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Restaurant Review - Summer Dining

Restaurant Review - Summer Dining

Monday 23 July 2012

There’s a very thin line in this country between ‘Al Fresco’ dining and what is basically the strung together Smoking Area.  Scant effort goes into providing real designated outdoor dining options in comparison to the Continent, and I refer particularly to England, or the North of France, where it is not always that warm.   I love sitting in places like Cancale and Saint Malo on covered decks, which abound all over the place and can’t be that expensive to construct.  I was reflecting on this whilst breakfasting one Sunday morning recently on the fantastic enormous terraces of the Martello Hotel on Bray seafront, where we had been enticed by friends who are regulars there.  I had Eggs Benedict with Butler’s Organic eggs and Serrano ham (€7.95) whilst Sir had the Full Irish (€8.95) - which prices even included tea or coffee.  It was a lovely interlude sitting looking out to sea, with Bray Head on our right, and a colourful extravaganza of nationalities and walks of life promenading by.  From great big communion dresses to colourful saris, they were all there.

I didn’t have to be enticed to hard when I heard of the Martello’s sister operation, the Ocean Bar & Grill, also on the seafront with a smaller terrace.  It again proved cracking value in contemporary club style surroundings with leather banquettes, bare brick walls, and subtle chic colours, which would be at home in Kensington or Ranelagh.  It bills itself as casual dining so we were surprised, nay delighted, to find good French bistro stalwarts such as Lamb Kidney Dijonnaise with shallots in a Brandy and wholegrain Dijon mustard sauce, whilst Seabream was on Bok Choy and bean sprouts with a beetroot beurre blanc sauce.  Casual dining it may be but the divil was in the detail with various tweaks such as apricot stuffing with Diane sauce, fondant potato, lemon crème fraiche, et al.  Someone knows their onions here!  

Now, the best bit!  The menu offered 2 courses at €20 and 3 courses at €22.95 – tea or coffee included – with supplements on 8oz Sirloins, 14oz T-bones and 10oz rib-eye steaks.  I kicked off with succulent pan-fried quail on dressed rocket with crushed hazelnuts and chorizo, whilst Sir had a brace of baked goats cheese fritters with sundried tomato, black olive and basil, which he demolished.   I had a superb juicy 10oz rib eye steak (€5 sup) cooked medium rare as requested, sitting on sauté mushrooms and onions, with bowl of cracking chunky fries, a dish of garlic butter – absolutely ace.   Sir had an equally excellent large 8oz sirloin steak (€3.95 sup), which also came with the great fries and a Brandy and Peppercorn sauce.  As if we hadn’t enough we were also brought dishes of mash potato and mixed roasted vegetables – peppers, red onions, carrots, courgettes…    Sir passed on puds but I couldn’t resist a big contemporary sundae glass of luscious Mango & Passionfruit Eton Mess with Bourbon biscuits!  An Irish Cheese Board was also available at €7.95 with Soft Gubbeen, Ardrahan, Carrigbyrne and St. Kilian cheeses, served with grapes, crackers and mango chutney.   Wines were equally well priced from €17.20 and, with a bottle of McLaren Vale The Stump Jump Shiraz 2010 (€20) and optional service our bill came to €79.90.   By the way, they also had delicious breads just out of the oven and the staff were delightful.   They do a 2-course lunch menu at €14.95 and breakfast Saturdays and Sundays 8 am – 12 pm with the Full Irish at €7.95.

Seapoint in Monkstown is a chichi spot, with an airy glass front section overlooking their outdoor area cum entrance courtyard.  Cocooned by granite walls, heaters, candles, canopy and rugs, it is a perfect for an aperitif, pud and digestif, and where I had my currently favourite Seapoint Sidecar cocktail (€9.50) – Calvados, St. Germain elderflower, and fresh squeezed lemon, whilst Sir had a Jameson (€4.75).  It is now Seapoint Fish & Grill with new hip décor, lower price options, and you can also now get a great burger or fish and fries to take out – handy on occasion.  I kicked off with panseared scallops (€12.50) on minted pea puree with pea shoots, and a ‘hat’ of crispy pancetta – also available as a mains with fries at €25.50.   Sir had summery Mediterranean style grilled sardines  (€7.50) on bruschetta with tomato relish and drizzled with pesto.  I followed up with roasted lamb fillet (€24) cut in fingers, pink and tender, and which had a delicious flavour.  I like the Middle Eastern twist on lamb here in the form of a quenelle of Baba Ganoush, a puree of Aubergine flesh generally mixed with tahini, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice, and you also get silky mash potato as well.  Sir followed on the fishy theme with Fish ‘n Fries (€17.50), an excellent trio of breaded plaice fillets with Tartare sauce, and fries.  We also had a side of French Beans (€3.50) with chilli and garlic.  We shared a lovely little Lemon Tart (€6.50) and with an Americano (€3.25), a bottle of Alsace Jacques Iltis Pinot Blanc 2011 (€29) and optional service our bill came to €129.50.