fish, meat and sides. The
is a good shared starter: a large platter of fresh bread surrounded by bowls of olives, pickles, salsa, sun blushed tomatoes and cheese - a generous serving for ¤8.50. Fish mains include turbot and a special of black sole (a pricey ¤33) while carnivores are offered more classic French dishes such as duck breast and a
for two (¤59). Our mains are very attractive: the monkfish (¤23) comes perched atop a bright orange shellfish and chorizo risotto with asparagus and samphire. The risotto is good, with a dense paprika and chorizo smokiness, but the monkfish is slightly overcooked and chewy. A better option is the
(¤18.50), a copper skillet crammed with large chunks of cod, salmon and potato, fat mussels and slivers of tomato in a frothy white-wine sauce. The fish is fresh and flaky, falling into the sauce that requires more bread to mop up every last drop. Portions are large so we forgo sides, which themselves are sizable but a skillet of roast potatoes on the next table looks very good indeed. Seating inside is over two floors . Downstairs is more charming, though slightly crowded, but the terrace seats make for the best experience. Close your eyes and you could almost – almost – be in Paris.
PEPPER POT CAFÉ
Powerscourt Town House Centre, South William St, Dublin 2, tel: 01-707 1610, thepepperpot.ie ¤ Wrapping around the first mezzanine level of the Powerscourt Centre, this is a bustling little café with some of the best scrambled eggs in Dublin. Possibly best. There, I said it.
With its cutsie mismatched tablecloths and crockery, it has a ramshackle, homely appeal. It’s open from 10am to 6pm – the Powerscourt opening hours. The menu includes an all-day breakfast – those creamy scrambled eggs with mushrooms and toast (¤7.50) hit the spot at any time of day. There’s also organic porridge (¤4) with toppings such as roasted pear or banana and honey. There’s a soup of the day (¤5), on the day we visit it is an excellent wild Irish mushroom with tarragon and a splodge of whipped feta. You can get sandwiches – the Mount Callan cheddar with bacon and roast pear (¤6.50) is particularly good – plus homemade bagels, tarts and salads. There are always a couple of specials – a huge, free range Pigs on the Green pulled pork sambo on focaccia with caramelised onion and pickle (¤11.50) looks very good, but we opt for a big bowl of that soup with homemade brown bread heavily laced with seeds and a slab of butter.
You can add a cup of soup to any main course for ¤2.50. A salad of pan fried goat’s cheese with Gubeen chorizo and vine tomatoes may have lost the tomatoes en route from the kitchen, but the fatty discs of chorizo and the thick slice of cheese, coated in polenta and fried golden were very, very good. Staff are busy but very friendly here, and it’s a brilliant spot to watch the world go by. A real treat.
THE WINDING STAIR
Lower Ormond Quay, Dublin 1Dublin, winding-stair.com ¤¤¤ Older Dubliners will remember The Winding Stair as a coffee shop on the second floor of a bookshop named after a Yeats poem. Throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s, it was thronged with students, writers and Ireland’s bohemians who drank cheap tea and clutched dog-eared poetry books. Elaine Murphy took over the upstairs space in 2006 and opened a sophisticated but unfussy dining room serving the best of seasonal, Irish ingredients.
In my eating experience, The Winding Stair lost its way temporarily after half-a-decade as one of the best restaurants in the city. I visited twice in 2012 to find the staff frazzled and the menu a bit tired. Had the rest of the restaurant scene caught up and overtaken The Winding Stair or had the team taken too many knocks during the height of the recession?
A recent return visit , however, found everything to be back on form. The staff were informative, fast and happy. As always, every dish was proudly built around at least one, sometimes two or three, special Irish ingredient; like the potted Dingle Bay crab that simply showed off the Kerry crustacean, or the pickled pear salad paired with shaved Killeen’s goat cheese and drizzles of High Bank Farm syrup, or the Irish cheese board for dessert. It remains a great place to bring visitors from overseas and locals alike who want to travel the country through their taste buds.
In the last two years, Murphy and her team have been busy opening The Woollen Mills around the corner and, just last month, The Washerwoman in Glasnevin. But it appears that they haven’t forgotten about The Winding Stair; perhaps these new openings have even helped breathe new life into their original dining room over-looking The Liffey. Check out their great value posh lunch where you can get three courses and a glass of the house white or red for ¤29.95.
29 Forster Street, Galway, 091-530 729, facebook.com/ JungleCafeGalway ¤ This place does exactly what it says on the tin – it’s a little palm tree-inhabited tropical oasis, offering welcome respite from the hustle of Eyre Square around the corner (and two rowdy hen parties barrelling past into town).
On a rainy Galway day, the open-air seating is surprisingly cosy, underneath its corrugated Perspex roof. There’s a tiny indoor area, with a kitchen and some baristas making elaborate designs on Badger and Dodo coffees. There’s seating for only three or four people inside, so once you’ve ordered, it’s out to the jungle in the yard, filled with couches and wicker furniture. There’s chill out music and sack cloth covering chairs. All around, there are pots growing herbs (we spy chives, dill and mint) and heads of lettuce and even a small lemon tree. The menu is