Fallon and Byrne in Dun Laoghaire
Fallon and Byrne, People’s Park, Dun Laoghaire, Tel. (01) 472 1000
I heard on the radio recently that Limerick City has just done something revolutionary: they've made parking easier.
Specifically, they've made it free from 3pm, to encourage you to come to Limerick to do your shopping. To me, that sounds like common sense - if you want people to spend money in your town, you need to make it easy for them. If you make it really hard to park, and then you make it expensive, and then you put plenty of parking wardens on the job so that a five-minute delay means you get a ticket as well, you shouldn't be surprised if shoppers stop coming.
I stopped taking my business to Dun Laoghaire years ago, when I got fed up of being fined when I'd gone there to spend money. I can't be the only who thinks like that, as there are now loads of empty shops looking for tenants. The top floor of the shopping centre is down to one working shop. Surely it's common sense to make life as easy as possible for people who are going to spend money in your shops? I mean, who are you going to collect commercial rates from if all the shops have closed?
It's a no brainer: make the parking easy and free and shoppers will come. That's why the Carrickmines Shopping Centre is full of happy shoppers. The parking is free.
This week I was in Dun Laoghaire to check out the new Fallon and Byrne. They have taken over what used to be the coffee shop in The People's Park. The little coffee shop is now quite a big shop.
I say 'quite' because although there's plenty of room for customers, the three chefs are confined to a small open-plan kitchen. How they manage not to constantly collide must be down to a lot of practice. However, the small kitchen does have an effect, not on the chefs, but on the shortish menu. So your choice is five starters, eight main courses, three salads and five desserts. Most of the main courses are closer to €30 than €20, and the starters run from €7.95 to €12.50, so we're at the upper edge of restaurant prices. I was there with Gill Hall, who has recently become a Dun Laoghaire resident, and it's she who has kept me abreast with all the developments in her borough. She doesn't eat meat, so she started with the white bean, artichoke, mushroom and rocket salad, while I chose the Carlingford Lough oysters, which, unusually, are priced individually at €2.40, meaning you can have exactly the number the of oysters you fancy - in my case three. There was a fish special on the night, which was turbot, prepared just like the halibut on the menu, with pancetta, peas, pearl onions, braised lettuce and pommes bouillon, so that's what Gill ordered, while the more carnivorous me went for the Fallon and Byrne burger, served with mature cheddar, smoked bacon and chips.
The wine list was on the other side of the menu, so I left it to Gill to pick us a wine. She chose a Picpoul de Pinet at €32, a white wine from the Languedoc which is a winner with seafood, and since much of our meal was seafood, it was a good choice. The wine list is short, and is one of those lists where there are a couple of listings under €30, then the bulk of the list is between €30 and €70.
I did like our surroundings. You can see most of the principal features of the park as they're floodlit and the room is almost entirely sided in glass. It's all very new and crisp inside and the building is finished to a high standard. The location alone is going to make this place attractive.
Our starters arrived along with some good breads, and the presentation was very good. I would have found Gill's salad a bit on the bunny food side, but she was happy enough with it, while my oysters were superb: in perfect condition and served with a ramekin of Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar, with chopped shallots. I was tempted to eat my oysters as I normally would - au naturel - but after I'd tasted the vinegar and shallot dip, I changed my mind and dunked each oyster in it.
Gill's choice of turbot as a special, as opposed to the halibut on the menu, turned out to be a very good choice. A fine piece of turbot arrived for her main course and it was cooked just right, leaving some firmness in the flesh. The accompaniments were also good, peas with pancetta - a real classic - and the tiny pearl onions adding just enough of a pickle tang to make the whole dish lift. My burger was precisely as I expected, cooked well done as the law demands, but with really good chips - the long stringy ones that the French call 'frites', which were crunchy on the outside and fluffy and soft in the middle.
Once we'd finished our main courses the best we could manage was a dessert between the two of us, so we ordered the chocolate brownies with vanilla ice-cream and chocolate sauce. Not a difficult dish, but it arrived well done and it looked well on the plate.
An espresso for me finished the meal and brought us a bill for €106.85.
On a budget
You can save a small amount by going at lunchtime. The lunch menu has a few main courses that differ from the evening menu, and are a few euros cheaper. Otherwise, the prices are the same.
On a blowout
A half-dozen oysters will cost you €14.40, leaving you with enough appetite for either the halibut at €28.95 or the haunch of venison at €27.95.
The high point
That has to be the room itself and the views. As good by day as they are by night.
The low point
Finding only four wines under €30, two white and two red, isn’t enough.
Value for money 6/10
Whispers from the gastronomicon
Killarney will be coupling good music and good food in the ‘Killarney Festival of Music and Food’ which takes place in the Kingdom on June 27-28. Burt Bacharach and Texas will perform exclusively at this year’s two-day festival alongside Jools Holland and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra, The Proclaimers, The Undertones, Something Happens, and many more. The Food Village will feature well-established restaurants from around Ireland, local artisan food producers and demonstrations by some of Ireland’s finest celebrity chefs, including Derry Clarke.