Eating out: Paolo Tullio Indie Spice, Swords
"It took me a while to pluck up the courage to taste the 'hot' curry as I'm easily reduced to tears by super hot peppers."
The 40-foot shipping container has had a huge effect on global transport. It cut breakages to virtually nil, pilfering stopped, but more importantly it brought down the cost of transport hugely. That in turn had an enormous effect on global trade, but it also had an effect on national diets and cooking.
Value for money: 7/10
Before this revolution in transport, Ireland was in the same position as the other countries in Europe. When it came to our national cuisine, we cooked what we produced – plenty of root vegetables, and meat. Because of our climate there wasn't a huge palette of foods to choose from, but since the transport revolution, all that has changed.
We now take it for granted that we can walk into a supermarket and buy papayas, aubergines, Spanish hams, Italian pasta, Greek yoghurt, French cheeses, German sausages and wines from all over the world. It wasn't that long ago that none of this was possible.
Just as this revolution has changed the national diet, it also ensured those ambassadors of other cuisines – ethnic restaurants – were able to produce more authentic versions of their national dishes as the ingredients became available.
I can remember a time when ethnic cuisine in Ireland meant Chinese, or a kind of Chinese cooking based on Irish ingredients. Today in Ireland we can sample foods from just about every major cuisine and many minor ones as well.
Last year, I was impressed with a restaurant called Indie Dhaba, which was in Anne's Lane in Dublin. What it offered could be described as Indian tapas, and it did it well. It turns out Indie Dhaba is part of the Indie Spice chain, which has outlets in Belfast, Naas, Sandymount and Swords. This week I went with Gerard Carthy of Taste of Ireland to the Swords Indie Spice.
The entrance is in a lane parallel to Main Street, Swords and it's on the first floor. As we got to the top of the stairs we found a well-appointed room, bright and airy with comfortable chairs and smart cutlery and crockery.
We had a choice of two menus, the Indie Season menu, which was an early bird menu offering two courses for €16.95, or the à la carte. We decided on the à la carte. Gerard chose the Murgh Chaat, which was chicken in a tangy sauce, and he followed that with Goan fish curry. I decided to start with an old favourite, the onion bhaji, and followed that with lamb rogan josh.
"You're not being very adventurous," Gerard said to me as I ordered. True, I wasn't, but if a restaurant can do old favourites well, then there's a fair chance it can do the rest well too. Our waiter asked Gerard how he'd like the curry: mild, medium or hot. "Hot," said Gerard without hesitation. "You sure?" I asked. "I lived in Goa for six months and I'm well used to hot curries. Trust me, this won't be Indian hot, they never believe you when you say you'll have it hot," he replied.
To go with our main courses we ordered egg fried rice, Pilau rice and garlic and coriander naan bread. We also managed to dispose of a large bowl of poppadoms while we waited for the starters. I liked what we got, the bhajis were crisp and finely flavoured, while Gerard's chicken dish was tastier than I'd imagined. It came served on a fried pancake, which held the spicy sauce nicely.
Two large flats arrived with our main courses, each containing a generous portion. My lamb rogan josh was as good as any I've tasted and I managed to finish most of it. It took me a while to pluck up the courage to taste the 'hot' curry as I'm easily reduced to tears by super hot peppers. Turns out Gerard was right, the spiciness was well within my range and I liked the taste. If I had a quibble, I thought the monkfish was a tad overcooked.
In many ways, Indian cooking reminds me of Italian cooking. They're both predominantly savoury cuisines, so looking at the desserts on a menu in an Indian restaurant is like looking at desserts on an Italian menu. In truth neither Italians nor Indians are good at desserts. In Italy you might find a tiramisu, a zabaglione and an ice-cream, but that's about it. Here in Indie Spice, they have another solution and offer seven desserts, not one of which is Indian.
Banoffi, Bailey's cheesecake, strawberry ice-cream, coffee ice-cream, caramel parfait, vanilla ice-cream and a mixed assiette plate. We chose the assiette plate at €6.95 to share and it came with the dark chocolate passion-fruit, white chocolate and raspberry, apple, chocolate tear-drop, orange chocolate wedge, lemon tartlet and a duo of dark and white chocolate.
Normally when I see an espresso at €2.95 I think 'rip-off'. But here I was delighted to pay that because this was one of the few times I've seen a restaurant use a Nespresso machine. Yes, the little pods are expensive, but the system unarguably makes a very good espresso. Plenty of crema – normally not present – and good flavours. It's an idea more restaurants should consider. The last taste in your mouth when you leave a restaurant is the coffee, why not leave the customer with a good taste? We got a bill for €101.85, and left as two happy diners.
ON A BUDGET
There's a few choices for budget dining: a two-course lunch is €9.95, a two-course early bird mid-week is €16.95, a two-course early bird at the weekend is €22.95 or there's a threecourse Sunday lunch for €18.95
ON A BLOWOUT
Certainly the à la carte menu is the place for a blowout. There's a large choice of dishes as well as six tandoor dishes, five biryani dishes and six vegetarian dishes. Nearly all the main courses are under €20
Getting a really good espresso to end the meal. If only it happened more often
I thought the monkfish was overcooked, although it was very nicely flavoured
Whispers from the gastronomicon
If you enjoy baking, you might want to put this into your diary. Bake Fest Galway 2014, a two-day event dedicated to the art of baking and decorating in association with Goodness Cakes and ACT for Meningitis, will take place on Saturday October 4 and Sunday October 5 in Leisureland, Galway.
Last year, more than 10,000 enthusiasts attended and this year is set to top those numbers. The event features demos, decorating and baking competitions, scrumptious treats plus suppliers and equipment providers showcasing products.