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Ta Se Mahogani Gaspipes

17, Manor Street Stonybatter, Dublin 7.
Tel. 01 696 8138
Review added: 27 July 1999
Please mention when booking.

Paolo Tullio's Review

It took a trip to Stonybatter to end a run of not so much bad, but rather
unhelpful, luck. I remember Stonybatter with affection because many years
ago I went on a pub crawl there with Joe Pilkington, who was in RTE's
The Riordans at the time. His famous face was a passport to more free
drinks than we were easily able to drink, and although I remember the
beginning of the evening, I have absolutely no recollection of how it
ended. I've been left with a memory that Stonybatter is a place of welcome,
and in fact that recollection has been reinforced again.

My guest was Gill Hall, who has that rare gift of being able to make
things as well as design them. From sofas to carnival floats to stage
sets, her range is becoming increasingly large. I said at the start that
luck hadn't been always with us; the first time we went to dinner it was
to a rather mediocre restaurant, the second time it turned into a take-away.
This time I was hoping that everything would go as it ought. Gill is tall
and slim and this time I noted quietly to myself, she'd been sensitive
enough to wear flat shoes, rather than tower over my somewhat shorter
frame. We were going to a restaurant that has one of the more unusual
names in Dublin, Ta Se Mahogani Gaspipes. I'm told it's a phrase that
children used in school as a sort of makey-uppy Gaelic, but I'm prepared
to be better informed if that's not correct.

We found it easily enough and there was an added bonus of a parking space
outside the door. There's a small paved area in front surrounded by a
hedge where there are two tables. We thought briefly about sitting there,
but Gill thought the traffic might become intrusive. Inside there's a
bar on the left just inside the door and the dining room is made up of
what was once the ground floor two rooms of a terraced house. There are
a couple of rather nice fireplaces with overmantle mirrors, a wooden floor,
plain wooden tables surrounded by my own personal unfavourite dining chairs,
Bentwood Uncomfortable. We sat down, had an aperitif and looked at the
menus, Gill sipping her Campari and orange juice as a salute to the sunshine
streaming in through the windows. 'Campari always makes me feel that it's
summer,' she said wistfully.

It's quite a long menu and has a rather helpful feature. Since Gill is
a life-long vegetarian she was pleased to see not only vegetarian dishes,
but they're marked with an asterisk for easy recognition. While she looked
at the menu I studied the wine list. It's a two page list, one for reds,
one for whites and it's pitched between £13 and £20. There's
an odd one outside that range, but the bulk of the list is there and so
I was immediately pleased. 'By the way,' I said, 'how should I describe
you when I write this up?' She thought for a while and said, 'Just refer
to me as the Brunette.' Okay. The Brunette likes white wine, so I chose
that Burgundian standard, a Macon Lugny which was priced at a modest £16.95,
and then turned to the menu while munching my way through a bowl of freshly
made prawn crackers. The starters are all around the £5 mark and
include things like Thai spring rolls, samosas, spinach and cheese parcels,
chicken wings, Jamaican chicken croquettes, hummus, seafood en croute
and chubby potato skins. The same international flavour runs through the
main courses, which run from £12 to £18. Chicken Teriyaki,
New York strip sirloin, chicken Cordon Bleu, pork schnitzel, various pastas,
prawns Ping Do and Oriental stir fry give you an idea of the range of
cuisines on offer. After our waitress took our order she said, 'There's
a little garden out the back. You might like to have your drinks there.'
Since it was an amazingly sunny evening that seemed like a really good
idea. Past the kitchen, where you can see the work behind glass, up a
few steps and we found ourselves in a sweet little garden surrounded by
flowers and herbs. A white plastic table and chairs took up the prime
position and we sat, enjoying the evening sun and our drinks, while I
picked my way greedily through a second basket of prawn crackers.

Our waitress came out a few moments later and said, 'Your starters are
ready. Would you like them here or inside?' No contest - outside. Anyway,
the seats were far more comfortable than the bentwoods inside. 'We can
always have our main courses inside if it gets cold,' said The Brunette,
as she started on her spinach and cheese parcels. It looked good and tasted
good, just like my seafood en croute, which had the daintiest little pastry
scallop shell on top which I left till last. There really is nothing quite
as nice as eating outside on a sunny evening.

We had the same offer as before for the main courses and The Brunette
elected to stay outside, which suited me just fine. A Buddha Delight for
her and a chicken Cordon Bleu for me arrived and we settled in to exchanging
tastes. Well, one way traffic only since chicken isn't vegetarian. Both
of the dishes were well made and I knew I could relax, I'd finally been
able to accompany The Brunette to a good restaurant. We watched the swallows
flying high and few wispy white clouds in an otherwise blue sky - still,
at 9.30 in the evening.

Like a Brian Rix farce we went through the same conversation one last
time with our waitress and decided that we'd have our desserts outside
after all. The Brunette chose the apple turnovers and I had the profiteroles
house style, which were filled with ice-cream rather than cream - very
tasty. I liked them rather better than the turnovers, but The Brunette
said they were precisely to her taste, which is as well. We both ordered
an espresso and when it came I looked at it sadly. An espresso with no
creamy froth on the top is like a Guinness with no head, too bald to be
good. I sipped at it perfunctorily while explaining to The Brunette why
this did not constitute a good espresso. Suddenly our waitress was beside
us again with two more espressos. 'I thought I'd bring you two more,'
she explained, 'because the last two didn't turn out too well.' Now that's
not just good service, it's telepathy.

With all the bits and bobs the bill came to £77.45 to which a 10%
service charge was added. If you came here pre-theatre - after six and
were gone by eight, you can have four courses for £11.95. Might
be handy to bear that in mind.


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