The Pepperstack Bistro at Rosie’s Bar in Lower Aghada, Co Cork is a bistro like Paul O’Connell is a rugby player, like Graham Norton is an entertainer.
It, and they, fit the bill and more than match the expectations around their promise.
So much so that it may be timely, or at least as good a time as any, to propose to whichever quango — there’s bound to be at least four, each serviced by superannuated translators — responsible for anointing the new words needed to sustain a minority language like Irish, that bistros shake off the the feyness of their French roots. I suggest they become more Irish than the full Irish breakfast and be given a new, more robust name, to recognise this entirely welcome cultural imperialism.
May this column be so bold as to suggest bisthró, an altogether more accurate guttural representation of the kind of food offered in good Irish eating houses standing a notch or two above good pub food but more than happy to operate in the layers below the formality of a silver-service restaurant?
Our new word — one we are happy to gift grant-free to our national language in recognition of The Very Big Centenary not so very far away — seems, to me at least, a serviceable example of onomatopoeic osmosis. So bisthró it is then? Would Tomás de Bhaldraithe nua approve? Or would the committee split, like one of those five-pillar but deceptively-complicated French sauces?
Like so many imported Irish words it is after all not too taxing on the old grey matter, but rather — like raídio for radio —more a convenient colouring than a conception; a remodelling caress rather than a ground-up reconstruction.
If Martin and Imelda Budden’s Pepperstack is regularly as busy as it was on the evening we — DW as ever — visited, it may need to consider reconstruction to cope with demand. It was by far the busiest restaurant — or bisthró, it rolls off the teanga after a while don’t you think? — we visited in a very long time.
The crowds, people of all ages and permutations, would be the envy of all but the very busiest restaurateurs (bisthroí?)
It may have had something to do with the industry gong very recently awarded to Pepperstack at Rosie’s — the Munster Bar of the Year for 2014 — or maybe it’s as simple as the fact that East Cork may have yet another fine eating house.
Young couple, three generations of several families, workmates bitching about their colleagues behind their backs, and, if this is not a Maeve Binchy assumption too far, single adults taking children out for a meal on the pretence of giving them a treat but with their eye on an entirely different prize.
Needless to say DW and I, as founder members of a settled couple’s association, concentrated on the food.
DW began with a salad of duck breast and it was a lovely dish — earthy, pink flesh and crispy leaves all set off by the tactile interruption of a few nuts and raisins. A lovely expression of how simplicity can become complex and then be made simple again by a set of well-balance flavours.
My starter, tuna seared with pepper, green tea leaves and served with beetroot, hinted at a restaurant trapped in the body of a bisthró. It was far too good for anything that could fairly be described as pub food and, like Paulie and Graham, it suggested a certain optimism might be justified.
For her main course DW had roast guinea fowl, a bird of perfect proportions endowed with flesh that can wear many dressings with the aplomb of a beautiful film star with nothing left to prove. And so it proved, a nicely cooked bird moist and delicate on the teanga, complimented rather than compromised by a rich, fruity sauce. Another restaurant dish trapped in a you - know - what. My main course was a concession to appetite where maybe I should have been more curious.
I had a bog-standard t-bone steak and it was entire serviceable. Nothing spectacular but then that’s the core message of this beef chop — like Paulie, it’s reliable.
Desserts brought one of life’s great questions back into play — what’s the difference between Pavlova and meringue? The issue might not provoke a DEFCON 1 alert at the nearby Haulbowline navy base but the debate, calm and considered as ever, helped bring a very pleasant meal to a close.
Dinner for two three course with two and a half pints of beer, came to €87.45
Food: 7/10 Service: 9/10 Value: 8/10 Atmosphere: 9/10
Tuesday and Wednesday – 5 to 8:30pm, Thursday – 12:30 to 8:30pm, Friday and Saturday 12:30 to 8:30pm Sunday – 12:30 to 7pm.
Various offers on various days.
The Pepperstack Bistro @ Rosie’s Bar,
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