Moloughney's in Clontarf serves very fine food in a relaxing and comfortable restaurant. Paolo and Catriona like what they find.
If you take a walk through the ruins of Pompeii, for example along the Decumanus, the main street, what is striking is how modern the city is. You pass taverns, laundries, bakers, shops of all kinds and restaurants. You realise that much of our modern world isn't modern at all, it's been around for at least two thousand years.
When restaurants have a history that long, you might think that all possible variants will have been tried somewhere, sometime. Yet every now and then I find a restaurant that takes a slightly different spin on the traditional paradigm of serving food to hungry people. This week was one of those experiences, when I went with Caitriona McBride to a new restaurant in Clontarf called Moloughney's.
Caitriona is the series producer of The Restaurant and she knows a thing or two about food. We arrived early evening in Moloughneys and found a dining room already quite well filled. The interior looks well, lots of exposed brick, beams on the ceiling and on the far wall a fine display of wines. A hatch in this wall allows a glimpse of the kitchen beyond.
Two things happened almost as soon as we were seated, some really excellent home-made bread arrived and so did a jug of iced water. The bread was terrific, a good crisp crust and a soft crumb - in short, real bread made with time, rather than the super fast Chorleywood process that industrial bakers use. Between the bread and the water I was already liking Moloughneys before I'd even seen a menu. When we did get the menus, what we saw was a menu of carefully sourced ingredients, much of it from Irish artisan producers - another plus point for Moloughneys. The dishes also looked interesting, some unusual combinations of flavours tempted us both.
The wine list is the kind I like to find, where the vast majority of wines are listed at under €30 and most of them are in the low twenties. Even so, there are good wines to be had. But as we were drinking by the glass, we took our waiter's advice and had a Portuguese red wine from the Douro called Quinta Sa de Baixo, which turned out to be delicious – fruity, full-bodied and with a very pleasing balance. So good that over the meal we had another three glasses, all charged at a modest €5.50 a glass.
There were several menu options, an à la carte, a set menu that cost €19.95 for two courses or three for €24.95, and a 'meal deal' for two people, which was two courses each plus a bottle of house wine for €55. We decided that Caitriona would try the à la carte and I'd eat from the set menu. Here's a few of the dishes to give you an idea of what's on offer: wild Mushrooms on Breton toast
with tapenade, Gabriel cheese shavings and lemon dressing; roasted red and golden beetroot, fennel and St Tola goats' cheese salad with candied nuts and a yoghurt and dill dressing; O’Doherty’s rare breed free range rack of pork with buttered savoy cabbage and potato, west Cork black pudding, apple gratin and Llewellyn’s cider sauce. See what I mean? Interesting dishes and properly sourced.
In the end Caitriona began with the beetroot salad and I had the hot-smoked salmon, smoked on the premises. Finding an unusual vegetable variety like golden beetroot on the menu means that it's probably being sourced from a local grower, since it's not the sort of thing that wholesalers stock. Again, kudos to Moloughney's for sourcing it. Caitriona's salad came with candied walnuts and a sprinkling of St Tola, making it a very attractive plate and also good to eat. The hot-smoked salmon on my plate came with with potato cake, beetroot tzatziki, pickled red onion and a tangy vinaigrette. I liked the flavour combinations and I really enjoyed the texture of the salmon, firmer than cold smoked, and with an oaky, smoky taste.
For her main course, Caitriona had chosen a daily special, which was John Dory, while I'd chosen the glazed ham shank. When they came, Caitriona's dish was very prettily presented, while mine was simply huge. That's not a complaint, just an observation. The ham hock had been beautifully cooked and glazed and was served on a bed of Savoy cabbage, but it was a very big ham hock. I don't have a small appetite, but I don't think I managed much more than half of it.
Still, after a little while the idea of dessert became appealing, so we ordered a lemon curd tart
with raspberries and cream for Caitriona and a good old-fashioned steamed pud for me, an individual pud made with Moloughney's own home-made Seville orange marmalade. Turned out that Caitriona's lemon curd was also made in house.
We finished our meal with a couple of espressos and reflected on what we'd eaten. Good food, cleverly flavoured, intelligent sourcing of Irish artisan produce all combined with good service and pleasant surroundings, made for a 5 star evening. Our bill came to €103.30 without service.