Sunday 18 March 2018

Gourmands stop now

Paolo Tullio

Paolo Tullio

There's a shopping centre in Carrickmines called The Park that I've come to like. I like the shops there, I like the fact that it's easily accessible from the M50, but, most of all, I like it because it's easy to park and the parking is free.

It seems completely sensible to me that if you want people to come and spend their hard-earned money in your shopping centre, you should make it as easy as possible for them.

But when things are run by bureaucrats, that same logic seems to no longer apply. Have you tried parking in Dun Laoghaire? It's difficult, and you stand a very good chance of getting clamped, or ticketed.

It's as if the bureaucrats running the place have no concept of making life easy for the consumers who keep the shops open, that in turn pay the rates.

As a result of this weird anti-motorist attitude, I've tended to avoid Dun Laoghaire and its shops, even though my mother lived quite near.

I know I'm not the only person with this habit, and it amazes me that the shopkeepers of Dun Laoghaire have allowed their council to put so many obstacles in the way of trade.

Of course, if you're going to dinner this winter by bicycle, you'll have no trouble at all.

What did surprise me this week is that despite having driven through Dun Laoghaire hundreds of times, I'd failed to notice this week's restaurant, The Gourmet Food Parlour.

I think this is because it's just before the traffic lights at York Road, if you're coming from Dublin. I've always looked at the traffic lights and not to my left, where you'll find the Parlour.

I was there to meet Roisin O'Hea and Bairbre Power, and we got a table by the window. The position was nice, but it was surrounded by high chairs, which are not a favourite form of seating.

Later on, I noticed there were a couple of tables at normal height, but the majority of the seating is high.

It makes sense when you discover that the Parlour specialises in tapas, which are designed more for a quick snack than a long, lingering dinner.

What they have, which sets it apart from other tapas bars, is a combination offer, in which you pick a tapa as a starter and then choose a main course from a blackboard.

If you do this, you'll pay €15 for the two dishes and you can have a bottle of house wine for €15.

We considered this offer, but, in the end, decided that since it specialised in tapas, the smart thing to do was order tapas.

There's a suggestion on the menu that two or three tapas per person should be ample, and if we had been sensible we might have heeded that suggestion.

Instead, we simply ordered every dish that looked interesting, so that was 12.

If you should ever go here, take the advice on their menu and don't do what we did. Even eating more than usual, some of the dishes went back to the kitchen unfinished. But it did give us a good sample of the menu.

The first three dishes to come to the table were chorizo cooked in red wine, warm fresh breads and dips, and deep-fried aubergine with Mahon cheese.

Good dips of pesto, hummus and sun-dried tomato plus decent bread made a good start, along with very tasty aubergine slices and properly cooked chorizo.

Next came a dish described as 'surf 'n' turf', which was black pudding, pan-fried scallops and crispy pancetta, along with a small sliced sirloin steak served with horseradish puree and samphire.

A tinned pot of sweet-potato chips with aioli arrived with them, and they were so tasty we ordered a second round.

The surf 'n' turf dish worked fairly well, and I'm getting used to finding black pudding in unusual pairings.

The steak was tender enough, but the horseradish puree and the samphire were delicious.

This might have been a good place to stop, but there was still a lot to come.

The next arrivals were marinated neck of lamb with a tzatziki dressing and crumbled feta, pork belly served with an apple compote, and meatballs in a tomato sauce.

The lamb had been slow-cooked and was very good; well-flavoured and very tender. The pork belly arrived as three small rectangles – perfect as there were three of us.

I had the same reservation about the meatballs that I often have, which is I would have preferred a finer mince. I like my meatballs not to fall apart when I cut them.

And that too might have been a good place to stop, but even more arrived. Next came prawns pil pil and a large raviolo, covered in a pesto cream and Parmesan shavings.

I liked both of dishes, and they both ended up as empty plates.

Obviously, that would also have been a good place to stop, but we decided on desserts. We chose two cheesecakes – a baked American cheesecake with a caramel topping and fruit compote, as well as the aptly named red velvet cheesecake. Both of these were well made, with a fine texture and a good taste.

Despite our many dishes, these got finished.

No wine is going to pair with all the different dishes we'd had, but we chose a Pinot Gris from Australia's Wairau River, which had a pleasant crispness and was listed at €29.

Four glasses of the house red at €6 each and three large bottles of mineral water completed the drinks order. These and two espressos brought our bill to €154.

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