gull Restaurant in Ballycotton, after I pointed out lipstick on a wine glass.
Equally mystifying was her whipping away not only the full, untouched glass, but the wine bottle, and coming back with both saying, "I've topped it up for you with a bottle that was open already in the kitchen -- hopefully it's the same." Hello!?! It wasn't a great start, and neither was the fact that a window table we asked to sit at, with fine views towards Ballycotton Lighthouse, sat empty until the time we left at around 9.45pm -- although we were told at 7.15pm it was booked.
Surroundings are very simple here, but some of the prices felt very posh indeed. Colm Falvey, chef patron, previously had the Clean Slate in Midleton, and Wisteria in Cloyne. We were three, and starters were a not inconspicuous €9.95-€10.95. Seafood chowder (€9.95) was pleasant, if a tad bland, and expensive, as was a goat's cheese bruschetta at the same price. White crabmeat with avocado and a citrus dressing was €10.95 -- again pleasant, again bland.
Mains were better priced -- €14.95-€25.95, plus lobster at €38. Fish and chips for Mike (€14.95) was bog standard, and not vast, while chargrilled monkfish (€24.95) was six good collops with sauce Nicoise and a trio of asparagus. Breast of barbary duck (€22.95) was overcooked, rendering it tough and hard work to eat. The accompanying aubergine and spinach Charlotte was pleasant. A real shocker, and enough to make me cry in this day and age, was the price of a blackcurrant fool at €8.95. Yes, you are a fool if you order it, but I had to see what was involved: a glass coupe of fool, a blob of cream and blackcurrant coulis, and three little shortbread biscuits. The credit-card machine wasn't working and I had to leave my details to be put through later, but we were only alerted to this when we saw a couple fumbling for a chequebook at the desk. This is a place that needs to lighten up. Service was hushed and there wasn't much fun. With a bottle of house Candidato Tempranillo 2009 (€19.95), our bill for three came to €135.20 without service.
Lismore, in the hills of West Waterford, a heritage town dominated by the Duke of Devonshire's fairytale Lismore Castle on the banks of the Blackwater, is very popular with weekenders. Foley's on the Mall, a gastropub, was packed to the gills when we arrived, but after a sojourn in the bar we got a table. Downstairs is a dinky old-world pub combined with a cool dining area painted in shabby-chic colours, while upstairs has a Barcelona-style bar, with pictures of Spanish bullfighters, and a high, beamed ceiling.
A good range of popular food was well priced with starters (€4.50-€7.90) and larger portions (€12) as a 'light meal'. Smoked salmon (€7.90) on a salad base had diced feta cheese and a chilli and mango dressing, while goat's cheese (€7.90) was wrapped in Parma ham, deep fried, and served on salad with a sweet tomato salsa. Both were very tasty. Mains were €12.50-€23.90. Crisp pork belly (€17.50) was cooked to pure, silky, melt-in-the-mouth tenderness and sitting on three 'tennis balls' of champ and roast vegetables. A tender 8oz Hereford rib-eye steak (€21) was cooked to medium-rare perfection, served with a black pepper sauce. We were full, but home-made desserts with ice cream (€5.95) looked smashing at the next table and, as we finished our Bordon Crianza Rioja 2007 (€24), Michael Foley's fine operatic voice belted out gloriously from behind the bar. Our bill was €86.30 with excellent service.
The Herring Gull,
Tel: (021) 464-6768
Foley's on the Mall,
Tel: (058) 53671