Monday 23 October 2017

Restaurant review: Aingeala Flannery at Restaurant 1014

Aingeala Flannery

Aingeala Flannery dines out in Restaurant 1014 on Dublin's Clontarf Road.

324 Clontarf Road, D3.
TEL: 01 8054877

TYPICAL DISH: Pork belly
THE DAMAGE: €68.85 for two starters, two mains, one dessert, two glasses of wine and two coffees.
ON THE STEREO: Everything But The Girl
AT THE TABLE: Local ladies

There was a lot of charity going on the day we went for lunch to Restaurant 1014. Ui Rathaile was being charitable by conceding to speak to me after six weeks of roaring silence, and I was being charitable by agreeing to hear him.

What do you say after a six-week stand-off? Nothing, if you're Ui Rathaile. You just grab your woman by the hair and disarm her with a long, hard kiss and a slap on the arse. Two ladies sitting in the window of Restaurant 1014 -- observing this brutish display -- threw Ui Rathaile a scalded look. But me, I didn't mind at all.

The other act of charity that was going on -- and this is something I didn't know about until I read the menu at Restaurant 1014 -- was that the place is owned by the Caring and Sharing Association (CASA), an organisation that provides support, care and social outlets to people with disabilities. The irony of inadvertently choosing this particular restaurant to confront the méféinery that had scuppered our romance wasn't wasted on me. Even three-year-old children know that sharing is caring. Just you try telling that to Ui Rathaile.

"I'm an ex-treeeme-ly charitable person," he told me. As if I didn't know him from a hole in the ground. "Sure," I said, taking a swig from my Paddy Borthwick Sauvignon Blanc, "you are a saint among men. Your generosity of spirit and your happy determination to see the potential in every person, and every situation, humbles and inspires me. Often, I ask myself, what did I do to deserve the love of such a good man?"

Darkness descended on Ui Rathaile's brow, so I hid my face in the menu. The first thing that struck me was the pricing. Now, there is no reason why a restaurant that's run for proceeds should be any cheaper than a restaurant that's run for profit. Suppliers and staff want paying, and I recognise that. No, my problem was that the prices were significantly higher than what I've been paying for lunch in comparable, and even swankier, places about the town. €8.95 for seafood chowder, €13.95 for fish'n'chips, and €11.95 for a chicken sandwich, albeit served with salad and chips, on a "toasted blaa". A toasted blaa? People have been lynched for less in the part of Waterford I come from.

The specials blackboard that arrived at our table was tidily written, with perfect spelling, which appeased the 'Ceasar salad' hater in me. It was also more tantalising than the standard lunch menu. So, we decided -- for the most part -- to order specials, kicking off with a bowl of Lissadell mussels, steeped in a creamy white wine, lemon and coriander broth. It was beautifully presented -- the soft, plump mussels peeping out of their black, shiny shells with come-hither peachyness, wispy curls of lambs lettuce scattered over them, and then the broth; the delicious broth that brought forth an unexpected bounty of fresh chilli, dill, capers and sweet garden peas. It tasted fresh and lively, with a well-judged use of herbs. A good start.

Ui Rathaile cut his teeth with chicken-liver pâté. It was perfectly rendered: smooth, unctuous and deeply savoury without a hint of sourness to it. It came with classic thins of Melba toast, and a disappointingly watery and anaemic "fruit chutney". Was it apple? Was it pear? Impossible to tell, except that it lacked the sweet intensity the pâté required. Dark, sticky dates, figs or even plums would have been a better choice. Still, the quality of the pâté shone through and we were happy to eat it alone on toast, with a forkful of rocket and Parmesan salad between bites.

Staying on the specials board, I opted for a pan-fried fillet of salmon, which was a whopping thick chunk of fish that should have been served rare in the centre but was cooked right through, making the outer flakes dry and chewy. The core was a moist, oily indication of quality and freshness. It was served on a bed of rather moreish black-olive-and-nutmeg mashed potato, wilted spinach and mange tout and a shimmering pool of saffron cream, not unlike the broth my mussels were bathed in.

The star turn came from the standard menu: pork belly that was quite simply magnificent. I'm done with the fatty ubiquity of pork belly on Irish menus, but this was a rare reminder of how delicious pork can be. Yes, there was fat -- proper crackling, but beneath it was layer after layer of pale, juicy meat: fleshy, sweet and glistening with moist flavour, reinforced by a proper, traditional pork gravy. Alongside it, earthy chunks of turnip and carrot, although the mash was neither buttery nor salty enough for Ui Rathaile's immoderate appetite.

For dessert, we liked the sound of the "warm fallen chocolate souffle". Except it didn't fall -- it was punctured. 'Warm', to my mind, denotes a gentle, oozy kind of heat, not a volcanic cauterisation that scorches and burns everything in its path, including my poor, dimpled tongue. Although our lunch ended on this dud note, it was clear that (charity aside) Restaurant 1014 has much to commend it. There's competence at work in the kitchen and the service is friendly and efficient. For these two qualities alone, it should have been busier than it was on the day we visited. Now might be a good opportunity for a rethink on pricing. Paying €68.85 for a suburban lunch is excessive in these times, even if the proceeds go to a good cause.

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