Restaurant reviews: Lucinda O'Sullivan at the French Paradox, L'Officina and The Copper Hen
You don't have to save your more sophisticated palate for evening, says Lucinda O'Sullivan, as lunchtimes now can be very civilised affairs too -- from sublime caviar of aubergine at The French Paradox and stonking Tuscan sausage at L'Officina, to a nice smoked salmon salad with freshwater shrimps at The Copper Hen
'It can be very cold in Perpignan," said the friendly French waiter -- well, it was cold here, but I was so delighted to spot Marseillaise anchoiade on the menu, I smiled blissfully back at him. In the perfect oasis that is The French Paradox in D4, my heart was deep in south-west France.
Opened in 2002 by Pierre and Tanya Chapeau, who import wines direct from family-owned wineries, as well as cured meats, cheeses, fish and pates. The French Paradox is the place to go for that true Gallic experience of the traditional duck and pork cassoulet of south-west France, any number of charcuterie plates, or a tasting plate offering duck foie gras four ways.
You might fancy scrambled eggs with black Perigord truffle butter and toast, or a Camembert fondue -- you can have them all here priced below €20, apart from the foie gras tasting plate at €39.
We ordered a tapas selection to start. My beloved anchoiade (€5.95) -- a sort of tapenade, but including anchovies, black olives and garlic, presented as three big quenelles of strong, salty, punchy puree -- has a great kickback. Our friend from Perpignan was delighted when we chose a caviar of aubergine (€6.50). It proved a sublimely silky and subtle blend, served with toasted sourdough. A chunky robust Basque pate (€5.95) with cornichons and chutney completed the picture.
Lunchtime mains included house-made tartelettes of smoked salmon, cheese or ham and peppers -- two for €10.50 -- or confit of duck leg with potatoes and red wine sauce, or the cassoulet, both at €13.95. Sheila opted for a free-range egg omelette (€10.50) filled with Basque ham and cheese; sprinkled with paprika, it was generous and colourful, and had a perky cockade of dressed frisee. A superb charcuterie plate (€12.95) for me sported rustic salami and cured hams, served with a prune chutney and cornichons.
With two 18.75cl glasses of a delicious Domaine Fouassier Pouilly Fume 2008 (€9.70 each), coffees (€3 each), and optional service, our bill came to €79.25. They also have a great lunch deal at €12.95, which includes soup and a hot plat du jour.
Another favourite lunch spot is L'Officina, in Kildare Village, a hub of lovely Italian food and wines, with antipasti plates €9.50-€13, and pasta dishes €7.50-€14. A visit always makes the day out. Last time, we kicked off with a glass each of crisp Gavi di Gavi (€8 each) followed by a delicious antipasto misto (€12) with mortadella, two salamis, prosciutto, cheese, olives, marinated mushrooms, peppers and artichokes. Brendan had a stonking great fagioli e salsiccia alla Toscana (€13), a robust dish of Tuscan seasoned sausage on borlotti beans with a rich tomato sauce, which he loved. With two espressos (€1.80 each) and cantucci Toscani (€4) -- delicious Tuscan almond biscuits -- our bill with optional service was €53.60.
The Copper Hen, Fenor, Co Waterford, a new restaurant over Mother McHugh's pub, does popular, casual, eclectic food. It's a cream, loft-style room which needs flowers and colour to add personality. Soup of the day with bread was €4, paninis and open sandwiches €7.95-€8.50, salmon and cod fishcakes or Thai green chicken curry were €10.50.
Brendan had lasagna with fries (€10.50): pleasant, but he felt it could have done with more bechamel sauce and cheese, while I had a nice smoked salmon salad with a half dozen freshwater shrimps (€10). They have a good wine list, with lots by the glass, and with two glasses of Agnusdei Albarino (€7.25) our bill, with optional service, came to €39. Lunch can be very civilised.
The French Paradox,
53 Shelbourne Road,
Tel: (01) 660-4068
Tel: (045) 535-850
The Copper Hen,
Tel: (051) 330-300