LIM­ER­ICK

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - THE TICKET/SEVEN DAYS - AMcE

is­sues, and sub­se­quently opened a “pop­down” restau­rant in the base­ment. Now the ca­sual ground-floor café has had a menu over­hall, with a strong Caribbean in­flu­ence. There’s a lovely, airy dining room here although seat­ing is limited (we are brought be­hind the bar to reach our far ta­ble, so as not to disturb a large group). A square booth is prob­a­bly the best seat in the house on a cold, wet evening.

There is a long ice bar hold­ing fresh fish – which still fea­tures heav­ily on the new menu – on the smaller plates, fried gam­bas with a sweet red pep­per vinai­grette (¤10) come fat and well cooked, some shell on, oth­ers shell off. There are some ex­cel­lent crab claws (¤10), braised in cast-iron pot with a rich, mor­eish “shell­fish and tomato ragout” and some very good sour­dough.

The Caribbean in­flu­ence is less ev­i­dent in the smaller dishes, although there was a nod east in some sticky duck wings (¤10) – far su­pe­rior to their chicken cousins – which came with a gin­ger and mango sauce and topped with lots of chilli and gar­lic (no kiss­ing af­ter th­ese).

The heat turns up in the mains, with char­grilled Jerk poussin with but­tered yams and scal­lions (¤19) and a black­ened sword­fish burger with mango (¤18). We opted for a rich West In­dian glazed beef short rib (¤22) – fat and heavy on a rather whop­ping rib bone – served with roasted pineap­ple, spices and dressed lib­er­ally with crushed peanuts.

Best of the mains is a whole sea bass (¤19), coated in panko and fried crispy on the out­side, while still de­li­ciously del­i­cate in­side – propped on a bowl of sweet and sour black beans. It will be in­ter­est­ing to see the fi­nal phase open­ing at this spot, pos­si­bly later this year.

LA CUCINA

Uni­ver­sity Court, Castletroy, Lim­er­ick ¤ re­al­i­tal­ian­food­ies.com / face­book.com/lacucina When­ever I take a trip to Din­gle, which is usu­ally once a year for the Other Voices fes­ti­val in De­cem­ber, I make a pit­stop half­way to a lit­tle Ital­ian café off the mo­tor­way in Castletroy, Lim­er­ick. I first be­came aware of La Cucina through the blog and tweets of its owner Lor­raine Fan­neran. “@ital­ian­foodie will you have space for two hun­gry pizza lovers at around 2.30 this af­ter­noon?” I’d tweet, some­where around Ro­screa. “@aoife­fork­ful of course!” would come the re­ply. “We’ll get the dough ready for you.”

Lor­raine and her part­ner Bruno (the Pizza Boss and son of Ital­ian im­mi­grants ) opened La Cucina in a busi­ness es­tate in Castletroy in 2003, and have been dish­ing out freshly made piz­zas, great cia­batta sand­wiches and Ital­ian sal­ads ever since. It’s a ca­sual spot. In fact, it’s won Best Ca­sual Dining a cou­ple of times at the Ir­ish Restau­rant Awards. On a good day, the Lim­er­ick sun spills in through its win­dows into this small, buzzing space.

Their piz­zas range in price from just over ¤10 to ¤13.50 and all the clas­sics are there, from the margherita to the fiorentina. You can get a bowl of pasta am­a­tri­ciana (¤10.50) or a plate of br­uschetta parma (¤6.50). They also launched their own range of Real Ital­ian Food­ies pasta sauces, which you can pick up at the shop or on their on­line store. This is a fam­ily busi­ness worth sup­port­ing. Go visit.

And make sure you send them a tweet when you’re nearby.

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