I went there for lunch before meeting Sean in the Newstalk studios and went early to make sure I'd find a free table. I got one next to the window looking out at the market and settled in to read the lunchtime menu. I asked for a bottle of sparkling water and got one of the most pleasant surprises I've had for a long time. What Coppinger Row offers you is either still or sparkling water for €1. Not for a bottle, but for as many bottles as you want. Really. What's more, half of that €1 goes to charity, specifically to Movember, a men's health charity. Isn't it great to see water being treated as a fundamental to your meal, rather than as some exotic extra that gets charged frequently as much as €8 a litre? It put me instantly into a good mood.
I did look through the wine list, but whatever about drinking and driving, broadcasting and drinking is definitely not a good idea. I stuck to my water, but on the wine list you can find wines at reasonable prices. Most of the list is priced at under €30 and there are 10 wines available by the glass. If I had been drinking, I think I might have chosen the rather good Portuguese red, Pegos Claros, which was €27.
I liked the look of the lunch menu, starters were around €7-€8 and the main courses were between €11.50 and €14.50, with a few dishes that could be had as either a starter or a main course. Apart from a couple of soups, the starters included a Greek lamb roll with tzatziki, fried whitebait, a crayfish roll with aioli, a falafel salad and a feta salad.
I was thinking about the crayfish roll when my waitress told me there was a daily special on of crayfish and crab. That sounded good, so I ordered that and then for my main course I had once again to choose between many dishes that read well on the menu. A smoked mackerel salad with horseradish, a grilled lamb sausage, baked sea bass, garlic and chilli prawns a la plancha, a meatball sandwich -- and then this jumped out from the page, a chicken leg stuffed with Italian sausage and ham hock. Oh yes, that was for me.
Just occasionally I get handed a dish that's truly memorable, and my starter was one of those. It really was one of the best sea food starters I've eaten; the crab and the crayfish were fresh, the flavours of lime and the aioli that bound it together were perfect. While I was eating it I was thinking that it was very large for a starter portion and only later I discovered it was a main course, but did I care? It was so good that I ate all in no time.
Between all my sparkling water for one euro and an amazing starter I was already enthusing to myself about this restaurant, then came the main course. As a rule I tend to avoid chicken dishes unless I'm absolutely positive that the bird isn't from a battery, but the dark meat of the legs somehow still has a taste even if it's a battery bird.
What I got was easily as good as my starter. The bird itself had a real taste of chicken and the accompanying flavours of Italian sausage, ham hock and Savoy cabbage went together in almost flawless harmony. It was one of those occasions when I found myself savouring every mouthful, something that doesn't happen as often as I'd like.
With these two excellent dishes under my belt I should really have stopped right there. I'd eaten very well and I'd eaten plenty, but gluttony is a powerful vice and when I was offered the dessert menu I read it. And there it was on the menu, begging to be eaten, a vanilla pannacotta. That translates as 'cooked cream', which is essentially what it is. It's one of a handful of Italian desserts and it's one I like. Because we're shameless in Italy about these things, we always say that a pannacotta should have the kind of wobble that a woman's breast does.
The one in front of me had the kind of wobble that a breast implant has, just a shade too firm. Apart from this small defect, it had all the deep taste of real vanilla and despite being very full, I ate nearly all of it.
More often than not good meals in Ireland have ended up with a poor espresso. Not so here. My espresso came in a small glass, just the right size for an espresso more 'ristretto' than normal, and unusually it had a head of light brown crema, exactly as it should have had. It was so good that I ordered another to sip outside on the terrace with my post-prandial rolly.
As lunches go, this was one of the best I've eaten in a while. The food part of my bill came to €32, the water and the espressos brought it up to €36.40.