Restau­rant re­view

Restau­rant Re­view

Irish Examiner - Weekend - - Inside - Joe McNamee

Doyle’s Seafood Restau­rant, 4 John St, Din­gle, Co Kerry. Tel: 066-9152674; www.doyle­sofd­in­gle.ie

AS we pass the premises that formerly housed the late and very lamented Idá’s, just across from Doyle’s, I feel more than a pang for the now-closed Din­gle restau­rant where chef/pro­pri­etor Kevin Mur­phy de­liv­ered some truly ex­cep­tional food for the bones of three years, the class of fare I al­ways be­lieved could have crowned the town’s al­ready ster­ling food of­fer­ing with a Miche­lin star. But, just as Stella Doyle dis­cov­ered when she took the plunge back in 1973 and opened Doyle’s Seafood Restau­rant, a new culi­nary con­cept can take time to bed in to a lo­cal mar­ket, es­pe­cially if you also have to set about cre­at­ing that mar­ket in the first place.

Her ini­tial con­cept seemed straight­for­ward — a restau­rant serv­ing de­cent ren­di­tions of world-class seafood landed on the nearby quays. What’s not to like? None­the­less, she strug­gled in the early days; din­ing out, then a far more rar­i­fied ac­tiv­ity; what’s more, lo­cals strug­gled with the con­cept of pay­ing restau­rant prices for seafood when they could buy the pri­mary in­gre­di­ents for half noth­ing di­rectly from the boats; and, of course, the same re­mote­ness of lo­ca­tion that ul­ti­mately har­pooned Idá’s, meant it was pretty much oc­ca­sional trav­ellers and a few pi­o­neer­ing tourists drawn to the area by

Ryan’s Daugh­ter (filmed nearby) that first kept Doyle’s afloat. But grad­u­ally lo­cals too joined the tourists on board and, in an era when a rare good restau­rant shone like a bea­con in a land­scape largely de­void of them, Doyle’s ac­quired a thor­oughly de­served na­tional rep­u­ta­tion, com­menc­ing an epi­curean evo­lu­tion that has seen Din­gle be­come one of the very finest small towns in Ire­land in which to dine out.

Stella sold up in 1997 and cur­rent proprietors, chef Sean Roche and part­ner Anna Scan­lon, took over in 2010. Hav­ing last eaten here in the mid-’90s, I am un­sure of what to ex­pect when we walk through the door of the cosy, stone-walled venue on a crisp au­tum­nal evening but the im­pact is instantaneous: a buzzing restau­rant with a warm wel­com­ing em­brace to match pulls that sur­pris­ingly rare trick of be­com­ing the only place you want to be in the world at that par­tic­u­lar mo­ment. Swiftly seated, a sub­lime Cúl Dor­cha, from West Kerry Brew­ery, de­liv­ered in tan­dem with an al­lur­ing menu, I fi­nally be­gin to make my peace with the demise of Idá’s across the road.

Save some con­tem­po­rary twists, Doyle’s menu in 2018 re­mains close to Stella Doyle’s orig­i­nal of­fer­ing of sub­limely com­fort­ing, de­cep­tively sim­ple seafood with a clas­si­cal twist and No 2 Son’s Din­gle Bay crab claws con­firm this, an ex­er­cise in el­e­men­tal per­fec­tion: sweet meat, im­mac­u­lately cooked and then soused in gar­lic but­ter and herb; it takes a re­minder that he is not foot­ing the bill to per­suade him to re­luc­tantly share. He is equally — and justly — par­si­mo­nious with his duck spring roll, crisp filo pas­try hous­ing shred­ded con­fit meat; pick­led cu­cum­ber, scal­lions and hoisin sauce add fur­ther tex­tures and flavours.

Cur­rent Wife (hav­ing again spurned yet an­other ep­i­thet, she’s on her last chance) takes to im­me­di­ately gush­ing about our shared warm scallop salad: “Ooooh, you’re go­ing to love this,” says she, “just the way you like them.” And they are: carmelised to a golden brown at the edges, still glis­ten­ing with gar­lic but­ter from the pan, pearles­cent white heart; tast­ing is an equal plea­sure, su­perb pro­duce, cooked su­perbly. CW’s main course of pan-roasted tur­bot with ca­per and herb but­ter pulls a sim­i­lar stunt, again, su­perb fish cooked with con­fi­dent sim­plic­ity.

I pass a blissful spell fer­ret­ing out ev­ery last bit of the pre­cious sweet meat from my Ven­try lob­ster, bap­tis­ing each morsel in the ac­com­pa­ny­ing gar­lic and herb but­ter (yes, Doyle’s does run on but­ter and, yes, that alone is a rea­son for au­to­matic canon­i­sa­tion in my book). Spe­cial men­tion should also be made of our side dish of vegeta­bles — sure, it is yet an­other tra­di­tional ‘tri­colour’ of ‘green, white and or­ange’ (here, sugar snaps, new baby po­ta­toes, car­rot) but all cooked with the same lov­ing care and at­ten­tion as ac­corded the star in­gre­di­ents; a sub­tle but true in­di­ca­tor of a re­ally good restau­rant.

I leave it to the prog­eny to or­der some old school desserts — sticky tof­fee pud­ding and choco­late or­ange brownie, both sound, both van­quished in min­utes. Then we set­tle back to most re­luc­tantly contemplate our leav­ing — yet an­other sign of a re­ally good restau­rant.

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