Restaurant Review: 'It's the first time I've seen crunchy fish spines on an Irish menu'
Goldie, 128 Oliver Plunkett Street, Cork. goldie.ie
When Fergus Henderson of St John in London published Nose to Tail Eating in 2004, his whole-animal approach to cooking felt revolutionary.
It took a few years for the philosophy to filter out into the mainstream, but filter out it did. If you've ever seen bone marrow on a menu, for instance, it's an homage to one of Henderson's best-known dishes, bone marrow and parsley salad. (And no one who was present when Henderson cooked with Paul Flynn at The Tannery for the West Waterford Festival of Food in 2013 will ever forget the sight of the whole pigs' heads being brought to each table.)
It's odd that it's taken so long for the same thinking to be brought to bear on fish, but a new book from Australian chef Josh Niland, The Whole Fish Cookbook, does just that and includes recipes for everything from offal and skin to eyes and roe.
Niland's shop, the Fish Butchery in Sydney, is Australia's first sustainable fishmonger, selling dry-aged, cured and smoked fish and offal, alongside fresh fish, and it's only a matter of time before we have something similar here. (My money's on Niall Sabongi of Sustainable Seafood Ireland being the person to do it.)
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I've encountered fish skin on several Irish menus, sometimes happily, sometimes less so, but I think that Goldie in Cork city is the first Irish restaurant menu on which I have seen 'crunchy fish spines' listed as a snack. They are roasted and seasoned with 'house togarashi' - a Munster take on the Japanese chilli-based condiment - and very tasty they are, too.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Goldie is a newish restaurant from the people behind Market Lane, Elbow Lane and Orso, all in Cork city, and the Castle Café at Blackrock Castle. It describes itself as serving "Fish & Ale", the fish sourced from local day boats and the English Market, and the ales brewed in the restaurant's own microbrewery.
The menu changes daily according to whatever the boats land. Annoyingly, Goldie doesn't take bookings, so I pitch up half an hour ahead of when I have arranged to meet a friend - thinking that I will have to wait - and get a table straight away. I'm more than happy to give card details/pay a deposit to secure a reservation; perhaps Goldie could think about allowing some bookings while still leaving room for walk-ins?
The restaurant is small, with some stools in the window and at the bar, and a few - mostly high - tables towards the back facing the semi-open kitchen where chef Aishling Moore is hard at work. (My architect friend can't see any reason why the tables need to be high, and it's a trend that I wish would pass, mainly because it flies in the face of accessibility.)
There's a complimentary snack of prawn cocktail crisps with cultured cream and powdered seaweed while I'm waiting - pleasant, but not earth-shattering - and then we order two further snacks, a delicious crumpet with seaweed butter, and the aforementioned fish spines.
By way of starters, we try the salt-fish brandade, which tastes slightly (and disconcertingly) sweet, with a good seaweed cracker and divine pickle ketchup (what a great idea!) and seared devilled sardines with pickled celeriac, which are excellent.
For mains, a meaty, whole roast megrim with fennel and a caper noisette, and pan-fried pollock with sprouts and a chicken butter sauce: both perfectly cooked and properly flavoursome. Shoestring chips and roast cauliflower with hazelnut brown butter are very good. We finish with a shared Achill Island sea salt and caramel budino (no, me neither, but it's the Italian word for custard or pudding), which is sweet and monotone, with no discernible taste of salt. We drink the pleasant Préambule Picpoul de Pinet and the Albert Bichot Gamay/Pinot Noir (both available by the glass and pichet as well as the bottle) and, with two pichets of each, the bill comes to €130.10 before service.
ON A BUDGET:
Two people having the lowest-priced starter (the brandade or sardines) and main course (piccalilli panisse with Coolea cheese sauce and sprouts) but no sides or desserts will spend €51 before drinks or service.
ON A BLOWOUT
Snacks, starters, mains, sides and desserts could cost €99 for two before drinks or service.
THE HIGH POINT
THE LOW POINT
The high tables.