Refuel: Foam **
24 STRAND STREET GREAT, D1.
Where does one begin with Foam? The name? Okay, the name. It's a strange name for a restaurant. Even as a stand-alone word, I find it distasteful.
For a while there, it used to pop up on menus all over town: cep foam, artichoke foam, fecky foam. It became a by-word for posh, and that always put me off. Foam, in my book, functions as a suffix to 'shaving' and a prefix to 'mattress'. On its own it sounds effusive and filthy. No foam for me thanks, I'm Irish.
My perplexity about the name receded once I stepped inside the door and was assaulted by the decor. The expressions kitsch, ironic and psychedelic all come to mind, but don't do the place justice. It was like wandering into a Katy Perry video, getting bitch-slapped by David LaChapelle and falling down the back of Julian Clary's knicker drawer. Hoisting my jaw up off the shag carpet, I wondered what in the name of blessed Jesus (who was also present) was Ui Rathaile going to make of this?
"Mmm," he said, leaving his sunglasses on. "I like it." He ordered me to sit beneath a candy-pink umbrella, so he could have " a good look at me". The only alternative was a two-top in a mirrored alcove, or a low sofa, where I'd have to eat with my knees around my ears, so I obliged. This pleased Ui Rathaile no end; he told me I should always carry a parasol, that it suited me. Then he unfurled the pink serviette from around his knife and fork, and loudly blew his nose into it.
Loud and garish as it is, Foam has quietly been in operation since last year. Initially it served breakfast and lunch, but has recently extended its opening hours until 9pm, and now does tapas in the evenings. We went for lunch -- and a menu that is largely based on soups, sandwiches and beaten eggs of one sort or another. The menu is concise, but I found it hard to concentrate amid the neon leprechauns and furry Buddhas. And then there was the fringing that hung suggestively from every lamp and reappeared in zig-zags on a golden pillar beside us. Ui Rathaile said it reminded him of a Bourbon Street whorehouse. A comment I chose to ignore.
There was a choice of three soups: mushroom, tomato and chickpea, or cucumber and dill -- all except the latter come with "seasonal" bread. Who knew that bread could be seasonal? Not I. Anyhow, I went for the mushroom soup, prepared with cepes, although some of the specimens had the tight, white look of your bog-standard button mushroom. The flavour was good -- meaty with a hint of bark and nut, apart from a trunk of a stalk, which was spongy and, I'd have said, been left too long in the ground. Silken and creamy as the soup was, it required more seasoning. Speaking of season -- the so-called seasonal bread, a crusty wholemeal loaf with cubes of nicely soft butter, was excellent.
We skipped over the omelette section, where options included cheese, Serrano ham and tomato, prawns in piquant sauce, and an artery clogging triple-egger with black pudding and blue cheese. Instead, we ordered a generous portion of smoked salmon for €7.95. It had a lurid complexion, but a good buttery texture. The flavour was subtle and it could have done with another spritz of lemon juice, or a few extra capers to give it some oomph. More problematic was the re-appearance of thick slabs of the seasonal bread, heavily spread with chive cream cheese and a salad that involved mixed leaves, chickpeas, red pepper and flavourless black olives in balsamic dressing. Collectively it was too clumsy a chaperone for the delicate salmon.
We agreed that Ui Rathaile would have a steak sandwich and I would try one of the tortillas -- not the vegetarian one. The one with a child's fist of chorizo tossed into the pan. Everything I know about tortillas I learned from a Spanish sailor: 1. Do not overbeat the eggs; 2. Do not overboil the potatoes; 3. Do not turn up the gas. The creator of Foam's tortilla did not observe any of these guidelines. The egg was more or less scrambled, the potatoes were floury (with their skins intact!), and the base was burnt black. It should have been firm, but fell asunder when I cut into it.
The steak sandwich was also disappointing: a chunk of sinewy sirloin, which needed to be served just shy of medium to hang on to its juice -- but wasn't. It appeared alongside two mammoth slabs of the seasonal bread -- one was slathered in wholegrain mustard, the other in onion relish. Both were topped with floppy squares of cheese. You could have tried to construct a sandwich out of it, but you'd need the gaping jaws of hell to accommodate it.
By now, we'd concluded that food isn't Foam's strong point. It's a pity because the staff couldn't have been nicer, and once you acclimatise to your surroundings, it's a welcome escape from the grey shroud of recession. Next time I'll wear a tiara and order myself a monstrous slice of chocolate cake.
TYPICAL DISH: Black pudding and blue cheese omelette
RECOMMENDED: An open mind
THE DAMAGE: €34.40 for one soup, two sandwiches, one tortilla and one beer
ON THE STEREO: Soul
AT THE TABLE: Whatever you’re having yourself
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