They have been one of the joys of lockdown but, after months of reviewing meal kits, I’d become rather jaded and confess to shedding crocodile tears upon leaving it too late to order for one recent weekend.
My precious weekends had become an endless series of shifts as line cook charged with finishing of the creations of others, and while it has been a genuine joy to eat stupendous meals prepared by terrific chefs from some of Cork’s most wonderful restaurants, I needed to recharge the batteries. Also, like many others, I have been pining deeply for a return to the real thing: dinner in a restaurant rather than its facsimile at home.
A feast of finest local fare cooked over the charcoal BBQ — albeit sporting overcoat and umbrella — made for perfect recalibration and the prospect of a Liberty Grill meal kit really perked up the spirits as proprietors Denis O’Mullane and Marianne Delaney, consummate professionals and eternal innovators both, really know how to ‘get it right’.
‘Getting it right’ begins with the graceful and effortless glide right through ordering to home delivery, especially handy as we attempt the potentially tricky dual option of combining home cooked meal kit — delivered earlier that afternoon by O’Mullane, an especially welcome personal service — with cooked takeaway. Timing is everything and a text alert to let us know takeaway is en route is our signal to pop meal kit starters in the oven. It works like clockwork, and we all commence dining simultaneously.
Starters are BBQ baby back pork ribs and crab, avocado and mango timbale. Pork is flavoursome, perfectly chewy meat still clinging to the bone, and accompanying BBQ sauce is a balanced melange of sweet, sharp and salty.
Timbale wins the round, however, beginning with the pre-match parade around the ring for it plates up beautifully, as if straight from the chef’s hand. Flavours and textures are equally sound, gently toothsome mango and avocado, bright tart grapefruit and gorgeous marine-flavoured crab. Crisp croutons and watercress salad complete the dish.
One problem with opting for LG’s ‘finer’ dining alongside their elevated take on ‘fast food’ is the difficulty in resisting the dirty, raw appeal of what has always been one of the finest burgers in town.
No 2 Son’s classic beef burger, a superb flavoursome patty of chuck steak with bacon and cheese, struts shamelessly beside a bawdy French fry chorus. It’s no better across the table, La Daughter brandishing chicken burger, delicious tender brined free-range breast with coriander and lime mayo. I sample each for professional purposes, summoning up steely resolution to return to my own plate.
Macroom Rose Veal blanquette has tender pink meat swimming in divine, creamy roux with carrots, onions, leeks, mushrooms and celery; the burger’s illicit allure recedes as I lose myself in these far more adult flavours.
CW’s Hake en Papillote, assembled with asparagus, lemon, butter and herbs in a parchment parcel for home baking, is the best meal kit hot fish dish we’ve had to date, pearlescent fish parting in sweet morsels, contrasting with crunch of exquisite fresh asparagus. Buttery Colcannon and a Swiss chard and broccoli gratin, with a delicious vinegary grace note, complete two very good dishes.
Desserts are comforting, simple and sweet evocations of LG’s house style, chirpy Key Lime pie with a biscuity base while blueberries put pep in the step of languid bread pudding doused in crème anglaise.
On my last visit to LG, it was wobbling on the cusp of radical reappraisal. Since then, Jason Smith has come in as executive chef bringing his vast experience including an extensive classical training in Ireland and Britain. While the restaurant’s core ethos remains intact, cutting no corners and using premium Irish produce to deliver an elegant Hibernian take on New England-style cuisine, Smith has elevated the kitchen to another level entirely.
Flavour is now paramount and hitting new heights of balanced complexity and sophistication without loss of clarity, mining each and every dish to extract its full potential. I fancy when we can return once more it will be to find LG has used its lockdown extremely well, to shed flab and return as an infinitely leaner, keener and greatly improved version of what has always been one of the true treasures of Leeside hospitality. Now, there’s a prospect to savour.
- Liberty Grill
- 32 Washington Street, Cork
- Tel. +353 21 427 10 49