A win­ner by the wa­ter

The Two Cooks Res­tau­rant & Wine Bar in Sallins, Co Kil­dare, is turn­ing up the heat in the kitchen, says Lucinda O’Sul­li­van, with a tip-top hus­band-and-wife cheff­ing team prov­ing that two heads are bet­ter than one

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - NEWS - lu­cin­dao­sul­li­van.com

The old adage may well be ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ but when you en­counter two cooks of the cal­i­bre of Ni­cola Cur­ran and Josef Zam­mit, you are onto a win­ner. The hus­band-and-wife team have just opened the hip Two Cooks Res­tau­rant & Wine Bar on the banks of the Grand Canal at Sallins, where the vibe may be ‘ca­sual’ but the ser­vice, food and am­biance are su­perbly pro­fes­sional. Cur­ran has been teach­ing at Dublin’s Cooks Academy on South Wil­liam Street, while Zam­mit has been head chef at the Brown Bear, near Naas. Prior to that, they worked re­spec­tively at The Led­bury and Tom Aikens in Lon­don, and, after Lon­don, they worked to­gether at Dy­lan McGrath’s former Mint in Ranelagh. Sallins is a pretty lo­ca­tion, which could be­come a din­ing des­ti­na­tion, al­ready hav­ing two gas­trop­ubs — the ex­cel­lent Lock 13 and the newly opened Bridge­wa­ter Inn — as well as Cafe Grange.

The com­pact ex­te­rior and chic down­stairs wine and ta­pas bar of Two Cooks be­lie the large up­stairs res­tau­rant, which runs across two build­ings. The decor is cool, with suit­ably muted colours, dark­wood, French-style chairs, and ban­quette and booth ar­eas. We were lucky enough to bag a table by the win­dow, over­look­ing the barges on the canal on one side and, on the other, a bird’s-eye view of the pass, where Zam­mit and his team were work­ing in a quiet, fo­cused man­ner. The menu of­fers two/three cour­ses at €29/€36, or with wine pair­ings at €42/€56. The other op­tion was a five-course tast­ing menu with wine at €85. If you have the ap­petite, from what we ex­pe­ri­enced, I would cer­tainly rec­om­mend it.

A sub­limely flavoured amuse of bran­dade, with a crisp cod­skin feather and fen­nel ash, plus ex­cel­lent sour­dough bread, got us off to a good start. From a trio of starters, my friend Mary chose a mack­erel dish with a wine-pair­ing glass of Verdejo, while I went for a veni­son par­cel — and driver’s wa­ter! The third starter op­tion was ham cro­quette, ba­con cream and crushed peas. What we had was spec­tac­u­lar in all re­spects, com­bin­ing colour and con­tent with su­perb tex­tures and flavours. The mack­erel, with tomato and gar­lic leaf may­on­naise, was en­veloped in nas­tur­tium leaves; while the veni­son was a heav­enly cube sit­ting in a rich jus with charred baby globe ar­ti­choke, scal­lions and radish wafers.

Mains fea­tured cod, chicken, duck or lamb. Mary loved her dark, rich, soft, suc­cu­lent duck leg with mangetout and con­fit or­ange — the colours were to­tally lifted by the sharp, snowy con­trast of the lit­tle white turnip, which the French love and know as le navet. With this, she had a glass of Ribero del Duero. I had lamb, which was the only slight glitch. While it came as a beau­ti­fully pre­sented noisette sit­ting on silky bur­rata, green beans and po­lenta cubes, scat­tered with oak leaves and dukkah (an Egyp­tian-style mix of herbs, nuts and spices), the lamb was too chunky and dry. A smaller morsel of pink, sea­sonal spring lamb would have sat bet­ter with the ele­gant pre­sen­ta­tion. Notic­ing I hadn’t fin­ished it, it was re­moved from the bill with­out fuss — not easy to write off ‘the profit’, I guess, when just start­ing out. We also had sin­ful cau­li­flower gratin and lit­tle nutty Ratte pota­toes at €3 each.

We fin­ished on a high note with a sub­lime dessert of rhubarb, marsh­mal­low and nut crum­ble (€6.50) and, with Mary’s twocourse with wine (€42), my veni­son starter (€6.50), the sides and desserts, our com­muted bill with op­tional ser­vice was €69. It’s a classy joint with food from the heart — beat a path.

Two Cooks Res­tau­rant & Wine Bar, Canal View, Sallins, Co Kil­dare. Tel: (045) 853-768 twocooks.ie

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