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