Restau­rant re­view

Bobo Café at the Glucks­man Gallery, Lewis Glucks­man Gallery, Univer­sity Col­lege Cork. Tel: 021-4901848; www.glucks­man.org/cafe

Irish Examiner - Weekend - - Inside - Joe McNamee

YET an­other scorcher in this sum­mer of end­less scorchers, so many, that we are now cava­lier enough to spurn yet an­other beach run, in­stead opt­ing for Sun­day lunch in the leafy ar­bo­real shade of UCC’s ex­quis­ite Glucks­man Gallery.

The restau­rant space in the base­ment is long, nar­row, dé­cor, spare and min­i­mal­ist with as much raw con­crete as a body can han­dle. But what re­ally el­e­vates the room is the floor-to-ceil­ing glass frontage along one side, a ‘screen’ look­ing out onto the old ‘Quarry’, a bu­colic green space sur­rounded by trees, an iconic lo­ca­tion in the col­lege’s his­tory that was once a sports field host­ing all man­ner of leg­endary Corinthian bat­tles. To­day, a fa­ther and son puck a slio­tar back and forth and the hand­ful of din­ers brav­ing the sun­trap ter­race, stretch and yawn like pam­pered cats.

Sadly, it seems Sun­day is brunch menu only but we are all hun­gry bun­nies so pile on re­gard­less and I kick off with a glass of in-house kom­bucha, sharp, with lovely cit­ric man­darin notes, it does a mighty job of ready­ing my in­ner tem­ple for the of­fer­ings ahead.

No 2 Son or­ders Jack Mc­Carthy’s Black Pudding, Chard, Cherry Toma­toes & Poached Eggs. This usu­ally fine black pudding is over­cooked and dry, al­most a crum­bling bis­cuit. All other com­po­nents are sound though ex­cel­lent fresh chard is en­tirely un­sea­soned. La Daugh­ter has Poached Eggs with a pleas­ing Gua­camole on Sour­dough, though a side serv­ing of Jack Mc­Carthy’s Black Pudding is again, over­cooked.

The Cat’s Py­ja­mas’ or­ders Ber­tie’s Hash Browns, Tomato Salsa, Fried Eggs and Mixed Leaves. The pan­fried grated po­tato cakes are well cooked but again lack any sem­blance of sea­son­ing. (Are we de­tect­ing a pat­tern here?) The salsa is ac­tu­ally a Span­ish-style tomato sauce ren­dered down to a dense paste. To look at it, you’d imag­ine it would be burst­ing with deep, rich flavours but it is anaemic, de­void of depth or punch.

Now long past brunch with lunch-time only vis­i­ble through the rearview mir­ror, I opt for what might pass for a full-blown din­ner: Chilli Tem­peh, Beans, Patatas Bravas & Beets. The tem­peh and beans are well cooked, tex­tures ab­so­lutely spot on, but again sea­son­ing and flavour are mys­te­ri­ously ab­sent. Other than chips or some­thing bat­tered and crispy, salt­ing food at the ta­ble makes for very one-di­men­sional sea­son­ing and my sa­line snow­storm proves fruit­less. As for chilli, there is none, noth­ing, zero. I ask for a chilli sauce of some de­scrip­tion, even­tu­ally re­ceiv­ing a cu­ri­ously gloopy Sriracha (a Korean condi­ment), which fails to im­prove mat­ters. Patatas bravas are not the tra­di­tional crispy fried po­tato cubes but soft­ish, sautéed pota­toes — again, they re­quire se­ri­ous sea­son­ing.

Ser­vice needs to be ad­dressed — and ur­gently. When we ar­rive, the only two ac­tive ta­bles are al­most fin­ished yet none of the staff ut­ter so much as a word to us, not even a smile or nod of ac­knowl­edge­ment to reg­is­ter our ar­rival, from their po­si­tions be­hind the counter. No one makes any move to point us to a par­tic­u­lar ta­ble so we seat our­selves.

Our even­tual server is a very nice but very ner­vous young woman, clearly in need of se­ri­ous train­ing. When clear­ing our ta­ble, it is done in fits and starts, a dish taken here, some­one else served some­thing over there, and, in the heel of the hunt, the ta­ble is never quite cleared.

When my plate is re­moved, no- body both­ers to ask how ev­ery­thing was let alone won­der why I have left three-quar­ters of my meal still on the plate and the gen­eral air of de­tach­ment from the more se­nior servers bor­ders on dis­dain. Not a good look over­all.

To be hon­est, I am baf­fled. Ciarán Meade (Front of House) and Mark Cronin (chef) are sea­soned op­er­a­tors; Meade ran a tight ship at the late, lamented Gulped Café, in Triskel, while Cronin’s food, eaten in other restau­rants, has never been less than very good. (Nei­ther he nor Meade are here to­day but TCP, who works near by, con­firms her ex­pe­ri­ences are sim­i­lar, dishes cry­ing out for punchier flavours.)

A re­turn has to be on the cards be­cause an op­er­a­tion fea­tur­ing such splen­didly sourced pro­duce cooked by a good chef in a beau­ti­fully lo­cated restau­rant over­seen by the highly in­no­va­tive and per­son­able Meade should be knock­ing it out of the park ev­ery time — or, at the very least, the Quarry.

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