Archive for the ‘ Irish ’ Category

Mmmm … Buttery

I used to spend a fair amount of time in the Buttery. In fact, in my final year in college, I used to spend most Tuesday afternoons there, between lunchtime and after the tutorial I used to miss on a regular basis. In those days it was mainly a pub, with an added haze of marijuana smoke. It was also the place where I had my first legal pint of stout. Angela worked there. She wore socks, sandals and too much make-up. I remember the Buttery being pretty basic, a little dingy, with not great coffee but quite outstanding chocolate biscuity things.

It’s now HUGE … and bright. And it does food, and probably better coffee than it used to.

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For those who don’t know, this is the Buttery in Trinity College Dublin (shortly to become Trinity College, the University of Dublin). The entrance is located to the right of the steps leading up to the Dining Hall, the Buttery being in its basement.

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It’s actually quite a good space, with several (maybe 4 … ish) distinct areas and a variety of seating to suit individual diners/snackers and different size groups.

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The furniture is standard canteen but the Buttery is clean and well lit. One of the spaces, with vaults, has more subdued lighting and seemed today to be more popular than the others.

There’s a pretty massive selection of food on offer. At the lower end of the cost scale, there’s coffee, biscuits, cakes, sandwiches, rolls, paninis and so on. I didn’t really pay much attention to these, to be honest, although it’s hard to ignore the preponderance of signs for the Lavazza brand of coffee which must have a thing going on there.

For more substantial eats, there is a salad bar, with cautionary instructions …

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… and with a reasonable selection of cold dishes; most, however, involving mayonnaise to a greater or lesser extent.

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There’s also a fried food section,

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… the size of the sausages providing brief but significant temptation. And a hot food section with the following items, the first once being beyond my budget unfortunately:

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The idea of potatoes accompanied by potatoes didn’t really appeal to me although it was probably the slightly healthier option. However, my choice of the lamb casserole was confirmed when I saw the size of the portion being ladled on the plate of the customer in front of me and that the meat to sauce ratio looked pretty good.

Here’s my plate-full:

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A lot more potatoes were destined for the plate but I stopped the server just in time.

So, what have we got here? A good number of potatoes, small, roasted in their skins. A ladle and a half full of french beans. And a truckload of casserole. A fair feed for my €4.85.

Let’s remember two things here. Firstly, this is a canteen rather than a bistro. The Buttery is catering for a variable number of hungry students, some staff members, some people like me drifting in because we happened to know that there’s cheap food available, and people such as the older woman beside me who comes in at least once a week and gets a cheap but substantial hot meal. Secondly, this large plate of food cost less than a medium size Lindt Easter bunny.

The casserole, which contained quite a few lamb pieces, carrot, onion, and red pepper, was VERY tomato-ey. But there was lots of it and it was hot. The potatoes were lovely: soft inside, with an almost crispy and slightly caramelised skin. The beans weren’t great to be honest. the serving comprised a mixture of beans that had been in the bain-marie for some time and some that had been more recently cooked. They were a bit soggy. Edible but soggy.

But hey, I’m not complaining. This was a hearty feed in the centre of town for €4.85 and, if you don’t like the sound of the casserole option, there’s lots of other things to choose from for your fiver.

The evidence:

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Bangers and Mash at Kiltipper

At the risk of sounding like an oul’ fella (which, in actual fact, I am, I suppose), I remember Kiltipper Road (near Old Bawn) when it had a few cottages, a pitch and putt course, the post office sports club and a couple of travellers’ caravans. That was 30 odd years ago when I used to cycle/motorcycle/drive (it was, even then, a long-term relationship, you see) up it to visit my girlfriend (now my spouse).

Now it seems like it’s one big housing estate with, I guess, a fair amount of negative equity contained within its not so leafy avenues.

In the middle of it is Marlfield Mall, with a Eurospar, a Ladbrokes, a few shuttered premises and the Kiltipper Café Bar, my venue of choice for today. They had included eatforafiver.com in a tweet, you see, and said that they’d been doing lunches for a fiver for the last four years. So, I thought I’d give my usual city centre ramblings a rest and head up the hills to see what was going on.

When I found it (turn right at the roundabout half way up Kiltipper Road and keep your eyes peeled), it didn’t look promising. Utilitarian and a little bleak-looking.

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Inside, however, I found a vibrant, warm, well-run, dynamic restaurant-cum-bar.

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The place was heaving with young families, groups of women and some elderly people. A few older men sat at the bar with newspapers and pints but, for the most part, groups sat at tables enjoying lunch and a chat. Servers whisked around, taking orders, carrying plates of food, clearing and wiping tables, cleaning up spills. The place is pleasantly lit, with several TV screens showing a variety of channels, but none too loud to be obtrusive.

Whoever runs this place has a purpose and that seems to be to make Kiltipper Café Bar a social hub for the area. Their food offerings are cleverly packaged to suit a variety of tastes and pocket depths. They also have a decent range of vegetarian and gluten-free dishes. They serve breakfast, lunch and bar snacks throughout the day, have a carvery on Sunday and have themed nights, including this … (click = big)

Holy God - but probably great fun

Holy God! But probably great fun.

It’s a pub, yes, but the emphasis is very much on food, or drink accompanying food. And it seems to work, in large part thorugh a busy kitchen and the fastest moving group of servers I’ve seen for a long time. Despite their busy-ness, the servers were attentive, efficient and friendly.

There are two fiver offerings on the lunch menu: bangers and mash with a spring onion gravy and chicken and mash with a different gravy (sorry – I’ve forgotten its flavouring). I had seen the bangers and mash on their Facebook page and I went for it.

My food arrived soonish with a glass of water: three BIG pork sausages, three scoops of mashed spuds and a ladleful of gravy with some wilted chopped spring onion.

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You know that I describe rather than critique the food on eatforafiver.com. I’m only spending a fiver after all and, although I absolutely love it when I get something super-tasty and complex, I’m pretty happy when I get a decent plateful of food. This was a good feed. I might have preferred the spuds to be a bit more buttery and the sausages a little less done but, hey, it was tasty, there was plenty of it, this is a pretty busy place and it cost a fiver.

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Good stuff.

Dublin city is awash with niche eateries at the moment and there’s a real PR battle going on for the hearts and minds of the eating public. With all that going on, we can forget and underestimate the value of a suburban pub restaurant like Kiltipper. It’s not serving Michelin star food and it’s not pretending to be anything it’s not. It’s providing a warm cheery venue with lots of activity in a relatively featureless suburban environment. It’s feeding people a variety of affordable dishes and it’s doing pretty well by the looks of it. And those servers. They can move fast.

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