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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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…

Father Ted’s and the G Hotel

Next stop Father Ted’s house!

Father Ted's House

I had found some directions on the net but they weren’t that easy to follow – OH and I took a couple of wrong turns so hopefully if you follow these directions you will have more success than I did with the ones I followed. Just remember these are back roads and you will be convinced you are on the wrong road but keep the faith.

Father Ted’s House from Limerick

Father Ted’s House is about 1 hour’s drive from Limerick.

  • From Limerick follow signs to Galway and the N18. Stay on the N18.
  • Continue onto the M18.
  • At Junction 14 take the R458 exit to Inis/​Ennis/​Gort Lomán/​Barefield
  • At Barefield Roundabout, take the 2nd exit
  • The junction is very slightly staggered but you want to head straight on (keeping the pub on your left) which is heading towards Toormore. Drive for approx 6.5 km
  • During that 6.5km you will come to an unsignposted junction – bear to the right.
  • At Ruan, turn right (past the telephone box) and drive for 500m. Turn right, then left again – it’s another slightly staggered junction but you’re basically going straight on.
  • Continue on this road until you come to a definite crossroads. You’re going straight on. There is a signpost pointing you towards a fishery. This is the road you want.
  • By this point you will be convinced you’re on the wrong road because it’s single track and looks like it leads to nowhere. You’re fine – continue on this road until you come to a definite T-junction. You will immediately recognise that this is a more main road (there’s lines but the only signpost is a give way) Turn right onto the R460, then take the first left (past the houses). Follow the road round (there’s a bit that looks like a Y junction – stick to the road and bear left).
  • Continue straight on until you come to another definite junction. Again no signpost but there is a give way one.Tom Turn right. Stay on this road. You will pass a parking lay-by on your right with an information board about the landscape. Now you will definitely know you’re on the right road.
  • Father Ted’s House is on this road on your left so just drive.  Go on, go on, go on.

When we arrived this nutter was sitting on the wall showing us where the house was – you might not be so lucky.

After many Kodak moments we headed up to Galway.

As it was our anniversary I had booked us into The G Hotel, a lovely 5 star hotel. Just as you drive into Galway it appears on your right as your drive down the dual carriageway, an impressive modern building oddly sited in the middle of a retail park. I have to admit I had expected it to be on its own, perhaps with its own grounds. It just goes to show the benefit of hiring good photographers to do your PR. Saying that, once you are in the building you quickly forget where you are as you are surrounded by plushness, sparkles and baubles. An eye catching marine fish tank replaces one of the walls in reception and boasts, amongst many other things, 2 pairs of seahorses. I was enchanted watching the couples interlock their tails and gad about together.2014-03-26 15.59.58

I couldn’t contain my smile when the receptionist very kindly informed us that we had been upgraded to a deluxe room. I had requested on my booking form that I would like a quiet room for an anniversary celebration. Whether this had any bearing on the upgrade I don’t know but when we got to our deluxe room there were 4 (very rich) dark chocolates and 2 white cupcakes. There was also a lovely little card wishing as a happy celebration. It’s thoughtful, little touches like this that really makes a difference to a hotel. The room was genuinely comfortable and had everything you could need. Well, everything except an iron and as I hadn’t mentioned to OH that we were staying in the G he hadn’t really brought anything dressy and the one thing he did have that was suitable was a bit creased.  However, a steamy walk-in shower soon put that to right and after a couple of glasses of wine we headed down to dinner.

We sat at the window with a view of Lough Atalia and ordered a bottle of Rioja. The menu was varied enough to suit everyone but didn’t have too much to overwhelm you either. OH went for the G Caesar Salad – poached chicken, air dried ham crips, shaved parmesan, croutons and creamy dressing. I had the roast carrot and rosemary velouté with roasted garlic cream.  The soup was amazing and had depth and layers of taste. I’m not a fan of rosemary but it was a delicate flavour and it did add to it in a positive way. OH’s salad looked filling but it didn’t last long in front of him.

2014-03-26 18.43.15For my next course I had butter basted fillet of Claire Island salmon, tempura oyster, baby spinach, fondant potato2014-03-26 18.42.45, Prosecco velouté. It was a little salty but I enjoyed the different textures and tastes. The tempura oyster was my favourite part of the dish and I could easily have had another. Unsurprisingly, OH plumped for the Char grilled rib-eye steak of Irish beef (done rare), white onion creamed potatoes, buttered broccoli and red wine jus. He let me have a bit of his steak and I could taste the char grilling. It didn’t take much chewing and left me with a beautiful taste in my mouth. Throughout the meal we were well looked after and nothing was too much trouble.

Feeling content and sated neither of us could manage dessert but there was Cookies and cream cheesecake, Zesty lemon posset and a selection of ice creams on offer.

After dinner we headed into town, which was a welcome 25 minute walk after the meal.  Liverpool was playing Sunderland that night so we managed to watch the first half in Garvey’s Inn and the 2nd in Garavan’s, both friendly, old style pubs. Btw It ended 2-1 to Liverpool.

The next morning we actually managed to make it to breakfast. I rarely book a hotel breakfast nowadays, much preferring a long lie to having to get up and dress for a particular time. It’s much more fun finding somewhere local for breakfast at a more reasonable hour. Anyhow, this morning we made the effort and it was an effort because the bed was one of the comfiest I have ever slept in!

Downstairs we were greeted warmly and did the usual thing of walking past the cold breakfast offerings to be seated just so we could then stand up again to go and help ourselves to juice and cereal etc. I helped myself to fruit and yogurt and then opted for an omelette – nothing exciting to report there, whilst OH had the full Irish and scrapped his plate clean. GalwayOur stomachs content once more we headed back into the city centre to finish off our visit to Galway with a trip around the museum and a wander along the riverside.

The English Market, Cork.

There was only one place I wanted to go for breakfast in Cork and that was the English Market, a roofed food market situated in the heart of the city (just look for one of the many signs that post the way). We had already walked through it the day before but I wanted to go back to sample some of the wares on show.

Although the market has beenVeg around since 1788 it only became known as the English Market to distinguish it from St Peter’s Market or the “Irish Market”(which no longer exists) when the local government reformed in 1840.  It’s owned by Cork City Council and is one of the oldest municipal market of it’s kind in the world and it’s amazing!

When you walk in the first thing that hits you are the fresh smells. You know you’re in a
food market! I reckon nowadays if you were blindfolded and left in the likes of Asda or Sainsbury you would struggle to find the fruit and veg aisle because the produce no longer holds the same fresh aromas that they used it. This most definitely isn’t the case in the English Market as your senses are assailed around every corner. My eyes widened at the choice of ingredients available. In the butchery area there were things on display I would have no idea how to cook but it didn’t stop me wanting to get my purse out. Every part of the pig, bar the squeak, was available to buy, tiny lamb’s tongues (yes I know, aww and ewww), every kind of offal possible and all the normal butcher’s cuts but covered inFish diffe
rent herbs or spices or already marinated in some sticky brown substance. The fruit and veg stalls were highly coloured, smelled amazing and again offered produce I had never seen before. The fish stalls boasted fish bigger than me and a fishmonger
that
had been to the palace to meet the queen and don’t get me started on the bakery section! I was like a Bisto Kid as I walked past admiring all the breads, rolls and pastries. Just mmmmm. There were deli’s, confectioneries and poultry sections as well as stalls dedicated to eggs, tripe, sausages, and olives. If I lived nearby I’d be in the market everyday trying to decide what I could have for dinner that night and supermarket shopping would quickly become a thing of the past.

Upstairs, with a view of the market below, is Farmgate Restaurant. Their menu is dictated by the food stalls and they say the market is their larder. Where else could we have breakfast? I ordered a glass of freshly squeezEggsed orange and a bacon blaa (a square shaped bap/bread roll associated with Waterford). OH had a pot of tea and the Blaa Special – egg, bacon and sausage.

I switched to buying smoked bacon a while ago as I felt I could no longer taste back bacon. This certainly wasn’t the case with the bacon from the market. It was thick, flavoursome and most of all it tasted of pig. It came with a little dish of tomato relish and some pickled cucumber. Everything just worked. My only complaint was that there wasn’t enough orange juice – especially when OH’s teapot seemed never-ending. As I was eating my blaa I watched the waiter, an Irish James McAvoy lookalChickenike, make teabags. He’d bring down a jar of dried green leaves, spoon some of them into a small mesh paper bag and repeat until the jar was almost empty. He’d then replace the jar and bring down another.  I was mesmerised.

Breakfast was expensive but I think, considering the view, the bacon and the whole market feel, it was worth it.

Just to make sure I wasn’t being biased I asked OH what he thought of his breakfast blaa. He replied that he enjoyed it but the sausages kept coming back on him.  I then told him my opinion on the Farmgate restaurant and he countered that the view in The Sextant the day before had been better.

“What all the old men sitting at the bar?”

“No, the waitress, she was gorgeous.”

I’m starting to sense a pattern here…

Kissing the Blarney Stone

2014-03-24 21.30.25As I said, I had done some research (mainly on Tripadvisor) before we got to Cork and I had a few places on my ‘To visit’ list. One of these places was a pub called The Sextant and it looked like it did a damn fine breakfast. It was only a short walk from our hotel and opened at 10am so we had a lovely long lie, a refreshing shower, donned our togs and headed out. The pub had just opened and the waitresses/barmaids were still setting up. However, they were very welcoming and made sure we were attended to. The menu was simple but covered every breakfast angle as you could have 2 eggs on toast cooked whatever way you wanted, you could also add bacon, sausage, black or white pudding to that. Or if you were feeling healthy there was porridge and honey, granola with compote & yoghurt or just some coffee or tea & toast.

I chose scrambled egg on toast with coffee and OH had his poached. The coffee was brilliant and the only downside was that I had finished mine before my breakfast arrived. Mind you it gave me the excuse to order another ;p  As we devoured our eggs and toast we watched on as the bar filled up.  One by one, men of differing ages and attire, came in and took a high stool next to one another at the corner of the bar. They were all greeted by name and asked how things were. I think there were maybe about 6 in their Breakfast Club – well there was on that particular Tuesday morning. As they entered they would look over towards us, nod in acknowledgment and take their seats. Then, after a set amount of time, they would order their eggs. I recognised this must change every day as the waitress didn’t have them ready for them but knew exactly what everyone took in their tea or coffee. What was really sweet was that one of them asked for 2 boiled eggs but by the time their order arrived there was another addition to the bar who also wanted boiled eggs. Instead of allowing his fellow breakfast club member to wait for his order he readily gave over one of his and even allowed him to share his soldiers!

Breakfast over, I went to pay the bill at the other end of the bar. The waitress obviously recognised that I wasn’t local and was chatty about our visit to Cork. I told her about our trip and how I had happened upon The Sextant through TripAdvisor. Next door in the bar I could hear an echoey murmur.  TripAdvisor. What. They found it on tripadvisor. Really, Yeah. Wow.

Blarney Castle isn’t far from Cork and kissing the Blarney Stone has been on my Things To Do list for a long time so off we drove to 2014-03-25 11.41.43gain the gift of eloquence. Blarney isn’t a hard place to find and there was plenty parking when we arrived. It was a showery day so we were hoping the rain would stay off to allow as a lengthy visit to the castle. It’s 12.00  per adult to get in to the entire grounds. And trust me when I say it’s important to see the whole grounds and not just the castle and stone. There are lots of interesting walks which allow you to see fairy glades, a witches’ stone, a druids cave, waterfalls, wishing steps, dungeons and a poison garden to name just a few of the mythical sounding sights.

As it was still relatively early and the grounds were quiet we decided to visit the castle first just in case it suddenly got busy.  Now I already knew that kissing the actual stone was a bit scary but no-one warned me of the spiral stairs you have to go up to get to the stone! Climbing this ancient staircase is not for the faint hearted. I’m not good with spiral staircases at the best of times but this one (to me) was treacherous! As the stairs got narrower and narrower, I got scareder and scareder (yes I know that’s not grammatically correct but more scared doesn’t scan as well and I was even more scared than that ;p) At one point I was clinging on to the wall and pulling myself up by my fingernails – it was either 2014-03-25 11.30.15that or going on all fours. Honestly, if you’re not good with spiral staircases or you’re partial to excess pie eating this is not a visit you need to make! At the top my legs were like jelly but my reward was some amazing views.

We made our way round towards the stone and with no-one in front of me it was immediately my turn to kiss the stone. Just in case you don’t know anything about Blarney Castle there is a stone located in part of the wall below the battlements and if you kiss it, myth and legend dictates you will receive the gift of eloquence and never be lost for words again. It used to be that you had to be lowered by your ankles over the battlements to kiss the stone but they’re a bit more cautious nowadays so you lie backwards on the walkway, lean back as far as you can go holding on to 2 iron railings and kiss the stone. Thankfully there is a man there to help – I say help, what I really mean is he’s there to hold on to you so you can’t fall through the gaps and career towards a hideous death. Ok, maybe that isn’t quite the case but it doesn’t stop you thinking it!

I clung on, I leant back, I was told to go lower, I went lower and I KISSED THE STONE!

2014-03-25 11
Obviously, my main thought on the way up was how the hell am I going to get back down again?  With hindsight, I wasn’t thinking straight (and who can blame me!?) because I failed to notice that no-one was coming down. Thankfully and much to my relief, I discovered there was another way down and it was far easier. The following morning my legs were achy. I reckon the whole time I was in the castle my legs were tense!

 

Dublin and on to Cork

2014-03-23 14.58.26-1

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.