IF Percy French’s venerable sparring partners Abdul Abulbul Amir and Ivan Skavinsky Skavar still get together for a Christmas jaw-wag, to talk about old, old times when men were men, “when that son of the desert, in battle aroused, could spit 20 men on his spear”, it’s hard to think that those noble cuirassiers would go anywhere other than a proper, belt-stretching steakhouse.
It is hard, at least culturally, to imagine that the lads who might “... encourage the van, Or harass the foe from the rear, Storm fort or redoubt ...” would not want to discuss sword play, musketry or what kind of horse makes the bravest, steadiest charger while enjoying loafs of very red, red meat preceded by starters that would do ordinary fellas as a dinner, surrounded by enough vegetable matter to prime a biomass energy plant all washed down by an entirely robust if unpretentious Rioja (Marques de Riscal, Ardo, €25.50) well capable of doing its duty. And then dessert. And then songs. And then, well, to the victor the spoils.
Abdul and Ivan would enjoy the kind of high-impact, high-protein comfort food that the equally noble if far less violent Mrs Jorgensen, the stoical and wise mother figure in John Ford’s The Searchers, used to turn ordinary mortals into Texicans.
And despite our new understanding of the impact the mass production of meat has on our planet, and despite the impact our ever-growing familiarity with processed meats has on our health, it is very hard to think that meat might lose its central place in the diet of a culture that produced An Táin Bó Cúailinge so many thousands of years ago.
If Abdul and Ivan, or if any of those hard-bitten Texas Rangers Mrs Jorgensen fed with flag stones of long-horn beef, find themselves in Cork this Christmas then they have a relatively new destination to consider. The Steakhouse in Kinsale, and what a wonderfully confident assertion that definite article is in such a strong foodie town, is more than capable of sating the most enthusiastic steak aficionado, even a hungry Texican one.
Run by Alistair and Gwen Lanigan-O’Keeffe, in the building that was once home to Jola’s and on the street that’s home to more good eating houses than nearly any in the country, it celebrates the steakhouse ethos wonderfully. Though the menu has options for partners and friends who might not agonise over the choice between a rib-eye and a piece of 28-day dried fillet it is, naturally enough, primarily beef-focused.
DW opened with what was described as sautéed mushrooms with garlic, cumin, paprika and chorizo, finished with fresh cream and served with toasted crostini. She got a wonderful creamy bowl of mushrooms and chorizo that would have done her, and many other non-Texas Rangers, as a main course. It was really rich and full of flavour and flew through the must-make-it-at-home test. At the risk of making this the Larry Goodman Column I chose baby back Irish pork ribs; the ribs were generous and well cooked but the glaze was as sharp, too sharp really, as the spear needed to spit 20 men; the only, small off-note of the evening.
The Steakhouse offers six basic steak options (€25.95 to €35.00 with supplements if you want to add the surf bit) and even though there were feathered and finned alternatives, it seemed silly not to; when in Texas do what the Texicans do and all that.
We both had fillet steaks, one medium and one rare all accompanied by enough vegetables, salads, potatoes and chips to satisfy the wedding party that never was in The Searchers. Even if Larry Goodman was writing this column he would not have to do anything other than tell the truth about those steaks. They were really wonderful and, undoubtedly unlike Abdul and Ivan, we were unable to finish them. If this medium was more interactive you’d hear tears falling on the keyboard because of that never-before admission.
Dessert, singular, was more a matter of determination than appetite and it was a lovely berry and sugar foil to the beef fest that preceded it. It may be some time before I ask for steak in a restaurant again not because I don’t like it but I suspect I’d find it hard enough to get one more enjoyable than those served by the Lanigan-O’Keeffes.
Ivan for the first song ...
Dinner for two with wine (€25.50) came to €101.40, tip extra)
Wednesday to Saturday, 6pm to 10pm
Sunday, 1pm to 4pm, prime roast beef.
The Steakhouse, 18/19 Lower O’Connell Street, Kinsale, Co Cork; tel: 021-4709850, www.thesteakhouse.ie
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