Our first dinner in Dublin. We had done a bit of research and narrowed our choice to a few promising restaurants. The Concierge at the Hotel suggested one of the shortlisted ones called One Pico, however, a more careful look at their menu that not only was the restaurant rather expensive but was also quite French in its food. This was not where we wanted to splurge on a big French meal with Champagnes and wines, but wanted more down to earth food with local produce and local alcohol i.e. Guinness or Murphy’s Stout. So we vetoed One Pico and instead chose a Gastro Pub called Exchequer located on Exchequer Street a short walk away from the Hotel.
Before dinner, to wet our whistles, we walked across to a pub called Davy Byrnes, one of the Joyce pubs. Apparently this is supposed to be something big, a Joyce Pub. What it means is that James Joyce has either been a regular at the pub and/or he mentioned the pub in his books. Frankly, it did nothing for me and all seemed rather pointless. Let me give you an example of what I mean. Just because some tourists got shot at Cafe Leopold by the Pakistani terrorists during Bombay’s so called `terror attack’ does not make Cafe Leopold any better or worse, or worth a visit. But so be it and so be the world of tourism!
A Gastro Pub is a British term used to describe, initially, a pub that served quality beer, ales and stouts and better quality food without much drama. The food was more upscale than the usual pub grub which is normally, bangers and mash, burgers, sandwiches and Ploughman’s Lunch. This has been further refined with the Hand & Flowers, an actual pub that has got 2 Michelin Stars. The Hinds Head owned by Heston Blumenthal is another Michelin Starred pub. The Exchequer has no such stars, but, is highly regarded in Dublin.
We were given two menus. One was a set meal where you could have 2 or 3 courses from a selection of starters, mains and desserts or the a la carte which had everything from the set menu plus some more. There were a lot of exotic cocktails on offer. HRH the Queen of Kutch chose a Passion Fruit Daiquiri with Thyme. I got a pint of some beer based cocktail. Both were decent and drinkable. Thankfully the Daiquiri was not sweet. After we finished the cocktails, which were basically akin to tomfoolery and a waste of money, we stuck to some good local Stout and Red Ale. The Stout and Ale were really nice, bitter, sweet toasty and caramel flavours perfectly balanced.
|Passion Fruit Daiquiri|
|Bottle of Stout|
|Bottle of Red Ale|
For dinner we chose from the set menu. For starters we got a Smoked Seafood Chowder with Potato & Leek and a Ham Hock & Black Pudding Terrine wrapped in York Cabbage Pickled Onions and Seasonal Greens. The Chowder had very few pieces of seafood and to make things more difficult it had virtually no salt. The Ham Hock was passable.
For our mains I ordered a Fish Pie. Yes I know a Fish Pie is similar to a Chowder but I like a good fish Pie. The finest ones I have had are at Bentleys in London as well as at J Sheekeys – both are outstanding. So it was Fish Pie for me with Peas, Chopped Egg, Creamed Potato & Aged Cheddar. HRH the Queen of Kutch chose a Lamb & Beef Pasty with Hot Mornay & Mustard Sauce Parsnip Puree & baby Leaf Salad.
|The Fish Pie|
The food soon arrived and looked great. The Fish Pie was perfectly browned on top and looked good, as the cliché goes, good enough to eat. Problem was it had no salt, absolutely no salt. This reminded me of the time when the British imposed tax on salt rendering its expensive and prompting M K Gandhi to undertake the famous Salt March to Dandi. That was not the only problem with the Pie. There was almost no fish in it, just lots of chopped egg and masses of mashed Potato. Not nice.
The Pasty was even more terrific looking, but alas, looks deceived. No salt. Also have a look at the photo and look at what turned up on the plate. I cannot see a Monray Mustard Sauce. The white on the plate is pureed Parsnip. I also got a small beaker of Stock to pour on the Pasty. Not described in the menu. The Pasty was eatable with lashings of salt, the fish pie was not.
|Pasty with Parsnip Mash|
|And the beaker of Stock|
We had no mood to compound our misery by having a dessert. I must mention that the set meal two courses cost a mere Euro 17 a head. As HRH the Queen of Kutch said, pay peanuts get monkeys! I agree we were horribly short changed. But I still cannot understand what the food was not salted. Did the chef not taste things before they went out?
All in all, stupid meal, stupid restaurant. Do not go here. This is one of the few times we have had a totally unsatisfactory meal.
Have a look at their website. The Menus are there for all to see.