The Copper Hen, Fenor, Co Waterford; Tel: 051-330300; thecopperhen.ie
SUNDAY LUNCH isn’t just an institution in Irish homes. It’s an excuse to take the family out to hotels and restaurants at a time when kids aren’t viewed as evil spirits, a chance to indulge in great steaming lumps of roast beef, chicken, pork and lamb hauled from slow-braising ovens.
It’s dinner in the middle of the day, with added convenience and fanciness. You can queue up at carveries or savour set menus at posh hotels. At The Exchequer gastro-pub in Dublin, you can even pre-order a full roast chicken or rack of pork for your table — carving it yourself and dishing out the stuffing, spuds and vegetables without having to worry about the washing-up.
It was in this spirit that we recently called into The Copper Hen. I was exploring Waterford’s Copper Coast with the kids, and expecting serious adventurers’ appetites by lunchtime.
Set above McHugh’s pub in Fenor village, we found a confident little loft space, with lots of light, white leather chairs, wooden floorboards and a mosaic-tiled fireplace whose free-flowing form and colour remind me of Gaudi — a splash of Catalonia on the Copper Coast.
We were welcomed by friendly staff with unforced smiles, and shown to a table by a window overlooking the road outside, with an old hand-pump in the hedgerow. Families of all vintages were dotted about — always a comfort when your two-year-old is intent on wearing his lasagne, lunging for your cutlery and laughing like a chimp. High chairs were also available.
The menu arrived attached to a wooden clipboard, with a choice of several starters, including homemade mushroom soup with fresh breads, a breaded tiger prawn salad and chicken liver parfait with toasted foccacia. We ordered some brown bread to stave off crankiness, and deep-fried brie with mixed leaves and chilli jam to share — priced reasonably at €6.50.
The brie was a mixed bag. Served as one long piece, the breadcrumb coating was very dry, and the cheese had failed to melt in the middle — which kind of defeats the purpose. The leaves were excellent, however, snap-fresh and sharply dressed, complementing the brie’s gooey roundness.
For mains, you could choose between dishes like free-range chicken roasted with garlic and sage, fresh cod scampi, homemade free-range pork sausages with champ potatoes and onion gravy, or a pan-fried fillet of salmon on ratatouille. I went for a roast vegetable lasagne and chips for the kids, and a twice-cooked belly of Pinegrove farm pork for myself.
No main course on the menu cost more than €10.95, a considerable achievement given the care gone into the operation. All came with potatoes and vegetables, too — I got a bowl of thickly cut carrots, a clump of cauliflower and a large roast potato with my pork. They could have done with some butter and seasoning, I would have thought, but were certainly well-cooked.
The kids devoured their lasagne — testament both to an active morning along the Waterford coastline, and to soft pasta layered between flavoursome courgettes, aubergines and tomatoes. The shoestring fries disappeared too, thanks in no small part to my own thieving fingers.
My pork arrived as two bits of belly on a bed of boulangère potatoes, surrounded by a glistening pool of sage gravy. I liked the light, sweet jus, which hadn’t been reduced to a syrup, and the pork proved tender, if not quite melt-in-the-mouth. Solid value at €10.50.
We finished off with three spoons and a brownie — beautifully presented under a scoop of homemade ice-cream, a pool of chocolate sauce, a sprig of mint and a snowstorm of powdered sugar. A very nutty brownie, but it vanished in seconds.
There are no baby-changing facilities at the Copper Hen, which should be addressed, given the number of families in the place. Other than that, we left for Fenor’s playground with full bellies, a friendly wave from the staff, and a very manageable bill. A Sunday lunch success.
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