Service was great at The Blackrock but there was no Triple Crown, as some of the food deserved the Wooden Spoon
On the very day I was due to visit The Blackrock, a hot new pub in the eponymous SoCoDu village, an article by the HRH of the UK food-critic world, Tom Parker Bowles, rolled through my Twitter feed.
His connection to the Royals goes a little further than ‘I danced with a man who danced with a girl who danced with the Prince of Wales’, as his mother, Camilla Parker Bowles, famously ‘danced’ with the prince and wound up a duchess and, now, Queen Consort to King Charles III.
Parker Bowles was romancing on the joys of the old-fashioned boozer — the tatty carpet; a community hub; a fruit machine; Scampi Fries —“the king of fish-flavoured snacks”— on offer.
He extolled the virtues of one of his beloved locals, run by “a no-nonsense ex-RUC Ulsterman”, which had changed hands, got poshed up, and so he’d moved on, finding a “new local where the Guinness is taken seriously, there’s a lively outdoor terrace and the landlord, Damian, is as diligent, loquacious and Irish as you could ever wish. A pint usually comes with a free shot of Jameson”.
I can’t say I’ve seen that happen here, except maybe the ‘Christmas drink’, and it’s a bit fanciful nowadays to think pubs can survive on crisps and Guinness with a free Jemmy thrown in. But maybe he’s found Santa’s grotto.
Perhaps ‘we Irish’ do run great pubs, but Parker Bowles’s assessment reminded me of a former Davis Cup tennis player I knew who was told by a toff, when playing for Ireland at Wimbledon: “You Irish do produce jolly good domestics.” It seems the typecasting has switched to pub landlords now.
The Blackrock is the third pub owned by Noel Anderson, who is immediate past chair of the Licensed Vintners Association, and a quartet of our rugby boys — Jamie Heaslip, Seán O’Brien, and Rob and Dave Kearney — who took over from Wetherspoons earlier this year and renovated.
It’s probably the exact opposite of the traditional pub that Parker Bowles is lusting after. I didn’t see a fruit machine or Scampi Fries, but it’s a welcome addition to Blackrock as a convivial meeting place, with a large central atrium, lots of different roomlets and a modest-sized terrace.
We were two food critics and two journos and the chat and craic was mighty! Two Malfy summer spritz con limone and tonic (€10 each) sharpened their wit, while I had a glass of Cap Cette Picpoul (€8.80).
From a selection of Starters, Salads and Bar Bites (€7.50-€16.50), Number Two Critic chose Padron peppers with smoked yoghurt and za’atar (€8), while Journo Number One had a very tasty crispy corn prawn tostada with ‘lime avocado crema’, tempura prawns, black sesame seeds and green chilli dressing (€13).
Mussels in dry sherry with Calabrian spicy sausage caught my eye, but they were off the menu, so five tasty little cheese and kimchi ball-shaped fritters (€10) were quickly snaffled by eager paws. Journo Number One followed with a decent 8oz burger festooned with smoked streaky bacon, shredded baby gem, crispy onions, relish et al (€18).
I had panko-crusted hake Kiev with herb butter (€17), which was a disaster. Small, sausage-roll-shaped, in a hard, burned battledress, sans oozing herb butter with a ‘cotton wool’ vibe, it had a bizarre, slimy green pool of bitter-tasting ‘chive mayo’ at one end, about which we heard similar comments at the next table.
‘Rosemary fries’, accompanying both mains, bore no sign of the herb of remembrance, and will be remembered only for their pasty miserableness. Mine all went back. A lemon tart with raspberry sorbet, chocolate clay, at €9, was poor — all pastry and piped cream with a very thin sheet of tasteless lemon. A cracked water carafe wasn’t great, either.
Service, however, was delightful. The food needs to settle, but we enjoyed the place and would go again. Our bill, with water (€7), a second glass of wine (€8.80), and service came to €112.86.
And no, there were no free Jemmys with the pints!
The Blackrock, 1-5 Temple Road, Blackrock, Co. Dublin. Tel: (01) 223-9468, theblackrock.ie