Restaurant review: Paolo Tullio at The Pigs Tale, Co Wexford
When I was in my 20s I was, like all of my friends, a deeply urban boy. The city was where I felt comfortable, I knew it well and metropolitan life suited me.
Then something strange hap-pened -- an urge came over me, and, little by little, I began to imagine life in the country.
Images of meadows, ponies, tractors and wellies began to thrust themselves into my consciousness. Somewhere deep inside me, the genetic legacy of generations of peasantry made itself felt. I developed a hunger for land.
Oddly, I wasn't unique in my desire to move to the country. My friends had similar urges -- maybe not for the same reasons, but with the same result.
We all ended up in Wicklow, and, more specifically, all of us within an ass's roar of the Avonmore valley.
These old friends, who are, in country terms, neighbours, turn up occasionally in my reviews; you may even recognise the names.
It was neighbour week again this week. I asked Mike Judd to come to dinner with me in Gorey. After a bit, he called me back.
"My daughter Molly is home visiting for a few days from Paris. Why don't we all go?"
I thought that was great idea, so four of us set off for The Pigs Tale, which is on the main street of Gorey -- Mike, his daughter Molly, his wife Rachel and me.
I'll tell you something else about us ex-city people: we're just a little competitive about our vegetable gardens; it's our way of saying, "See how country I've become?"
In the Judd home, the main gardener is Rachel, who also keeps bees. Over dinner, she almost persuaded me that I too should keep bees. Almost.
We found both The Pigs Tale and easy parking in Gorey's main street and made our way upstairs to the restaurant, which is on the first floor.
Inside, the decor is functional, verging on the plain, but the walls are enlivened with piggy photographs, emphasising the name. Wasting no time, we started studying the menu and wine list.
The wine list is short, with six white and six reds listed. They're all pitched in the €20 to €30 range.
But with the ladies wanting white and Mike wanting red, the only option was wine by the glass.
Only three wines were available by the glass -- two whites and one red -- so the choice was easy.
We were too late for the early bird menu, which runs until 7pm, so we had the à la carte. Unlike the wine list, the menu is quite long and there was a lot to choose from: 10 starters and 11 main courses.
We managed to choose four different starters, but we doubled up on main courses. We had goat's cheese salad for Rachel, chilli prawns for Molly, the ham hock terrine for Mike and the Caprese salad for me.
Then Rachel and Mike had the fish tempura, and Molly and I had the lamb shank.
Although none of our starters were complex or difficult dishes, I thought they were well made and nicely presented.
The goat's cheese salad was tasty and there was plenty of it, Molly was well pleased with the large, juicy prawns on her plate, and Mike worked his way through a large slice of ham-hock terrine, which had been made with carrots and gherkins, and came with an apple chutney.
I was pleasantly surprised by my Caprese salad -- it's not often that I find it made with a good mozzarella, but it was here.
The mains arrived, two lamb shanks, both quite large, and two fish and chips.
The fish and chips were both fairly large fillets and the batter was good, crisp and not oily. The dish came with a pea purée, tartare sauce and, unusually, half a grilled lemon.
Grilling lemons briefly helps release a lot of flavour. It's uncommon here but common enough in North Africa.
The lamb shanks had been slow cooked and were just right, the meat literally falling off the bone. The shanks were placed on a bed of creamy mash and were surrounded by a tomato, smoky bacon and chickpea sauce.
Like our starters, these were not complex and cheffy dishes. You could call them plain, but I'd rather say they were unpretentious and competently done.
Frankly, I have no issue with simplicity. In fact, I think I prefer it to pointless complexity. Not every restaurant needs to make high-end food; there's a place for restaurants that simply want to make good food that's not overly fancy.
With the mains cleared it was back to the menu for desserts. Molly decided on the apple tart with a scoop of ice cream, Rachel decided to skip dessert, and Mike and I decided that we'd share an ice-cream plate between us.
The desserts were okay -- the apple pie filling good, but the pastry soft and soggy. The ice creams too were passable, but not in any way special.
We ended the meal with a couple of coffees and an espresso for me and that brought our bill to €134.70.
I don't think that The Pigs Tale will become a destination restaurant, but I have no doubt that it will be successful.
Gorey has a large hinterland and it includes plenty of seaside holiday homes. Up to now, Gorey hasn't been particularly well served with restaurants, so The Pigs Tale comes as a welcome addition.
It's also child friendly, which may be an important consideration when the summer time comes.
The owners of The Pigs Tale rear pigs and make their own charcuterie, things such as black pudding, hams and chorizo. These will soon be available on the menu, but sadly weren't yet on it for our visit.
Artisan charcuterie is just the sort of thing to entice me back for a return visit.
The Pigs Tale
Tel: 053 9484440
On a budget
Get there before 7pm and you can eat from the early bird menu, which offers two courses for €19.95 and three for €22.95. Alternatively, there’s the lunch menu, where there’s a choice of sandwiches, salads and main courses for less than €12.
On a blowout
You can’t really have a blowout in The Pigs Tale. On the à la carte, the main courses are all less than ¤18, except for the sirloin steak at €21.95, and even the wine list won’t let you spend more than €26.