You really have to wonder about what spurs on business people and associated creative types (that is, chefs who wish to make a true mark) to develop a new restaurant/gastropub without coming anywhere close to crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s.
Perhaps the most irritating aspect of the Lime Kiln is that in order for it to be something quite special and different, it would take only a few serious conversations and a little bit of extra money, to put structure around ideas.
As it stands, there’s more headless-chicken hithering, thithering and dithering here than you’d see in the lead-up to Thanksgiving.
Some history: long before m arterial by-pass roads were constructed between Belfast, Drogheda and Dublin, people travelled to and from straight through Swords, Balbriggan and Julianstown.
A pub by the name of the Julianstown Inn had been in business here for decades (we recall a youthful Gavin Duffy, he of Dragon’s Den fame, conducting a particularly hilarious sequence of Mr & Mrs nights), but it closed its doors about five years ago, bruised and battered by the recession.
The good news is that, to all intents and purposes, the Lime Kiln looks lovely – the outside is bright and very welcoming, while the inside is warm, contemporary and cool. It’s a far cry from the pub of old, that’s for sure.
It’s the second time we’ve been here; the first was on its opening weekend several months ago, and back then there was the usual teething problems that most, if not all, establishments such as these experience: a sense of excitement fused with a little bit of derangement and a hint of disorganisation.
Some months down the line you’d have thought that matters relating to the latter would have been resolved. But no, it appears not to be the case.
Despite being bang on time for our reserved table, we are directed to the bar section, where we wait (and wait), and where our bottle of Pinot Grigio is plonked down on the table without a cooler.
As we’re waiting longer than five minutes for our table, one of our group asks for the Lime Kiln’s Wi-Fi code so that they can check emails, but the barman informs us that the code isn’t to be handed out to customers.
At best, this seems ridiculously customer unfriendly, at worst just inexplicable.
Eventually, we are shown to our table, and are seated right beside the kitchen, which is fine, as the kitchen team clearly cook up a storm. What is at odds with the overall cool design of the restaurant, however, are the metal grills that separate certain sections of the room.
Like Guantanamo Bay crossed with a confessional, it’s the oddest and least warm design conceit I’ve yet seen in a restaurant. Frankly, it doesn’t work.
The menu looks good, and we choose two starters for sharing: crispy chicken wings (very spicy, but good) and baked beetroot salad (tangy, tasty).
For mains we choose slow cooked shank of Wicklow lamb, with pearl barley (terrific comfort food, and lots of it), crispy pork belly, with spiced red cabbage and apple caramel, pan-fried salmon, with wilted greens (although why the greens are described as such remains a mystery).
From the Specials Board (which is out of our line of sight, and which we aren’t made aware of until after the paper menus are taken away), we choose sea bream gratin. We select one dessert for sharing, a fairly standard chocolate mousse.
As we are waiting for the food to arrive, we are well placed to notice the haphazard approach to waiting/serving tables.
It strikes us that there is little or no organisational skill at play here; with a few exceptions, the friendly and enthusiastic waiting staff clearly have little experience.
In fairness to them, however, the blame must land at the feet of management, who, in the rush to get the Lime Kiln up and running seem to have bypassed proper restaurant training.
Such a strategy is counter-productive, and undermines the fine work undertaken by the kitchen team. Three words to the management: sort it out. Two words to customers: be patient.
Dinner for four, with wine, came to €113.60 No tip.
WHEN TO GO
Restaurant: Mon-Tues, closed; Wed-Thurs, noon-9.30pm; Fri-Sat, noon-10pm; Sun, 12.30pm-8pm.
Bar: Mon-Tues, 4pm-11.30pm; Wed-Thurs, noon-11.30pm; Fri-Sat, noon-12.30am; Sun, 12.30pm-11pm.
In a sentence: A well-designed roadhouse gastro-pub that serves good food. Needs to manage its staff much better.
The Lime Kiln, Julianstown, Co Meath; 041-9829001; www.thelimekiln.ie
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