Or, God forbid, as if it were as important as the launch of a new Apple trinket in our Ebola and Isis world, it must be very hard for those tens of thousands of people trying to build their business’ profile to even get on the publicity radar. How those restaurateurs optimistic enough to open a restaurant today, and thankfully there are far more of these plucky people around than you might imagine, must envy Our Roy.
Every time he rakes over the last greying embers of some decades-old spat between overpaid circus ponies the sun is blocked out by a forest of microphones offered by reporters imagining he is a prophet of sorts rather than a thuggish midfield hitman mellowed — apparently — by the soothing limitations of middle age. What a wonderful, balanced world indeed.
Twins Martina and Tricia Cronin from Kilnamartyra, Co Cork, stepped into an arena every bit as competitive as any professional sport when they opened their Square Table restaurant and though early indications that they are in their own way every bit as skilled and energetic as You Know Who it may be a while before their behaviour perplexes or polarises the nation. It may be a while too before they have the same earning capacity. Rather their ambition seems to be to satisfy and soothe and on the evening DW an I visited they realised those noble objectives splendidly.
The Square Table is in a small, cut-stone building that was home to a more traditional restaurant for decades, one where the Full Irish was more or less the standard unit of currency and the Cronin twins have done a lot more than change the menu. They have made great use of relatively limited space and created a homely, snug dining room; it is one of those welcoming places where you feel as if you are eating in a family cocoon.
DW opened (and because You Know Who is still in my thoughts I nearly used the word “hostilities” there) with Vaughan’s Lisacannor crab, cucumber purée with some horseradish sauce. What a splendid ball of taste and zest, almost Keano-edgy it set a high bar. So too did my starter, pan-fried mackerel, pickled vegetables, king oyster mushrooms and a silky velouté. Very good indeed, a wonderful use of the simplest things.
For her main course DW chose roast monkfish, confit of fennel and tomato with spinach and mussel velouté. It was an excellent plate of fish, well cooked, seasoned and amplified by well chosen accompaniments. Very good indeed again and as good a plate of monkfish as we’ve enjoyed anywhere.
I had a roast tenderloin of venison with parsnips purée chestnut, smoked bacon and Brussels sprouts. Even in a world where the implications of industrial-scale meat production and very high levels of meat consumption are ever more questioned this was a wonderful plate, even if the venison had not reached a — if I may propose a new adjective here — a roy of gaminess. It was succulent and had layers of taste but not that greyish, magnesia death’s hand that sometimes undermines cooked game. It was really enjoyable and very easy to recommend and even easier to put on the repeat list.
Dessert — we both chose the same one, there was not a crisis of restraint — Callebaut chocolate mousse, brownie, salt caramel ice cream and pecan nuts — and yes, it did taste every bit as good and rich as it reads.
The wine — Ravens Wood, Old Vine Zinfandel at €32 — was very drinkable and went well with the game, though it was not as robust, or as roy, as some of the French or Spanish reds usually matched with venison.
Martina, the chef, and Tricia, front of house, have more than 30 years experience between them in the food business and along with a commitment to local produce are well on their way to achieving the ambition they set themselves on their website — to be one of the best restaurants in Cork.
It’s a small unprepossessing place where the food does the talking. Roy should call the next time he’s around, it would do him the world of good to see how skill and substance can come together without fuss, hysteria or self-aggrandisment dressed up as honesty.
Dinner for two, three courses, with wine €119.00, tip extra
Monday, Tuesday closed; Wednesday – 6pm to 9pm Thursday, Friday and Saturday – 11am to 3.30pm re-opening for dinner from 6pm to 10pm, Sunday Lunch – 12.30pm to 4.30pm