Gallaghers Boxty House, Temple Bar, Dublin

Last week Lusa flew over from the states to help me celebrate my upcoming big birthday (it isn’t until the 9th  – but if you want you can send wine at any time). We decided to push the boat out and fly over to Dublin for the weekend as I love it and Lusa has never been before.

Every time I have been in the land of Guinness I have dined at Gallagher’s Boxty House in the Temple Bar area of Dublin and it has never disappointed. I, therefore, booked online well in advance as I knew it would be busy.

When we arrived we were immediately shown to our table in the window where Lusa was able to keep an eye on all the wacky Halloween costumes that were staggering past. The T-rex was my favourite.

We were given 2 menus – the early bird one and the regular one. Wine order taken we  concentrated on the menus.

mdeWe both ordered the Seafood Chowder Fresh & Smoked Fish in a Potato & Fennel Broth, served with Jack Smyth Stout & Treacle Bread. This was a big hit with Lusa, later in the weekend she said it was one of the best things she had eaten all weekend. I wasn’t so keen on the carrots in it but that’s just me being picky. The bread was, heavy, thick and dark just as you’d expect from  ingredients such as treacle and stout.

For her main Lusa ordered the Vegetable Chilli Boxty (V) Vegetarian Chilli with Mixed Beans and Irish Cheddar, wrapped in a Boxty Pancake and topped with Chive Sour Cream. For the uninitiated a boxty is grated raw potato, cooked mash and flour, kneaded with pure Irish butter and is either baked, slow cooked or boiled.

mde

When her meal arrived Lusa had to recheck the menu to ensure she wasn’t eating meat as it tasted so much like normal chilli. Lusa prefers her meals not to look like replica meat but she enjoyed the chilli nonetheless.

mdeI had the Chicken & Smoked Bacon Boxty (ng) Free-range Irish Chicken Fillet in a Creamy Smoked Bacon & Leek Sauce, wrapped in a traditional Leitrim Boxty Pancake.  This was rich, creamy and yummy with big lumps of chicken, crunchy leek and small pieces of bacon in it.  Sadly, it was so filling I had to leave some – probably something to do with eating all the bread with the chowder.

Dessert menus appeared and we decided on liqueur coffees instead of puddings. My Irish coffee with Teeling Whiskey hit the spot and Lusa was enjoying her Baileys coffee when suddenly we were asked to leave as they needed the table. ptrThis surprised us as no-one had told us that there was a time limit on our table. The waiter told us we would have been told when we arrived. Nope, we weren’t. Plus you didn’t tell us when you brought the coffee that we would need to rush them. I even re-checked my confirmation email for a warning – nada.

I nipped to the toilet and returned to find Lusa speaking to the floor manager who was explaining their policy to her. Lusa pointed out as it was their policy that they needed to be managing it better and not surprising it onto customers, she also added that asking people to leave mid meal was plain rude. The response was a verbal shrug. If we had been told at the start it would have made a huge difference so instead and unfortunately, we left with a bad taste in our mouths, which was definitely not from the fabulous food or the beautiful but quickly downed Irish Coffee.

2 Early Bird menus, 1 liqueur coffee, 1 bottle of wine = €74.50 (my Irish coffee wasn’t on the bill and I am hoping this was because I’m a regular – well, 4 times in 6 years 😉 )

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Dublin and on to Cork

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So having just been at Boxty’s and enjoying a lovely brunch with lush Irish Coffees we headed towards Merrion Square to see all the paintings that artists hang on the railings every Sunday from 10am til 6.30pm. It’s a great way to pass some time on a Sunday – especially when you need to walk off a full Irish breakfast! However, before we managed to get to the square, OH needed the loo so we had to find a pub quite quickly. Funny how he never needs the loo when there aren’t any pubs in sight. Oh wait a minute. He does. I take that back – I just remembered how many country lanes I’ve had to find at short notice when I’m driving! Anyway, on the same side of the road as we were walking I could see a pub called Foley’s. Another traditional Irish bar I thought. Perfect I thought. Disappointed I was.

We were greeted at the door by a Chinese waitress. I said we were just in for drinks and she pointed towards high stools at the window. The place was deserted other than a family in the corner having lunch. OH went to the loo and I ordered drinks from a different Chinese woman (perhaps her sister). Thankfully it was just a loo stop as I didn’t want to stay any longer in the unwelcoming pub.  I have to say, it was the worst one we were in during our entire trip (and we were in some weird and wonderful ones!) so we hurried our drinks, made our excuses and left. 2014-03-23 15.02.13-1

From there we wandered around the square enjoying the artist’s work and commenting all the different multi-coloured doorways that surround the square. After admiring the art we retraced our steps and found O’Donoghues which, considering it was right across the road from Foley’s, was jumping!  Apparently The Dubliners used to play here (their pics were everywhere).  We struggled to get a seat as they had live music on but managed eventually. From what I could see it was a number of different people that had just turned up with their instrument or voice for a bit of a jam session. They all politely took turns. Sometimes someone would join in and accompany the singer; at other times it was just one beautiful voice that could be heard. The atmosphere was everything you wanted in an Irish bar.

2014-03-23 15.03.26After a while we decided to head back to the hotel to put our feet up for a wee while. Now I’m not sure if OH really
does always need a loo stop or if it’s just an excuse for another pint but regardless, we soon found ourselves in Flannery’s of Camden Street…

…eventually back at the hotel I was allowed to put my feet up but then it was time to freshen up as OH wanted to go back out again. We made it as far as the The Bleeding Horse (yes the pub next door if you remember yesterday’s adventures). The bar was full of good looking Spanish people watching the Real Madrid v Barcelona match so again the bar had a great atmosphere. We also met a wee Irish man who chatted away grand style and gave us tips where to stop off for something to eat on our way to Cork. It wasn’t until we looked at the map the following morning that we realised where he was recommending was heading west on the2014-03-23 14.58.50-1 way to Galway!  Not sure if he was being stereo-typically Irish or thinking we were daft Scots that would just follow his directions 🙂

Obviously we didn’t follow his route but picked up the hire car and headed south towards the 2nd biggest city in the state instead. We arrived in Cork and without too many wrong turns found the Clarion Hotel and parked beneath it.   As we made our way to our room we were astounded by the large golden balls 2014-03-24 15.29.27hanging from the ceiling over the foyer which looked amazing. However, when we got to our room we soon realised that our view was of the balls rather than a view of the river. It’s funny how quickly you miss seeing what the weather is like when you don’t have an outside view. The room was air conditioned but I also  know now that I’d rather be able to open a window than twist a knob or press a button.  Apart from that the room was great – it even had free biscuits!!

It wasn’t long before we were out and exploring the city centre, which is located between two channels of the River Lee, which kind of means it’s on an island. The 2 busy streets were St Patricks Street, which is the main shopping thoroughfare and Oliver Plunkett Street, which is full of places to eat as well as shops.

Before arriving in Cork I had looked up different pubs and restaurants in the area and one that had caught my eye was Arthur Maynes because it looked so intriguing. The building is a 120 year old pharmacy turned into a wine bar.  I hadn’t noted down the address but we managed to find it before we enjoyed too many other Cork bars ;p 2014-03-24 17.06.33

When we walked in through the front door we couldn’t believe it. It was like walking into a chemist’s shop rather than a restaurant or bar. Saying that, we were greeted warmly and asked if we wanted a table. We were offered the chance to chose our seats so opted for a candle lit room with only a few other tables. The menu was rich and varied and offered a list of dishes a2014-03-24 17.18.03s well as risotto and mussels of the day. OH decided to go for the king prawn risotto (he checked to make sure they were already shelled before ordering) and I went fo2014-03-24 17.18.17r fresh market mussels in a black pudding broth served with soda bread.

The surroundings, the atmosphere, the candle light, the service and the wine were all perfect. There were 2 woman sitting at a nearby table speaking French which also added to the unique ambiance. OH says the risotto he had was the best risotto he had ever had and now wants to eat more risotto. My mussels were good – 3 or 4 I couldn’t open so left and there was no doubting that it was in a black pudding broth. However, it was too rich for me and although I really enjoyed it, the broth didn’t like me so much.

2014-03-24 18.08.39 2014-03-24 18.08.59This is probably the wrong time to mention it but the toilets were amazing! I just had to take pics to show you the display cabinet and sink. It was like going back in time. Or going for a wazz in a museum exhibit by mistake ;p Gawd I hope they were usable toilets!

Even the outside bit was great. Smokers get treated so well in Ireland! Between Mayne’s  and the pub next door was a heated seating area where all the addicted people sat. Honestly, it makes you want to join them. There was even an old fashioned photo booth. No gimmicky pics taken with One Direction or crap like that. Just black and white pics like the good old days.2014-03-24 17.08.572014-03-24 17.08.45

OH and I had to get our photos  taken and when we showed mini-me she said, “Awww you look like 2 teenagers in love”.





Dublin = Guinness

Our Ryanair flight dumped us into Dublin after midday on Saturday 22nd March all set for a week in Ireland. 2 nights in Dublin, 2 in Cork, a night in Galway and another in Drogheda. In the past I’ve either grabbed a taxi into town (expensive – €20) or hopped on the airlink bus (reasonable – €6) but this time I’d done some research and the No.16 would get us into the city centre (cheap as chips – €2.60) and there’s free wifi on the double decker!

We got off the bus on McConnell Street and headed straight  over to the bridge to what I knew as Messers but is now called JW Sweetmans . With our luggage at our feet we ordered the first 2 Guinness’s of our Irish holiday. ImageEveryone says that Guinness in Ireland tastes totally different and I can testify this is most definitely the case. It’s creamier, has more body and goes down smoothly with no bitter aftertaste. ImageIt wasn’t long before my pint glass was empty and my smile was wide.
It would have been really easy staying put and having another but OH was keen to check into our hotel and get rid of our bags. Our hotel was The Camden Court Hotel which is about a 10 minute walk from St Stephen’s Green. The street the hotel is situated on is full of quirky shops and interesting looking restaurants. I’m guessing the normal Dublin tourist wouldn’t know about this street’s existence as it is a little off the beaten track but it deserves a wander up just to see the less touristy side of Dublin.

The hotel room was lovely and had everything that you’d expect but there was no free biccys. I do like a wee biscuit with a cup of  coffee from a sachet when I first arrive at a hotel but sadly complimentary biscuits seem to be a thing of the past nowadays.

Peckish and travel weary we decided not to go far but to try the pub next door for something to eat. The Bleeding Horse is a traditional Irish pub – lots of wood, levels and hidden cubby holes. We sat in the corner with a view of the footy and ordered lunch. Although I do, OH doesn’t like Italian’s  (the restaurants not the people – he likes them, especially Sophia Loren types) so I rarely get to eat pizza. Therefore, when I saw there was a choice of pizzas on offer and there was actually one that if I were to pick all my favourite toppings it would be it – I think it was called the Odds On – there was no further menu scrutiny required. OH chose a burger with smoked bacon and cheese which arrived on a block of wood with big fat chips, side salad and relish. OH rated it highly and the thought of it being made from a bleeding horse didn’t enter his mind at all. My pizza was great although I shouldn’t have chose the Oregano oil as unfortunately,  I was reminded of it for the rest of the night :S

Obviously, being in Dublin, the rest of the night pretty much consisted of drinking Guinness in different Irish bars. The next one was The Swan. The building is steeped in history and featured in the Rebellion as a signalling post, was centrally located in The War of Independence and was occupied during the Civil War. OH asked for dark rum in here and was given something that smelt like it should be rubbed on a bleeding horse. Bleurgh. The bar man saw my face when I sneaked a taste and told me the rum was called Sea Dog. I’m not joking; you’d have to be at sea for a lengthy period of time to think this minging, medicinal liquid was worth a swig.

Off on our travels again and we headed to The Hairy Lemon where many scenes from the film The Commitments were shot. Comfy, old leather chesterfield chairs were our home for the next couple of rounds before we decided to go to the The Old Storehouse in the Temple Bar area where we found a packed house and music on offer. The tourists were demanding the band sang Galway Girl and they weren’t disappointed when the singer broke into it almost immediately. I think it was really to get the girl with the black hair and blue eyes out of the way so they could proceed to sing what they really wanted to sing. In that situation, I ask you friend, what’s a fella to do?

 

The next morning the plan was to have brunch in Gallagher’s Boxty House. I’ve been a few times before and I’ve always had a great time so I wanted to make sure we could fit in a visit. I’ve found in Boxty’s that the waiters are charming (good looking and flirty – just what you want from young Irish guys), the food is lovely and the overall feeling of the place always seems to be warm, welcoming, friendly and that nothing is any trouble at all. You can tell I love this place huh?

Boxty’s opens at 11am on Sunday mornings and we were hovering outside waiting for the minutes to tick by. On this visit there was a lovely waitress who ushered us in and quickly made us feel at home.  We were looking over the menu and I was trying to decide if I should have wine with my meal as it was still early. I asked the waitress if I should or not and she pointed out that I was on my holidays and if you don’t have wine with every meal on your holiday then you’re not doing it right. That was it settled so she started writing down a glass of wine. No, I said, a bottle. The look on her face was brilliant.

I’ve waxed lyrical about their bacon and cabbage boxty to OH on numerous occasions (Boxty is a traditional Irish potato pancake) so he pretty much had to try it (there was no pressure really ;p)2014-03-23 11.42.16 and I plumped for the full Irish breakfast since it was my first opportunity to have one.

OH enjoyed his boxty and loved the flavour and texture mix. He did say it was a little bit too creamy for him but if there had been a pattern on the plate he scraped every sign of that off his plate too! My breakfast was spot on and everything you’d want from a breakfast the morning after a day on the Guinness. 2014-03-23 11.42.31 The wine went down a treat too.

As is my want, I tweeted about my meal telling the Twitter world how good it was. Not long after, I noticed that whoever was behind Gallacher’s Boxty House twitter account had favourited my tweet. As I was waiting for the waitress to appear so I could order some Irish coffees, I tweeted back saying “Never mind favouriting my tweet where’s my Irish Coffee?  We then had a bit of banter back and forth.  Ahh wait, I should say we had a bit of craic over the twitter airwaves. See, a week in the Emerald Isle and I’m almost fluent! This just added to my Boxty House experience. The Irish coffees were ordered, irish coffee they arrived and they were drank with relish. I was already sitting with a warm glow when the waiter arrived with the bill and explained that the owner had taken care of the coffees. I couldn’t believe it. What an absolutely lovely thing to do (it’s every Scot’s dream getting free drink ;p)  as if I didn’t already love the place! It also shows the power of Twitter.

So the moral of this story is that if you ever visit Dublin you have to make sure a visit to Boxty’s is on your list! (and yes it’s because I think I might get an Irish Coffee for every single one of you that visit Boxty’s on my recommendation ;p)

 

To be continued.