Monday 26 September 2016

Midlife crisis... Tell us: What's your favourite restaurant?

Published 03/08/2015 | 02:30

Favourite restaurant: You don't have to go as far as Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally, but do let us know your favourites
Favourite restaurant: You don't have to go as far as Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally, but do let us know your favourites

I have a confession to make. I am not a foodie. I find the whole thing a bit mystifying. It's just another thing about people younger than me that I do not understand. I love food, and it excites me, and I love restaurants. But I do not fetishise it, and I do not really accept that it is an art form. And I don't need to talk about it too much. I prefer to just eat it, and sometimes say "this is lovely".

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The older I get, the less I like fancy restaurants. It often strikes me that fancy restaurants are a place where I am supposed to go and adore the staff, whereas when I go to a restaurant I want them to adore me. That's what I'm paying for. I want to be pleasured.

I don't want to go to a restaurant where the staff are inordinately pleased with themselves, where they are walking around patting themselves on the back for being part of such a marvellous endeavour. And I really don't want to go somewhere where the staff are so cool that they look down on the customers. I want the staff to be warm, not cool.

I think that part of the reason that I am becoming more and more of a peasant as I get older is because the older I get the more I want to simplify life, and the more I want to feel connected in some way. I hesitate to use the word authenticity here. Read Brian Boyd's recent excellent article in the Irish Times on the inauthenticity of authenticity and you will never really use the word authenticity again. But I am finding that as I go on, and as the world becomes a more confusing place, I want things to be simpler. Simplicity comforts me. Routine comforts me. And routine and simplicity are not, in fact, straitjackets. They are, in a funny way, the basics that set you free. Because when things are simple and routine, you feel free to ad lib your life. Whereas when things get more complex, you become trapped in the complexity.

Life has been quite regimented recently, and a strange situation has developed whereby if someone was to observe me they would say that it is clear that my favourite restaurant is the one that is a couple of hundred yards from my house. It's probably not the best restaurant in the world, and the food is not always perfect. But this summer, I have gone there every week.

I like it for lots of reasons. I like it because they are nice to my kids. I like it because my elder one loves when Fifi is there, and he usually sends her home with a little something in a paper bag. I like it because even though they never have the mussels with chorizo that the menu says they have, usually offering mariniere instead, they will usually do them Alsacienne for me. I have more or less the same thing every time I go there, which is either moules frites, or else mussels to start and then steak frites, with some leaves and pepper sauce. Sometimes, I might share a chocolate fondant. I like it because I can stroll over there on a whim without having to dress up, and I can stroll back even if I have a few glasses of wine in me. I like it because the kids can scoot around the green for a while afterwards. I like it because it is easy and relaxed. I like it because it is a restaurant that suits my life right now.

When I hit the road a bit more in August, I will not seek out fancy places to eat. I will seek out the peasanty, robust places. My dream ultimately would be shacks, serving seafood by the sea in paper cones, that you empty sitting on picnic tables outside. I can never understand why we don't have more of them in Ireland.

When I am in the city, I want gutsy food too, but maybe spicier. And I want a buzz. And I don't want a main course. I want to eat all the starters on the menu. I want them to keep bringing me tasty bites. And I want to share them, but in a fashion where I definitely get enough. If I feel I am being outdone in the sharing, I get anxious. Equally, if I wanted a boring old main course, I'd make one at home. I'm out, and I'm paying. Bring me food that I can only get in a restaurant, food that only loads of staff can make. We all have favourite restaurants for different moods and phases and occasions, and we all have secret places that we love. And it's a great little country for places to eat. And we want to know your favourites for next week.

Send your suggestions to A Great Little Country, c/o 27/32, Talbot St, D1 D01 X2E1, or email greatlittlecountry@independent.ie

There's a prize from www.discoverireland.ie for the best one.

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