On a recent wine tasting trip to Limerick with David Whelehan, Paolo decided to try out Freddy's Bistro, who recently triumphed in the World Brbeque Cook-off, but in the end he couldn't resist their chicken.
We weren't actually going to have a barbecued meal, but it seemed as good a reason to me as any other to find out what sort of food they cooked. A short trip through the grid-locked traffic got us to the small lane where Freddy's can be found. A pleasing cut-stone building, it has the look of an Olde Curiosity Shoppe, and inside that old world feel continues with brass oil lamps, stained glass and lots of dark wood. It's small and intimate and there's an upstairs dining room as well, but we sat downstairs at a corner table.
Some bread and a jug of iced water arrived with the menus and one dish leapt off the page at me, Farmyard Chicken.' Forgive me if I now take a small verbal detour. The word chicken' needs attention. What you find in a supermarket at 4.99 marked chicken' is actually a broiler. It's not the creature you might have seen pecking around farmyards. It's so different that if you were to see a full-grown broiler you wouldn't recognise it as a chicken. I'm old enough to remember when chickens were in fact chickens, creatures that led an outdoor life and tasted rather good. They were an occasional treat, not the cheap protein they are today. Broilers have made poultry production efficient and cheap, but I'd suggest at the expense of quality. So when I saw farmyard chicken on the menu, my mind was instantly made up.
The wine list is undergoing a re-build and that's a good thing, because for the moment it's a little on the basic side. We weren't looking for anything more than a glass each however, because later that night we were going to be tasting a flight of wines and needed to keep our wits about us. So a glass each of the house Sauvignon Blanc from Chile was the final choice.
There were nine starters to choose from, priced from 5.95 for soup up to 11.95 for a sea-food platter. David began with a crispy bacon salad, which came with pine nuts, sun-dried tomatoes and a pesto dressing. I thought it was rather good, but I did agree with David who thought the bacon was rather too salty and unbalanced the salad a little. I started with the mussels, which was a generous bowlful of steamed mussels in a classic white wine and cream sauce, and they were nicely done.
The main courses were very reasonably priced, running from 20 - 25 with seven dishes on offer, including smoked glazed pork, a Thai beef salad and various steaks. You already know what my main course was, and David picked the medallions of fillet steak with a black pepper sauce. It arrived exactly as ordered, seared outside and pink and succulent inside. As for me, given the choice I'd always go for the leg on a chicken, since I find the breast meat tends to be dry and uninteresting. I had a momentary sense of disappointment when I saw a chicken breast on my plate, but it vanished as I cut into an amazingly good piece of chicken. It was a taste that took me right back to my childhood. More plates of various vegetables arrived and some chips as well, which ensured that any vestiges of appetite were completely removed from the two us.
I liked the food in Freddy's. It's not cheffed up, it's not over-worked, it's simply done but with some interesting twists. It has an honest feel to it, and that coupled with care in sourcing the raw ingredients is exactly what a restaurant in this price range should be about. The bill was modest since wed had no bottle of wine, and 70.90 seemed fair enough for what we'd eaten. I haven't been in Limerick for a while, but I was impressed by its new vitality. And with decent food on offer, it won't be too long before I'm back.