25a Bath Avenue, Dublin 4Tel: 01-6602326
Chef: Fionnuala Caffrey
We Irish have a myth of who we are and then there’s the reality which we find hard to see. It’s only recently that I twigged the USA has no Secretary of State for culture which suddenly explained a great deal about America and the arts. In France they have no word to distinguish between politics and policy, which says a lot about them. So what is our unwitting gap? I’d suggest that one characteristic is our ‘sure-anyone-can-do-that’ view of other’s professions. From architecture (see bungalow blight for evidence) to setting up a restaurant (see my review of Zaragoza), we never tire of undermining the long honed skills of others.
I pitched up at Farmer Brown’s on Bath Avenue with a foodie mate to a space that suggested somebody said “sure I can do interior décor.” The space feels like a converted living room and the look is an attempt to be hicky-chic but is probably more hicky-cheap. This is not something I’ve a major problem with if a limited budget has been directed at the food instead of an expensive kit-out.
The first thing I noticed about the menu was the difficulty I choosing as every dish sounded new or had an interesting twist. I went for the crispy sweet potato cake with a curried coconut cream sauce sand a Caribbean style pulled pork and bacon foam (€8.50). This was a magical combination of flavours, complex too yet not confused. My only complaint was that the potato cake was not crispy as promised, but mushy which meant the contrast of flavours was not matched by a contrast of textures.
We also ordered the baked Gubeen Chorizo and Ardsallagh Goat’s cheese salad with organic greens, spaghetti sliced vegetables, home-dried tomatoes, pine nuts and a duo of pesto (€7.50). The very first taste confirmed we were in the hands of somebody who loves food. The ingredients sounds simple but it all sang a more complex and profound anthem.
For the main course I ordered the skillet of salmon, cod, prawns and mussels in a lemon, shallot and white wine sauce with baby potato and mange tout (€22). The skillet was a nice idea but it does mean the fish keeps cooking at the table so some pieces were a little overdone. Nonetheless this very generous portion was another exciting gathering of flavour and texture.
Our bottle of Terre a Verre, La Clape Blanc (€24) from the Languedoc worked wonders with my fish stew with its blend of Bourboulenc, Grenache Blanc and Roussanne.
It probably worked less well with my companion’s homemade 8oz double patty burger though his dish got the thumbs up. The double patty made it less overwhelming as did the clever use of a brioche bun though it would have been nice to have an Irish cheese name-checked here. Superb nonetheless.
There was quite the propensity for chocolate on the dessert menu but we also spotted plenty of creativity. My rum and raisin chocolate biscuit cake with toasted hazelnuts and Irish whiskey cream (€6) was possibly over generous but a real stonker of a winter dessert that would have been even better if I could still have an espresso in the evening. The carrot and toasted walnut cake with Chantilly cream and toasted walnuts (€6) was another quality dessert but at this stage the very large slice was a little overwhelming.
Farmer Brown’s, while at times over-generous, is a fine example of all that is good in the Irish entrepreneurial spirit. The décor has been created within their means but nothing has been scrimped on when it came to food creativity. Why is it that so many people with talent don’t have access to funding whereas the food businesses of the golden elites chomp happily at the trough of mediocrity? Well, because they all think they’re food experts but they ignore real expert menus like the one in Farmer Brown’s. Sure I couldn’t do that.
Watching the Pennies
Starter: baked Gubeen Chorizo and Ardsallagh Goat’s cheese salad with organic greens, spaghetti sliced vegetables, home-dried tomatoes, pine nuts and a duo of pesto €7.50
Main course: moules marnière in a chili, lemongrass and shallot reduction with fresh rocket and a choice of warm soda bread or French fries €14
Dessert: affogato with a double shot of Roscoe coffee, vanilla ice cream, Belgian chocolate sauce and candied pecans €6
Drink: Doppio Passo, Primitivo €22
Total for two: €77
Breaking the Bank
Starter: free range Irish chicken wings in Frank’s hot sauce or Farmer’s bbq sauce with celery and Cashel Blue cheese dip €14
Main course: 8oz New York Striploin Steak with a rack of slow cooked baby back ribs in Farmers bbq sauce, with fried onions, baked potato, French ‘slaw and pepper sauce €26
Dessert: lemon tart with winter berry compote and brandy cream €6
Drink: La Linda, Malbec €25
Total for two: €117