Elie and The Shorehead Cafe

 

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Elie Lighthouse

Since I’ve been working like a wee Trojan this week and been doing some crazy hours I was able to take some time back this afternoon so OH and I took the dog to the East Neuk and went for a dander along Elie beach. We drove down towards the Granary and parked up so we could walk along the beach towards the lighthouse.  It turned out to be a cracking afternoon with blue skies and sunshine and Amber loved it.

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Amber

Although the outdoor seating area across from The Ship Inn had been deserted when we drove past by the time we had walked up to the Light House and along past the Lady’s Tower and back into Elie it was starting to fill up. OH took the dog and grabbed a seat overlooking the beach and I ventured in to buy some drinks. I asked for a pint of Guinness and a half lager and waited patiently for the Guinness to settle. I was then given 2 half glasses.

Oh. It was a pint of Guinness I ordered.

Oh sorry.

She tipped the half into a pint glass and topped it up with no settling time. It over flowed the glass and it was still dripping down the side when she handed it over.

Ever polite I didn’t say a word (I’m such a sap) but looked around for a napkin to wipe the glass. Seeing my obviously perplexed face she kindly ran from behind the bar and opened the door for me.

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Guinness not the Best

I picked up the sticky glass and a half and walked back outside into the sunshine.  To add to my dismay of the badly poured pint imagine my horror when I saw the glass she had given me it in!

 

Saying that, sitting in the sun supping was superb!

 

 

OH and I couldn’t decide what to do for eats so he suggested going to the Shorehead in Leven for a sit in fish supper (yes it was his turn to pay). The Shorehead is one of those places that has been around for years, In fact, I can’t remember a time it wasn’t there and Im fairly positive it’s still the same woman behind the counter as it’s always been. When we arrived we discovered it’s now called the Sorehead Cafe.2014-05-02 17.21.08-1

I had a red pudding supper – yes, I said red pudding. For all you people out there that have no idea what I’m on about you need to visit Fife and taste one to find out. For those of you who do know, The Shorehead do a damn fine one!  OH had fish and chips. We had 2 rounds of buttered bread and 2 mugs of tea and it came to £12.80.

When the plates arrived it did look the portions were a bit sparse but, with hindsight, I have to say there was exactly the right amount of chips. OH said everything was really nice but the amount of grease left on his plate was a bit ewww but he says that’s because the grease would usually be left on the paper, which you wouldn’t normally see. He’s adding he really enjoyed it and the white bread was definitely spread with butter and the batter on his fish was crispy and it was braw!

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Suppers

 

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Tí Chairbre (Carberry’s Pub), Drogheda

As we were flying home to Scotland the following day I had booked the last night of our Ireland road trip in Drogheda as it was just a 30 minute drive to the airport from there – anything to  avoid a hectic cross country drive, stressing about traffic and missed flights at silly o’clock in the morning. I happened to mention to someone on Twitter I was staying in Drogheda the night and in turn they happened to mention they knew someone that stayed there. I don’t know if you know how Twitter works but long story short I ended up following and being followed by the Drogheda resident and being invited to meet up with them when we arrived in town.

The drive across Ireland was pretty uneventful and my job (when I wasn’t navigating) was getting the exact coins ready for the road tolls. When we arrived in Drogheda we found the D Hotel by chance rather than my amazing navigation skills, which meant we had to do a quick turnaround. Parking wasn’t a problem though and we were soon checking in.

Bearing in mind we had just stayed in the 5star G Hotel and had been spoilt, I have to admit I was a bit underwhelmed by the D. The room was nice and all but style overtook comfort and I couldn’t relax the same as I had in previous hotels that week. I tried to prop myself up on the bed but then realised there were no nearby plug points so I had to perch on the end of it so I could charge my phone and access Twitter to see if my new found Drogheda Twitter Friend (DTF) still wanted to meet up. It turns out it was a yes and she suggested a pub that she swore we could get the best pint of Guinness in town. She described where it was and said she would meet us there at 9pm because it didn’t open til then. She also warned us that it was a very old pub and not to expect much.

Since it was still early we ventured out to see if could find some refreshment and found ourselves in Mc Phails on Laurence Street. It wasn’t a bad pint but we just stayed for one. I wasn’t keen on the high stools and the privacy screens which stopped us being able to join in with the locals.  I did get the impression that the bar would be better at the weekend when they had live music on the go though. A short wander and we fell into Sarsfields for our next pint. Low seats and a view of the horse racing o2014-03-27 18.03.06-1n telly was much more enjoyable. Just before every race the barman would (loud enough for me to hear) phone the bookies and place a bet on behalf of one of the punters. We then all watched the next race and supped our pints.

We ate in the Riverside Restaurant but I’m not going to tell you about the food because I really want to tell you about the rest of the night but suffice to say it filled a gap and the chicken wings on the menu made me giggle.

As 9pm approached OH hustled me  towards Tí Chairbre (Carberry’s Pub) the pub that DTF had recommended. The nearer we drew the more apprehensive we got. The street looked derelict – the pub dark and ominous. There was a thin sliver of light down the side of one of the windows so OH tried the door and much to our surprise it opened.  Like a lot of Irish bars there was another layer of doors. OH chose the one to the left which led him into a snug and emptiness. “Hello – are you open?” he called into the darkness.

“Come away in, I’m just lighting the fire” We went in and were gre2014-03-28 01.07.36eted by a woman dressed in dark clothes with long white hair. Thinking back I can’t recall seeing her feet and OH swears she hovered over to us. The room was small, cold and smelled slightly of damp. There were posters covering the walls and ceiling, all yellowing and peeling with age. There were no signs of anything modern about the place – no TV or jukebox. To be honest, I was surprised there were electric lights. The decor was strictly pre 1900s and it was obvious it hadn’t been touched since.  After giving our order of 2 pints of Guinness the woman in black lit the fire as we took seats at the bar.

“Oh, do we have company?” A distant voice called. We soon discovered the voice belonged to a woman with fiery red hair which was pinned up in an attempt to keep its wildness under control. She was also dressed in dark clothes. As soon as she was in the room she asked us what we wanted to drink.

“I’m seeing to them! They’ve already ordered.” The red haired woman was quickly dismissed as the white haired woman took over. Making conversation, I volunteered that we had been told via Twitter that we would find the best pint in Drogheda in this pub. This brought forth gasps of disbelief from both women and an admittance that they knew little of ‘the Twitter’ or anything to do with the internet. This didn’t surprise me.  I was already pretty sure Roald Dahl must have visited Tí Chairbre before and found some inspiration.

We then discovered they were sisters and the 5th generation of their family to run the pub. They had taken over the bar from their Mammy who, they pointed out, was still watching over them from her place above the fireplace – we turned and could see a colourful smiling photo of her holding a pint of Guinness. We were assured that we had come on the right night because they had music on that night. They explained that the pub can be a bit touch and go as they never know who is going to turn up but tonight they had 2 guys with guitars coming. Between bickers and Guinness pouring we were given a potted history of the pub which opened its doors in 1853. Apparently, what used to happen is that Guinness would deliver their stout to the pub who would then bottle it themselves. It was up to the publicans to label their own bottles and those labels would be designed and agreed in collaboration with Guinness so that each bottle held the name and address of the pub it was being served in. As our pints of Guinness settled we heard how Mammy had insisted that her labels would be printed in the original Irish Gaelic with traditional lettering. These labels had then been used right up until bottling your own Guinness became a thing of the past. As we took our first mouthful of the smooth black gold we were told that Mammy had kept her unused labels and would only give them to favourite customers or visitors. Today the traditional label can still be found on a t-shirt for sale behind the bar at a bargain price of €15. It didn’t take long for OH to run to the nearest ATM to buy himself a piece of history. (Don’t be silly, of course there was no card machine in the place. Come on, there wasn’t even a till just a small money box).

However, before OH did disappear to find some euros DTF arrived. It’s always odd meeting people you’ve only chatted to online and never met before but DTF bounced into the bar wearing tartan in my honour and was immediately my new best friend. Houses and fire come to mind. What a giggle we had. As DTF had been in the pub before she was able to chat away with the two sisters and they discussed all the locals and who was up to what and who was doing who.  More Guinness was ordered. The 2 guys with guitars turned up as well as one of DTF’s old teachers. Old teachers just get everywhere, don’t they? More Guinness ordered. Chatting with the two sisters, finding out more about the history of the pub and DTF meant the time flew by.

It was highlighted to me that there was only one draught pump in the place and that was the Guinness one. Everything else was in bottles and the only whiskey (notice the ‘e’) they served was Jameson’s and when Mammy was in charge she would only serve you whiskey if you could handle your Guinness and she rarely served whiskey to under 25 year olds. They also didn’t sell Alcopops or shots and DTF wasn’t allowed to smoke her E-cig in the bar. I was liking the pub more and more. They say the shorter the pipes that lead from the keg to the pump the better so I was told to look over the bar to see how long the pipes were. I could see the keg and the pump which meant the pipe must have been about 2 metres long, if that. I can confirm that it was a mighty fine pint. More Guinness was ordered. OH wanted his photo taken with Mammy and his T-shirt so he stood in front of the fireplace smiling. He informed the sisters that in future whenever he wears the t-shirt he will think of their Mammy. He was told that he was already with her in spirit as he was standing in the exact spot Mammy’s coffin had been during her wake.2014-03-27 21.36.05 DTF had arranged for her OH to pick her up before 11 (probably in case we were weird axe wielding internet murderers) but she managed to get one of the sisters to call her poetically named OH not to come until midnight. More Guinness was ordered. The music kept playing and the craic was great. DTF and I disappeared to the loos and were reminded that it was Fir for men and Mná for woman. DTF, being Irish, said of course she already knew that and then promptly went straight into the men’s! Good job I was already in the loo as I almost peed myself. (I won’t bore you with the umpteen selfies we took in those loos!)

DTF’s OH appeared and even more Guinness was ordered although he wasn’t partaking. Poor man had the patience of a saint as he put up with us and smiled throughout. Then the haunting, beautiful music finished and no more Guinness was allowed to be ordered 😦  But we were allowed Jameson’s. 🙂  Jameson’s were ordered.

Past closing time and DTF was insistent that her OH gave us a run back to our hotel, which was about a 5 minute walk away and probably took longer to drive. Honestly, by the time the sisters managed to get shot of us out their pub and we’d had our run home and we had sat in the car and blethered it was almost 2am! It was the latest we had been out all week and, by far, the best night we’d had all week.

If you like Guinness make sure you visit Tí Chairbre (Carberry’s Pub), 11 North Strand, Drogheda. I’ve already told you not to be silly  – of course they don’t have a webpage (but you can search for them on FB as their nephew keeps a page there for them) .

Saying that I wouldn’t be surprised if I returned and the pub just wasn’t there. All night it felt surreal. Brig O Doon and Midnight in Paris were mentioned a few times and even the sisters (who refused to be photographed) said they weren’t real and were just figments of our imagination…

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.