THE MIGHTY and I are out for the night in his wonderful hometown of Waterford and before putting on the nosebag, we stop off for a swift one.
Waterford still has a fine portfolio of splendid local boozers and we enjoy a bottle of stout from the shelf in the American Bar, as the local citizenry commonly refer to Jordan’s, a nickname dating from an era when it was the place where intending emigrants to the US bought tickets and waited final hours on the Oul Sod before heading to the dockside.
It triggers some musings from TM about the fate of his hometown in recent decades, in my view, a sleeping giant only waiting to be awoken once more, though currently a poster child for abandonment, illustrating the chronic lack of vision in national strategic planning.
Honing in on our own specialist field of interest, TM reckons the town needs at least one big paymaster akin to the late lamented Waterford Glass to enable locals to dine out more regularly though the city’s restaurateurs are a doughty lot and — along with locally-based, national stars, GIY/GROW HQ and Ardkeen Stores — do a commendable job of keeping the city’s food flag flying.
Another vote of confidence came with the return of chef Peter Everett to his hometown, setting up his eponymous restaurant in the remains of a 15th century building in the medieval quarter. The main room is a stripped back affair: muted earth tones, soft lighting, dark wood furniture; pleasant if understated.
We kick off with tangy Knockalara sheep’s cheese, whipped and rolled in wild garlic, served with sweet roast red pepper puree and succulent violet artichokes. Four seared Wexford scallops, caramelised to a nutty brown and drizzled in chicken jus, find themselves in a classic porcine partnership with braised Andarl farm pork belly, mollifying pea puree smoothing over boisterous notes in the liaison, pickled dried apricot adding a little zing to the upper register, a dish as generous in volume as it is in flavour.
A Paddy Borthwick pinot gris, of fresh tropical fruits and crisp acidity, cuts through the heft of the scallop and pork yet is spry enough to pair equally well with the cheese/ artichoke combo.
TM’s main course of fillet of Kilmore Quay cod is a meateater’s take on a fish dish, partnered as it is with Savoy cabbage, Gubeen chorizo and parsley sauce, comforting, immensely satisfying fare but I reckon my slow cooked shoulder of Comeragh lamb has the edge: braised, shaped and rolled in lemon, parsley and garlic, it is served with pearl barley and lamb jus.
The tender, gamey meat from one of Ireland’s finest producers pairs so well with a Cotes du Rhone (Rive Droit, Luc Baudet), we could be quaffing a ‘Cote du Blackwater’, its juicy, plummy notes resolving in a sumptuous slow fade.
We share desserts, an opera chocolate fondant, with malt ice-cream, both top notch, and the cheeseboard takes no prisoners with sweet, salty crozier blue, rich, creamy Ballylisk triple rose, from Co Antrim, and a bolshie honking Époisse that may not fit the ‘Irish selection’ descriptor but relishes its substitute role.
I greatly favour the clarity of thought that comes with the four-choices-per-course menu — three for €42 is excellent value — but, perhaps more effort might be made to differentiate techniques to retain a sense of the unique; two dishes featuring braised and reshaped meat and two dishes featuring primary elements rolled in herbs, elicits a vague sense of deja vu.
Everett is an excellent chef, his quality evident in the balanced tastes and textures of every mouthful and, sporting a seriously impressive CV, is more than capable of upping the ante.
For now, Everett’s is a cracking little restaurant, serving the best food in Waterford, but if he and co-owner/ partner Keith Noonan were to crank the dial up to 11, charging up the overall offering, putting a bit more fizz and crackle on the plate and adding a touch of the dramatic to the main dining space — cast into the role of anaemic pretender as soon as you clap eyes on the stunning basement wine cellar downstairs which dates to 1440 — then we’ll be talking about a true national contender.
€150 (excluding tip)
Tuesday to Saturday: 5.30pm- 9.30pm; Friday and Saturday, lunch: 12.30pm-2.30pm
Atmosphere: 7/10 (main room); 11/10 (wine cellar basement)
Everett’s, 22 High St, Waterford
Tel: 051 325 174; www.everetts.ie