Friday, March 14, 2014

A taste of St Paddy at the Cat and Fiddle Hotel

Posted by Nik - keen eater and part-time writer; providing an Irish perspective.

In Ireland St Patrick's Day marks the end of winter. It is a day for putting on the green and tasting a few pints of the black. Like my birth, it is a day that I know I have been to but don't remember.

In celebration of the day recognising Ireland's most commonly-recognised patron saint, the Cat and Fiddle Hotel in Balmain are putting on their own long weekend, from Saturday through to Monday's St. Paddy's Day (17 March).

Dining area at the Cat and Fiddle Hotel, Darling Street, Balmain
A specially-designed Irish menu by Irish-born chef Padraic Kielty is on offer just for the weekend, with new versions of Irish classics as well as some inventive new dishes.

In the completely newly-renovated pub with an indoor Garden Room, we were seated in the middle of the large dining area behind the bar, where a vast skylight let in the last of the day. Punters came and pints and food were ordered.

Fried seaweed snack
While a half-poured Guinness rested on the bar, waiting for the top up, we started with a snack of fried seaweed. Picked from the bowl like chips, the sea grass was fresh and crunchy, like lettuce and seawater without the salt.

Pint of Guinness
The Guinness was rich and well formed. We are a long way from the Liffey, but this antipodean cousin is worth a nudge. Choosing our mains from the Irish menu was tough. More pints were required to fully evaluate the options.

Crispy spud skins, Red Leicester, 100-year old brown sauce recipe
Next to arrive were potato skins with melted Red Leicester cheese and a brown sauce that has been in chef Kielty's family since his grandmother "borrowed" the recipe from her time in the Queen's kitchens at Buckingham Palace.

Crisp but not greasy, the generous skins cupped the melted orange cheese; both lifted by the fruity, chutney-like tang of the sauce which is one of the best brown sauces I've ever had.

Irish boxty, pickled eggs, black pudding, whiskey and pear
Boxty is an Irish potato pancake that is often served in place of bread. Here, it was matched with a just-sharp pickled egg, a puck of creamy black pudding and sweet whiskey pear puree in a subtle and sophisticated layering of flavours, which was consistent throughout the rest of the Irish menu.

Corned beef, Irish soda bread, pickles and West Cork feta
With a modern plating, the richness of the corned beef was unexpected. Infused with cloves and clementine, the beef was sweet, spiced and salty on its own.

It was served with a light, soft soda bread with flavours balanced by crunchy pickled vegetables and moist, salty West Cork feta cheese which is no doubt, rightly, a little bit fond of itself.

Dublin Coddle, white pudding, salt and pepper spud
Dublin coddle is traditionally a pot of leftovers boiled in a pot. The dish at the Cat and Fiddle has been somewhat polished and updated, served dry atop a pastry base with broth on the side.

The sausage was a perfectly spiced Irish breakfast sausage, while the pancetta added salt and crunch on top of buttery mashed potato and prettily presented vegetables.

Mini chips with Irish curry sauce
Curry chips are the 2am kebab of Ireland. The side of chips were perfectly cooked - crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside - while the curry sauce was honest and peppery. These were easily the best, if not the only, curry chips I can remember eating.

Irish railway cake, clotted cream, butterscotch
Dessert maintained the subtle and thoughtful approach to Irish flavour. The Railway Cake with a faintly citrus clotted cream and shards of crunchy butterscotch was airy, luxurious and just a little bit sweet.

Chocolate Guinness cake, Bailey's jelly
The Bailey's cream whiskey jelly in the bottom of a cute jar was a creamy softener for the richer, moist square of Guinness chocolate cake which sat atop a crumble with pastry flags sticking out the top.

Front bar
The Cat and Fiddle is like a good pub straight out of Ireland, but the food is infinitely better. In keeping with the kindness of the welcome, the food is quietly and confidently Irish, and come St Paddy's Day on Monday, will probably be a little louder and patriotically Irish.

The Cat and Fiddle will offer the St Patrick’s Day Culinary Irish Menu from Saturday 15 to Monday 17 March, lunch and dinner. Irish Breakfast will be served Sunday and Monday. On St Patrick's Day there will be all-day live Irish music and entertainment along with a pub filled with Irish craic.

Food, booze and shoes dined at the Cat and Fiddle Hotel as a guest.

Cat & Fiddle Hotel on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Mr C @ The Food Diary said...

Interesting pickled eggs, is the yolk super tiny or am I blind? :)


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