Cork: Different expectations

Finín’s Restaurant and Bar, 75 Main Street, Midleton, Co Cork; tel: 021-4631878;

FASHION is one of those unexplainable, contrived forces. It is one of those empty phenomena that has so much, if not the greatest, influence on our habits and beliefs.

It’s essence is endless change and, if this is not a soupcon cynical, its objectives, today at least, are absolutely commercial.

Was it fashion that we once believed that a witch might curse a cow and its milk would run sour? Was it fashion, or something more profound, that received wisdom once held that a woman who sank in water was innocent, but if she floated she was a witch? Or was it the other way round?

How would a hemline know what to do, where to stop, when to plunge, without fashion’s diktats?

Was it fashion that decreed that a woman had to surrender her public sector job when she married? Of course fashion then decreed that it was necessary to marry and that not to marked a person down as a little odd, maybe as a bit of a failure. Or was it a valuable social more founded on something other misogyny? Or is it fashion that allows the question be framed in those terms?

One of the interesting things about fashion is how absolutely its suggestions are followed. For instance, what, in recent years, made virtually every woman in Ireland believe that their hair had to be straight and that to have even an odd curl was to be less desirable or loved?

What makes some Irish men ignore it all, the gels, the tattoos, the long short pants and stick steadfastly to the hair style they sported when they just missed out on a county minor medal back in 1978? It does though seem a particularly Irish habit that whole cohorts of men decided that fashion ran out of steam when they were about 26 and that anything after that is a folderol fit only for fiddly foreigners.

That principle characterises Finín’s upstairs dining room, an enclosed space without windows decorated like a set from an early Glenroe season, all reds and whites, plastic-topped tables and some bring-and-buy artwork. The sense of being in a time warp was exacerbated by ’70s heart breaker Julio Iglesias joining us at our table for the evening. At least that’s what it seemed like as a speaker hanging over our heads reminded us how cloyingly saccharine the Spanish stud’s back catalogue, for we must have heard it all twice, actually is.

This is a setting that demands more than is reasonable of the food if the evening is to be memorable. Unfortunately, the food was not equal to the unfair challenge.

My guest, BK, who remembered the restaurant fondly, albeit from a number of years ago, began with pan-fried scallops and a fresh green salad. They were fresh and sweet, well cooked and perfectly admirable.

My starter, generous to a fault, was described as sautéed lamb kidneys dressed in a light Madeira sauce. Unfortunately, the kidneys had that texture peculiar to offal, the stiffeningrubber one that hints the meat has been hanging around the kitchen for a day or two longer than is ideal. The sauce was neither light nor infused to any noticeable degree with Madeira. It was more like a decent oxtail soup. For her main course BK chose grilled sole and though there was nothing wrong with it the dish, served in the very plainest way without any garnish, it was easily forgotten. It fell a very long way short of its €30 tag.

I had poached sole served with some prawns in a white wine sauce. Though acceptable, none of the pertness, the vim, that marks out good sea food had survived to reach the table. Like BK’s main course it did not come even close to a €30 plate.

For dessert BK chose Pavlova and I opted for meringue. Though not exactly the same they are first cousins. Here though it was hard to see any noticeable difference.

We drank a 2007 Albarino, Terras Gauda Rías Baixas Abadia de San Campio (€30) and it was a lovely, rich experience.

Finín’s has won the best gastro pub in Munster title and a Lucinda O’Sullivan best place to eat award 2011, but maybe fashions and expectations have changed.

THE TAB: Dinner for two with wine came to €139.40. Tip extra.

HOW TO: Monday to Saturday 10.30am to 11pm, closed Sundays and bank holidays

The Verdict
Service: 4/10
Ambiance: 5/10
Wine: 6/10
Value: 4/10


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