Archive for February, 2014

White Sole @ Fish Shop Blackrock

With the wind whistling outside, punctuated by violent showers, it was an obvious choice. Lunch al fresco.

To be fair to Fish Shop (which is at the back of the Blackrock Market but more easily accessed from George’s Avenue), it’s in a reasonably sheltered spot. And while not being in a building as such, there is a wooden structure with benches, a roof and (helpfully) some blankets in which you can eat your fish in comfort.

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I’ve mentioned Fish Shop before when, following a pub lunch with the spouse, I was seduced by a sneaky portion of slip sole (it’s at the end of this entry here). I didn’t really give it the space it deserved at that time so it was on my list of places to re-visit so that I could give it some more prominence.

Fish Shop is run by Peter and Jumoke (here they are in a pic from their Facebook Page).

P&J

It operates from what can only be called a shed. But it’s a shed of remarkable creativity and admirable simplicity out of which emerges food of superb quality.

Unlike your average chipper where solid slabs of battered fish lie palely waiting their oily fate, Fish Shop’s fish is taken gently from a fridge, lovingly dipped in light beer batter most of which is then removed, and carefully lowered into oil. The cooking process is timed to perfection, the batter emerging golden and crisp, its thin crust encasing moist tender flesh.

The choices today (and most days they are advertised on Fish Shop’s Twitter feed) were White Sole, Hake and Pollock. No mussels today, but they’re usually available, served with ajillo, a sauce made principally from olive oil, garlic and chilli.

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The older lad was with me today, his muscles feeling ‘a bit tight from the gym’. Poor fella. Tom likes his food and he does like a bit of fish.

We both chose the white sole because it cost a fiver. And because Peter suggested it would be a good choice. We did cheat a bit by ordering a couple of tubs of tartare sauce at a Euro each. My excuse is that I’ve had it before and that there was no point in trying to resist temptation. The sauce is hand made (in fact Peter was making up another batch while we were there) and is heavenly.

Our fish came with a slice of lemon and was served in a recyclable container.

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As usual, my photos do the food no justice. Sorry. But actually, I don’t think any photos would do this justice because the experience here was more about the eating than the looking. The thin light crispy batter giving way to the softest, freshest tasting white fish. When paired with the velvet textured tartare sauce, well … it was … erm … pretty exquisite.

And great value. Fish can be expensive to buy. I don’t know how Fish Shop can do these portions of fresh succulent fish for the price they do. But long may they do it.

Our joint verdict today was that this was a delicious lunch; well prepared and excellent value. Peter was more than happy to chat to us and answer all our probably tedious questions about where he gets his fish (Howth, from Doran’s), what white sole is (it’s a flat fish (obvs) and I think he said it was also called ‘witch’) and how Fish Shop is doing (OK and they have plans to expand the seating area).

If you live within an ass’s roar of Blackrock, and even if you don’t, try it and see what you think. It’s open from Tuesday to Sunday, 12 – 9pm and they have an arrangement with the wine bar in the market at weekends whereby you can order some fish to accompany your wine.

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Blackrock is also the home of the Blackrock Cellar, an enterprising, friendly and well-stocked off licence with an enviable selection of craft beers from Ireland and around the world (the spouse bought me a box full for my birthday) and lots of gin. They do frequent tastings, stock cheese from Sheridan’s and sell other interesting foodstuffs on occasion. If you’re looking for some alcohol in particular, they’ll order it in. It’s my new favourite booze shop. I bought the older lad a couple of bottles of stout. Just because.

 

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Belly Bites: work in progress?

I think I need to give Belly Bites another go.

Last April (as I’m sure you remember!) I visited Mama’s Revenge on Nassau Street and they told me that they had opened another branch on Thomas Street. I meant to try it out but I never did. Now I can’t because it’s been Belly Bites since last November, with a new owner but still looking very like its erstwhile sibling.

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It’s Tex-Mex, serving a variety of burritos, quesadillas, nachos and the like but one of the things that attracted me, despite the weather, was the possibility of putting together a customised ‘salad’ box. Part of this attraction was a suggestion on Twitter that I should try to feature some gluten-free foods in the blog. Not something I had given much thought to previously but now I was on the look out.

Belly Bites is on Thomas Street, just across the road from the junction with Francis Street. Close enough to NCAD.

It’s boards above the counter suggest that it welcomes students …

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… and its prices are competitive. But, then again, Luncheonette in NCAD seems to have captured many of the hearts and mouths of NCAD staff and students.

Belly Bites is not on Facebook or Twitter (yet) and it hasn’t made itself onto Yelp either. So it’s a little underexposed. Certainly compared to other burrito places in the city.

The soup (last Friday) was gluten free –

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– and the menu in the window …

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…  indicated the range of things I could put in my salad box for a fiver.

Inside, Belly Bites is warm and colourful.

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I asked for my salad box in a bowl and chose pulled pork, sweet potato, aubergines, pico de gallo, sour cream, cheese and a hot salsa. I’m not an expert but that sounds pretty gluten-free. I handed over my fiver and sat down.

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There it is.

It wasn’t hot. Why? Well, the clue is in the title: salad box. I suppose I kind of assumed that the pulled pork and vegetables would be warmer than they were. But despite being served from a bain marie, they were lukewarm before they were put in a cold plastic bowl. And, of course, I insisted on the dollop of sour cream on top so I must bear some responsibility for the final temperature.

Notwithstanding its coolness, the constituent parts were tasty and although I got the last scrapings from the sweet potato container, there was a reasonable amount of food in the bowl for my fiver.

The reason I’d like to give Belly Bites another go is that everything I’ve written above sounds as lukewarm as my lunch. However, I don’t think it’s fair to judge it on the basis of ordering a salad box on a cold wet day in February. The place is quite new. Winter couldn’t be a great time to try to get a small eatery established. Their burritos may be awesome.

I can’t help feeling that Thomas Street needs a colourful place like this and I’m hoping it’ll be there for a while yet.

If anyone reading this has been to Belly Bites, please let me know what you think.

 

 

 

A Dark Horse in Blackrock

Guest post. The older lad (Tom) waxes eloquent about his visit to the seaside in the company of his Ma (the spouse). Read on.

Right, enough sitting on the sidelines and eating the spoils, time to get involved at the business end of this crazy adventure.

Like a lazy fisherman, I’d been sitting in my boat waiting for an opportunity, and one just jumped out of the water and landed in my lap. The Mammy is currently working out in Blackrock and she suggested a place near her office that does lunch for a fiver. So, on the condition that I join her for lunch and do the write-up, the MilkyBars were on her.

The place in question is The Dark Horse, located on Carysfort Avenue, a short walk from the Frascati and Blackrock shopping centres. I parked in the Frascati car park (€1/hour) and wandered over.

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The place is, I’m guessing, a refit of an older pub, with a smaller ‘bar’ side and a more spacious ‘lounge’ side, in which the food is served. This is where we chose to sit.

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As you can see, the place was busy enough at lunchtime. We were handed our menus and offered drinks. In keeping with eatforafiver tradition, we ordered a glass of tap water each and cast our eyes over the menu. The Dark Horse offers a full menu of regular pub food but this is the part we were interested in:

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Special menu: Monday to Wednesday only

I was eyeing up the pulled pork wrap, but the Mammy said she was going to have that so, in the interest of variety, I opted for the chicken bap. We were offered the optional chips or soup, but considering how some recent posts have played fast and loose with the rules, we decided against them.

The food took a while to arrive, so we took in the décor on the walls and tables. The walls are covered in posters advertising lesser known and craft beers. Their beer menu reads like this:

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and the wine list has this on it:

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More of that later. The food arrived. The Mammy’s pulled pork wrap:

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And my roast chicken bap:

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As you can see, both came with a small side salad of mixed leaves, red onion and what I suspect were peppers that came from a jar. It came with a sweet and sticky balsamic dressing. It was fine and complemented the food nicely. Now down to business. The Mammy comfortably won out on this occasion. The pork in her wrap was tender and seasoned (as opposed to smothered) with a BBQ sauce that was mild and tangy. The wrap also contained the right ratio of coleslaw to meat ie. More meat than slaw, but enough slaw so as to taste it.

My bap was grand. It was about what you’d expect. A floured bap,with shredded chicken, garlic mayo and spring onion. There was enough of it, it was tasty and it filled me. That is all.

We finished eating and paid. Here’s the proof of €5eachness:

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The Mammy headed back to work (along with pretty much everyone else in the place) and I was left to do a little research.

I got chatting to Alan behind the bar who was keen to tell me about the pub and its hopes and dreams. The Dark Horse is a member of a collection of pubs (of which there are nine), in Galway and Dublin. The pubs are operated by Galway Bay Breweries. Their aim is to turn people onto enjoyment of moderate amounts of craft beers, in place of binge drinking mass produced lagers and stouts. Alan told me that most of their pubs have pool tables and board games instead of TVs so as to encourage people to interact with one another.

Being in rugby-mad Blackrock, The Dark Horse is an exception. They also serve Guinness and Heineken in order to draw in custom from those who prefer more mainstream tipples. The rest of the taps are filled with craft beers from around the world and those produced by the Galway Bay brewers themselves. Alan showed me a bottle of award winning ‘Two Hundred Fathoms’ stout (see pic) of which he had the only remaining case in Dublin. By his account it had been flying off the shelves. As you can see from the label, it’s 10% ABV. 10%!!! I can see why they’re trying to move people away from having a feed of pints when the beers are that strong!

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Anyway, Alan preaches the word of craft beers well, and he seemed fairly passionate about it, which certainly helps get the message across. I’d consider going back for the pulled pork wrap and a bottle of stout, as long as I didn’t have to operate any heavy machinery afterwards!

 

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