Saturday 20 January 2018

Lucinda O'Sullivan says take the stress out of hitting the Big City

Eating out in the major department stores can take the stress out of hitting the Big City for Christmas shopping, says Lucinda O'Sullivan, and some of the top names in the capital are pulling out all the stops

Lucinda O'Sullivan

It's that time of year again when family memories are set in stone. The Big City visit is still de rigueur for many -- it's so much more exciting than sitting at a computer, buying online, with none of the crowds, excited children, or that wonderful feel and smell of Christmas goodies.

Our annual family Christmas-shopping day always involves lunch. Whether you want a full lunch or a refuelling stop, it's often most convenient to eat in one of the top department store restaurants.

The Rooftop Restaurant, located on the top floor of Marks & Spencer in Grafton Street, offers full service. Breakfast is served daily until noon, and 1pm on Sundays. You can be cool with eggs Benedict (€7), or traditional with the full-Irish breakfast, which also comes as a vegetarian option. Free-range, soft-boiled eggs come with buttered soldiers for little kids (€2.10) and big kids (€4.15). Lunch kicks off at noon with great variety, from small plates such as spicy paprika potatoes (€3.50); through heartier dishes such as herb-crusted cod fillet with mussels and Honduran king prawns (€14); or gastropub lamb shank in redcurrant sauce (€14). Their Christmas Dine Out Menu (€16.50) is my choice at this time of year, with two courses and a festive hot drink. Starters include crab and prawn cocktail; or ham hock terrine with toasted walnut bread and piccalilli; followed by a choice of roast turkey with all the trimmings; slow-roast belly of pork with red cabbage and spiced cranberry and port sauce; or the vegetarian option is mushroom and Stilton Wellington. Christmas pud comes with ice-cream or brandy sauce. The kids' menu has mains at €5.75 -- tomato and cheese pizza; fish and chips; very mild chicken curry with rice; or an under-12s portion of the roast of the day (€6.99). A jacket potato instead of fries is offered if you prefer.

Across the road in Brown Thomas, there are two dining options: The Restaurant on the top floor, and the new Browns Bar & Cafe by Carton House in the basement. Upstairs, you can get a full breakfast, or lunchtime casual food such as eggs Benedict on brioche with sauteed spinach, crisp pancetta and Hollandaise (€13.85); or crab club sandwich, with pancetta, spiced mayo, tomato and hand-cut fries (€13.90). Lunchtime mains run from €13.30 up to €16.50.

In Browns Bar & Cafe they do healthy breakfasts of Bircher porridge oatlets marinated with natural yoghurt and assorted fruits at €5.90. From 11.30am, they serve corn chowder with freshly baked assorted bread; open and closed sandwiches (€5.90/€7.90); and croque monsieur with a choice of smoked salmon, ham, or vegetarian (€8.90/€11.50).

Their seasonal special is a ciabatta club sandwich with roast turkey and ham, Carton House home-made cranberry sauce and herb stuffing (€11.90); as well as a game terrine with a green salad, mulled wine vinaigrette and brown soda bread (€9.75).

Try the Carton House festive afternoon tea with mini scones, a selection of finger sandwiches, Christmas pudding, mince pies and a chilled glass of eggnog (€9.95). A good package.

Clodagh McKenna has been putting her stamp on Arnotts food offerings, with the self-service restaurant now called Homemade by Clodagh, while the cafe is named Clodagh's Kitchen.

There is also the seasonal Clodagh's Christmas Kitchen serving "small bites" (€5.50-€7.95) such as pate with spicy apple chutney; BLT; a dips board; and "Sweet Christmas" following up the rear, with plum pudding, mince pies and Moroccan-spice orange cake, with gluten-free varieties available. Clodagh's Kitchen will have the light bites too, but also winter salads/winter pastas (€9.00/€13.50).

If you want heartier fare, choose from "A Big Bite of Winter" (€12.95/€15.95) with Italian slow-roasted beef stew with mushrooms, shallots and red wine, and rosemary and garlic roasties; as well as Tuscan-marinated chicken served with spiced sweet potatoes. Both are gluten-free. Ho, Ho, Ho!


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