Richy’s Restaurant & Cafe, Wolfe Tone St, Clonakilty, Co Cork, 023-8821852, richysbarandbistro.com
EVEN if a new Ghawar oil field, one of the world’s most productive, was discovered just off Galley Head, it might take a decade or two for Clonakilty to be associated with oil.
The town has been so long linked with its own black gold — Clonakilty black pudding — that even a Dallas-comes-to-West-Cork bonanza might take a while to change the almost automatic association of the town with lovely rings of spiced pigs’ blood.
So very popular and versatile is the product that 20 tonnes of it are produced every week. It’s been used as a kind of celtic chorizo in salads, it’s been used to stuff most animals that once flew or waddled.
I’ve not seen it used to augment anything that once swam, or in a soup or in ice cream but I’m pretty sure I will. I’ve seen it on pizzas and even once in a particularly pretentious breakfast roll, the kind you get at race meetings or rugby internationals when sponsors are trying to convince their guests that they are as ordinary as themselves.
It would be almost unimaginable so that chef proprietor Richy Virasawmy, late of 10 Downing St and for the last decade, deliciously, of Wolfe Tone St in Clonakilty, would not use it in his kitchen. Of course he did, but he added a neat twist or two to celebrate his Mauritian heritage.
We — DW and I — each had a course where the putóg dhubh played a central or a bit part. DW jumped straight in and started with Clonakilty black pudding samosas with carrot and cabbage archard — a Mauritian fruit or vegetable pickle, a helpful glossary on the menu reveals. There are nearly as many kinds of samosas as there are black puddings but this one was a crisp envelope of pastry around the … (you know what) … and a few tablespoons of a lovely sharp archard. This was a fine, solid opener but mine was a splendid one.
A generous bowl of really lovely rich West Cork bouillabaisse with soft nobs of scallop and really succulent prawns set a pretty high bar especially as it came with the nicest in-house focaccia I’ve had in a very long time. Crispy, oven-steamy and full to taste and texture the two together would make a lovely lunch.
For her main course, DW had a lot of what was lovely about the bouillabaisse but without the beautifully spiced liquid — seared scallops and prawns which, if crustaceans indulge in sport, would be far more Paul O’Connell than Davy Russell. They were splendid specimens and cooked as well as you could hope.
The black stuff featured in just one main course and it seemed appropriate, on our national holiday weekend, to, like millions around the world, indulge. I chose slow-cooked lamb breast stuffed with CBP with mushrooms and thyme. This dish was a shade heavy, maybe the intensity and richness of the main players did not contrast one with the other enough to chime perfectly.
Desserts both offered the first of the year’s rhubarb — rhubarb crumble and frangipane tart. Like a reassuring overture for summer, this much-maligned but wonderful vegetable — a fruit on the far side of the Atlantic — carries the promise of sunny days ahead that has the capacity to lift the spirits like few others.
Richy’s describes itself as a bar and a bistro and offers excellent food and excellent value in surroundings recently renovated to try make flooding a less traumatic experience — they’ve been flooded three times in 12 months. It also offers, occasionally, cookery classes and has a neat website with lots of ideas and recipes that seem well worth trying.
It is not spectacularly cheffy but rather a welcoming place with good food perfectly at ease with itself. And it proves in the most enjoyable way that there is much more to Clon’s foodie world than …
THE TAB: Dinner for two, with a good wine, came to €114.90. Tip extra.
HOW TO: Open Tuesday to Saturday 9am-10pm, Sunday 9am-5pm.
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