Eating out: Paolo Tullio at The Grange Kitchen
'There was nothing extraordinary about the dishes but they made a really good Sunday lunch'
Over the years, I've collected a vast array of trivial statistics and useless facts. I have no idea where I got most of them from, or indeed how accurate they are. For instance, there's the one that tells me that Glendalough is the most visited tourist site in Ireland after Blarney Castle.
I have no idea where this statistic came from, or indeed how it was measured, but when you drive the road to Glendalough on a sunny Sunday, the statistic seems entirely believable.
It so happens I live on the Glendalough road, or the R755 as it's called these days. It's a road I travel maybe four times a week, so I know it well. There's a crossroads between Kilmacanogue and Roundwood called Ballinastoe and it's here you'll find Djouce Golf Club. Passing it many times during the past 12 months, I've noticed the signage for a new restaurant. It's in the club house, but it's not part of the golf club. It's a stand-alone restaurant open to anyone who wants to eat there.
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Anyone who drives to Glendalough from Dublin will know of places to eat en route. There's plenty of choice in Roundwood – The Roundwood Inn, The Coach-house across the road from it and the excellent Woods Restaurant at the other end of town. Laragh offers choice as well; there's Lynham's Inn for pub grub and there's The Wicklow Heather for a proper restaurant experience.
So I felt a new place on the road needed to be checked out, and this week Marian and myself went there for Sunday lunch. The restaurant is called the Grange Kitchen, and it's on your left as you enter the club house. The first thing I noticed was there's been no attempt to cram in tables – there's plenty of space between them, they're generous in size and there are comfortable seats, either banquettes that line the walls, or large woven seats for stand-alone.
We were handed a clip-board with a variety of menus attached, starting with a page of sandwiches, ciabatta sandwiches, tortilla wraps, salads and 'light bites'. These ranged in price from €6.95 to €12.95. Three pies were listed: fish pie, shepherd's pie and beef and Guinness pie, all at €12.95.
Another page listed the day's specials – two soups, champagne and Brie and smoked bacon and parsley, a smoked mackerel paté, roast leg of Wicklow lamb, corned silverside of beef, and the Sunday lunch offer – a soup, a roast, a dessert and coffee or tea for €26.95.
With neither of us able to eat three full courses, Marian decided on a main course and dessert, while I decided on a starter and main course. Frankly I couldn't resist that daily special of champagne and Brie soup, which I followed with the fish pie. Marian, not surprisingly, chose the roast lamb and then the lemon drizzle cake.
I spent the next few moments wondering what a champagne and Brie soup might taste like. It seemed such an unusual combination. It arrived in what looked like a flower pot, a generous portion, and immediately I liked the smell of it, shortly afterwards enjoying the taste of it. I could taste the Brie, and the chicken stock on which it was based, but laboured to find the champagne taste. It was, however, a delicious soup and I managed to eat nearly all of it, as well as the home-made bread that came with it.
I do seem to comment on it a lot, but I'll do it again. When you're outside of Dublin portion sizes grow. You're only a few miles out of Dublin in Ballinastoe, but the portions here were similar to those you find to the west of the Shannon. I got a fish pie that could have fed two. It had just the right blend of white fish, smoked fish and seafood, all bound together with a creamy sauce and topped with mash. In short, a very good fish pie. As for Marian she got plenty of slices from the roast leg of lamb and between us we got a flat of vegetables to share.
There were good roast potatoes as well, so good Marian asked for more. There was nothing extraordinary about the dishes we'd picked, but they made a really good Sunday lunch. Simple, but well-made food, will always please me more than a complex dish that isn't quite right. Sometimes I think we should applaud simplicity more than we do.
All the desserts, which are mostly charged at €5.95, are made in house and more importantly, all the cakes, biscuits and desserts are gluten-free. Gluten-free breads are also available, but need to be pre-ordered when booking.
Two slices of warm lemon drizzle cake arrived, with a really lemony tang to it. I'd never had it served warm before, but I might demand it warm in future as it worked well and brought out the flavours.
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Tea for Marian and an espresso for me brought this lunch to an end and brought us a bill for €47.45, which I thought was very good value for what we'd eaten. Before we left we learned that once a month Anne Burgess, proprietor and front of house manager, hosts a music night when the talented lady also plays the piano and sings. Now that's what I call multi-tasking.
ON A BUDGET
The breakfast menu looks good. From simple porridge at €3.95 to a full Irish at €10.95, there's plenty to choose from. Alternatively any one of the three pies from the menu at €12.95 would satisfy a trencherman.
ON A BLOWOUT
The à la carte menu is available for dinner and has some good dishes. Mustard and rosemary rubbed rack of lamb at €24.50, the excellent fish pie at €17, or a 10 oz sirloin at €24.
The dish I enjoyed the most was the fish pie, as it was made just the way I like it.
The accompanying vegetables for the main courses were a little unimaginative. A better selection was available as side orders at €3.25.
Whispers from the Gastronomicon
The Kitchen in the Castle Cookery School, located in the Georgian kitchens of the historic Howth Castle, is offering an exciting selection of summer themed day-long or short day and evening cookery skills classes. Participants of all levels can enjoy classes from 'A Mediterranean Dinner Party' to 'Pizza Workshops', 'Knife Skills' and 'Barbecue with Beer Tasting'. See thekitcheninthecastle.com
There's a new concept in lunchtime dining now available at Sure Bar, the bar in the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel on Golden Lane in Dublin city centre: a selection of small bowls of food, ranging from starters to soups, salads to substantial mains and desserts. The Flexi-bowls menu is available Monday - Friday from noon until 2.30pm. You can choose three bowls for €10, two for €8 or one for only €4.