Table Restaurant, Brown Thomas Department Store, 19 Patrick Street, Cork
Brown Thomas appears strangely empty until the progeny and I click that not every day is Christmas Eve, our more usual visitation time, when we are invariably in frantic pursuit of whatever item of makeup will be the making or breaking of Current Wife’s Christmas but today is a midweek morn during the height of holiday season.
After some searching based on sketchy memories of a previous in-house restaurant, we eventually locate Table on the store’s third floor and, though it is 1pm, it’s deserted, save a handful of lunching ladies.
The fit is canny and smart, turning a long, narrow, awkward space, into a bright, airy room anchored by a dark counter with a small forest of greenery on the wall behind.
We also have The Granny in tow. She approves greatly, muttering grimly about the previous incarnation and her perceived memories of its myriad failings:
"This, on the other hand, is a very relaxing place", she declares.
If Brown Thomas is all about the brands then that appears to stretch to its in-house restaurants. The Dublin operation is called The Restaurant by Johnnie Cooke — Cooke being quite the culinary star when he first ‘arrived’ in the ’90s.
Table is delivered by Domini and Peaches Kemp, sisters holding a similarly illustrious reputation, including as owners and operators of a chain of casual dining outlets in public spaces — Irish Museum of Modern Art, the National Gallery, The Little Museum of Dublin — and big-name commercial outlets — including Arnott’s and Harvey Nichols.
La Daughter has had a late brunch barely two hours before and her penne pasta, pesto and parmesan dish is probably already earmarked for the doggie bag even before it hits the table but we are nonetheless impressed with the quality of both pesto and parmesan (and she does wolf it down later that evening.)
Having skipped breakfast altogether, I plump for the bacon cheeseburger, a deal sealed by by the promise of accompanying skinny fries, the crack cocaine of fried potatoes.
Tragically, when my plate arrives, there are no skinny fries, just a stainless steel receptacle of far chunkier cousins, skin still intact.
Oh, our server says, we’re trying out new ones. If told this upon ordering, it would have been a deal breaker.
Though the substitutes are crisp, within, they are mealy and bland. (The currently fashionable steel receptacle is a pet peeve of mine as the metal reflects back the fries’ radiated heat, rapidly turning ‘crispy’ into ‘soggy’.)
Despite the addition of a thick rasher, Swiss cheese, red onions, mayo and relish, there is something curiously lacking about my burger.
I try a piece of meat on its own. It is overworked, dry and so grievously under-seasoned, I begin slicing up and salting each individual mouthful but, as any cook will tell you, surface salting comes far too late in the day — I leave half behind, along with the fries.
No 2 Son fares far better with Moroccan spiced lamb tagine, a sweet, gently-spiced affair with bags of flavour, alongside nutty couscous studded with pomegranate seeds, a decent dish further elevated by yoghurt raita infused with soaring citric notes.
TG receives a substantial fillet of attractively butter-browned, tender cod which parts like the Red Sea under the gentle probing of a knife.
It comes with nicely al dente tender stem broccoli and a tiny jug of dill-infused hollandaise, the class of medically-prohibited unction that makes her enjoyment of same all the sweeter.
Sautéed potatoes are flavoursome but we’ll never know if they were crisp leaving the pan for they also arrive in a steel sarcophagus, essaying a rather soggy slide out on to the plate.
We finish with coffees and pleasant desserts, the pick of them, a little pear and almond tartlet, featuring crumbly pastry and topped with a jellied glaze.
Table is certainly a marked improvement on the previous in-house restaurant, both in style and content, but I suspect the Kemp sisters would be less than happy with today’s showing, including friendly but mixed service, some way below standards usually prevailing in their outlets.
We settle up (a not insubstantial amount for an underwhelming lunch) and hightail it off to our more familiar Yuletide stomping grounds, in hot pursuit of a Granny looking for lipstick.
€90 (including soft drinks, herbal tea, coffee, excluding tip)
Monday to Thursday, 9.30am- 6.15pm;