So much — too much really — of eating out has become a two-way street of performance, pretence and acceptance that you need almost to be in a certain frame of mind to step up to the plate. You need to be prepared to enthusiastically play your part in the drama for it to succeed. Sometimes it’s best to accept that mood, predisposition and expectation are at least as likely to influence an evening as the food and drink and then plan accordingly.
With that in mind where better than a restaurant run by a Turk and his Irish partner, one that focuses on Italian food and is called the Claddagh Restaurant — and to complete an almost bizarre alignment of the stars of incongruity — seems perfectly at home on the Square in Blarney, Co Cork.
The Claddagh is a relatively new venture and it still has the sheen of the showroom. Like a car that still smells new it is bright and welcoming, its staff cheery and determined to do the very right thing. And they did so with unfailing courtesy and good humour.
DW and I visited early, on an early week evening and were lucky we did, as we had not booked a table and if we had left it any later would have had to go elsewhere. The pleasant room filled up with a combination of locals and tourists quite quickly. The menus seem determined to generate footfall rather than gather a few square meters of foodie plaques and gongs, the must-have costume jewellery of today’s restaurant business.
DW opened with what was described as bruschetta, but rather than a piece of decent, real bread and supporting cast it tasted and looked like a slice of pizza base, which, I suspect, escaped from the freezer not long before it was served. Though it came decorated with chopped tomato, salad and some pesto it was not the kind of first impression a person building a business might wish to make. My starter was better — it was described as a mixed fish salad and had a decent combination of leaves and fish, some fresh, and some that seemed as though from a can and a packet. If not stellar it was entirely what might be expected and, in its price bracket, better than acceptable.
Main courses fell into the same category. DW chose tortellini ragu served with garlic bread and it was decent, tasty and substantial; just as a pasta dish should be. Mine was calamari, salad and chips. I had the calamari as a starter on an earlier visit and it was so nice that it was marked down as a main course for the future. Though not as wonderful as the first plate I had, it was still very good and very easy to recommend. Had it been accompanied by something more adventurous than what tasted like frozen chips it would have been improved dramatically.
Desserts were, visually at least, impressive — apple tart and ice cream for DW and chocolate fudge cake for me. Though they looked the part they were more actors, more impersonators than seemed necessary, especially the chocolate fudge cake.
The Claddagh does not offer wine or beer but are very happy if you slip across the road to the supermarket — or bar, if you prefer a pint with your pizza — and get a bottle of wine. They don’t charge corkage. This, if not entirely novel, is a grand arrangement but it does, once again, underline how preposterously expensive wine is in Irish restaurants. The Claddagh is a decent, ordinary restaurant that won’t make it to too many best-ever lists but on a day that you want something simple from a moderately priced menu it would fit the bill perfectly.
The Claddagh, Restaurant, The Square Blarney, Co Cork, 021 4382782