It seems a bit incongruous. Here I am sitting in the Crawford Gallery Cafe in Cork, and enjoying the essential Ballymaloeness of the place (that lemon cake with butter icing, for example) and browsing through The Dubliner 100 Best Restaurants 2010 which is just out. Maybe it’s a good way to contemplate Dublin, from somewhere in which the realisation, for a native Dub, that there is – in Coriolanus’s words – “a land elsewhere” and that it’s pretty good, is always at the back of one’s mind. Sorry! I’ll try to keep my sentences shorter…
When I was a cub wine writer I once interviewed a supremely aristocratic head of one of the great Sherry families in his palatial office in Jerez. This was about 20 years ago and I had heard that one of the company’s brandy warehouses had burned down the night before. So I offered my commiserations and the old man shrugged and said “Pah! Democracy!”
Which put a bit of a damper on the conversation. It’s not a phrase that I’ve ever used myself, even when the present Government got in, but having read to the end of The Dubliner’s “People’s Choice Top 10″ I was wondering if voting is ever a good idea. Not that the list is way off, or anything. In fact, the 10 are all places in which I would happily eat but it’s such a mishmash: Here it is:
1 Green Nineteen
3 Honest to Goodness
4 Chapter One
7 Chez Max
8 Bar Pinxto
9 The Unicorn
10 One Pico
Hmmm. Jo’Burger is fine except for occasional outbreaks of terrible service. Bar Pinxto has obviously come on a lot since my last visit. And The Unicorn? In the top ten? Well, well, well. I mean if I were voting for my top ten and were to leave the food aside, The Troc would come in ahead of The Unicorn.
The Dubliner has dropped quite a lot of places, most them understandably (and some of them due to the demise of the business). But why give La Mere Zou (right on song, in my view) the push? And The French Paradox? And The Mermaid Cafe? And The Silk Road Cafe? I can understand the deletion of The Wild Goose if this was based on a visit some time ago. Actually, the food here is very good now – for the first time since it opened.
But that’s the thing about restaurant guides. They are very personal. In my recent Restaurant List (not a “guide” as I stressed at the time), I had room for – I think – 123 places throughout the entire country. And some of my choices were regarded as eccentric. The Dubliner has to choose 100 restaurants in Dublin and some of the choices strike me as a bit odd. Zaytoon, for example. And Shanahan’s. I’m not sure about Peploe’s. Three question marks is not bad.
I only spotted one mistake (as against three in my own effort) which is remarkable. (Martin McCaffrey is multi-talented but he has surely not stepped into the kitchen at his Hole in the Wall pub and become head chef? Have I missed something?)
And, as always with The Dubliner 100 I have found several places which I want to visit. Le Bon Crubeen, for example. And HerbStreet. It has even prompted me to return to The Pig’s Ear.
At €5.99 this little book is a steal. The writing is not quite as acerbic (or borderline actionable) as it was when Trevor White was in charge but it’s still pungent and pithy. But it made me realise that the words “foodie” and “eatery”, with both of which I have sinned, from time to time, now make me want to throw up. Other than that, it’s a useful little volume with which I would be prepared to be seen in public. In fact I’m flaunting it just now but, this being Cork, nobody has noticed….