Anomaly of a meal

EACH of us is a walking, talking set of definitions, opinions, biases, proclivities and habits, some good, others maybe regrettable.

Some of these characteristics are formed by learning the odd trick as we nibble our way through life’s tasting menu. Sadly, many beliefs are unquestioningly inherited.

Still more are manifestations of the unworthy ambitions evolution brings. Still more of us are blinded by the weight of the triple-cooked chips on our shoulders.

Some of us make our living sharing/imposing/airing/venturing/chancing these opinions but for all that public angst they’re just another declaration of someone’s tastes.

And speaking of angst, Brendan Behan’s razor-sharp if not clinically proven riposte is still the best — “There’s no amount of angst that wouldn’t be cured by a ball of ten-pound notes.” Unsurpassable counselling.

These sorting mechanisms help us answer life’s big questions — is Riverdance art or entertainment? Is it just a Las Vegas hoofers’ extravaganza sprinkled with emerald stardust or our Bolshoi?

Is Andrea Bocelli a great tenor or a Eurotrash crooner dipping his toe into the classical repertoire?

And, almost most importantly of all, how overweight (OK, obese) do you have to be to really believe there is a substitute for butter in cooking?

Does any of this help with the business in hand? Well yes, but first is Poacher’s a bar with food or a restaurant with a bar?

This is a recurring dilemma as so many bars have morphed to O’Gastropubs. Once a pint of plain was yer only man, now a plate of something not-so-plain is the survival strategy. Poacher’s, run by Barry and Catherine McLaughlin, may be a bit of both but the weight seems to fall on the side of the restaurant argument, so that means a slightly higher bar.

In any event, and despite the is-it-a-bar-or-is-it-a-snack angst, we had an enjoyable if not flawless meal. Starters were chowder and tempura prawns and dipping sauce for DW, which were exactly as described on the menu.

My chowder was really rich, full of good ingredients, but overpowered by star anise which seemed to make everything else in the bowl subservient. A pity and a stumble at the first hurdle.

DW’s main course was a plate of seafood tapas and it reflected the €11.95 price tag — bits of fish, a tasty mouthful of prawn bisque and a lot of leaves — though the terribly limp calamari could not be revived even by the dollop of sweet chilli sauce. A pity, even at this price level. Maybe a missed step if not a stumble.

My main course was roast hake and a supporting cast of thousands. Despite the obvious effort it was an unbalanced, poor plate and would benefit tremendously if simplified. More a Tower of Bable than a focused, structured dish. One element drowned the other.

There was bed of cabbage, a round of undercooked potato, a playing card-size wedge of highly-aromatic belly of pork, three marbles of a sauce related to the infamous thousand island dressing but nothing as beguiling as the balsamic, lemon and buerre blanc promised.

There was no shortage of kitchen skill or good ingredients, just a cacophony where a bit of calm would have been much better.

DW’s dessert was the highlight of her meal. Enslaved by chocolate and duty there was really no choice once she saw chocolate tapas on the menu. A combination of white and dark chocolates, mousses and tarts, it was wonderful.

My choice may have seemed more mundane but was as enjoyable — plain ice cream — though, why do we call vanilla, that most subtle and beautiful taste, plain? — with a butterscotch sauce. Sweet and cold, reliable and lovely.

The wine was Pouilly-Fumé Les Champs de Cri and at €27 it was grand.

We visited on week night and the upstairs dining area was closed.

The meal was not as good as it might be but there were more than enough of indications that it could be.


Lifestyle

Frits Potgieter is General Manager with Muckross Park Hotel and Spa.You've Been Served: Frits Potgieter, Muckross Park Hotel and Spa

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