Cork: A place for society

Hassett's Restaurant, The Glen, Crosshaven is one of three outlets in county Cork, the others are in Carrigaline and the city's Adelaide St.

Hassett’s Restaurant,
The Glen, Crosshaven,
Co Cork;
hassettsrestaurant.ie,
tel: 021-4833030

THERE may be hundreds of paintings recording the flight-or-death retreat of Napoleon’s defeated Grande Armée from Russia in 1812. For some unfathomable reason they seem more poignant, more humane and far more touching than the photographs documenting the next great retreat from a winter-bound Mother Russia taken almost a century and a half later.

One painting, Marshal Ney Supporting the Rear Guard During the Retreat from Moscow painted by Adolphe Yvon 44 years after the event — www.manchestergalleries.org — captures the tragedy of the French; the exuberant determination of the Cossacks to do what homeland defenders do when circumstances swing in their favour; the appalling conditions, the starvation, the typhus and, most of all, the inescapable snow and cold consuming the invaders. Napoleon led 600,000 men unused to defeat into Russia but only about 30,000 survived and of those fewer than 1,000 ever returned to duty.

For some reason the restaurant business in January or February reminds me of the great, failed invasions of history. Beforehand there is the great swagger and optimism — the indulgences, busy tables and parties of December — followed quickly by challenge and then occasionally retreat — the frugality and restraint of the early months of the new year. The recovery and dieting so common in January may not be quite the restaurant sector’s Bérézina but it does seem a time for endurance, lots of empty tables and determined optimism.

The Friday night we — DW still — visited Hassett’s, the room was about half full and there was no great urgency to clear tables for a second sitting. Some people lingered over wine long after they had finished eating.

It is an eclectic room, almost as if it was decorated with the loot of a victorious army. Old commercial signs, a, I think, kerosene pump (even if that gadget’s attractiveness is not immediately apparent), a bicycle if I remember correctly and a few paintings as varied as those who fought with Napoleon. There is the almost mandatory old radio — Pye — too. Chandeliers preside over the tables and, if, like Churchill’s pudding, the room lacked a theme, it was an interesting curiosity for all that and created a warm, easy-going atmosphere. The food maybe a tad less so.

Just like every restaurant struggling to stay ahead of the Cossacks while fighting to retain a customer base Hassett’s menu is very much middle of the road, pitched at moderate spenders. It appears as much a social place as a food place.

Our starters were neither startlingly different or terribly impressive. DW chose tempura prawns with a green salad. I chose crab meat in filo pastry with a green salad and a glowing sauce. Neither the prawns or crab meat seemed capable of conveying the pertness of fresh seafood.

For her main course DW asked for pan-fried monkfish, pesto mash and red pepper cream. Had the fish been a piece of meat it would have appealed to those who enjoy slow cooking, it was certainly too tough, too dry and, if this is possible, too dead to even hint at freshness.

My main course, prawn and cashew nut curry and basmati rice was, well, a typically obtuse Irish curry. A few prawns, a few nuts but lots of onedimensional, dominant sauce. The great orchestration and layering of a good curry was absent.

Desserts were a bit of an adventure — and we chose from a lovely looking collection of pastries made in Hassett’s bakery, each of which was served with a glowing, over-poweringly sugary sauce

For all that it was a nice place to visit with a good atmosphere and great service. Hopefully it will last as long as its neighbours the RCYC, who were racing yachts around Cork harbour almost a century before Napoleon had to flee Moscow.

THE TAB:

Dinner for two, three courses with wine, and a coffee came to €103.05, tip extra.

HOW TO:

Monday and Tuesday: 9am — 6pm, Wednesday to Saturday: 9am — late and Sunday: 10am — 8pm

The verdict:

Food: 6/10

Service: 8/10

Ambiance: 7/10

Wine: 7/10

Value: 6/10


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