Tuesday, 22 October 2013

review: bang restaurant, dublin 2

Bang Restaurant, Dublin 2

I have a list of restaurants I want to visit in Dublin, and also all across Ireland! Further afield too actually: Barcelona, London, Paris, Cape Town, Bruges, Amsterdam, New York, Copenhagen, Singapore, Bangkok...

Some are clearly more achievable than others, so I've taken the (sensible) decision to tackle the home-grown ones first.

One on my list is Bang, located close to St Stephen's Green on Merrion Row, and a recent voucher offer from MenuPages Deals meant that it was a step closer. Happy days!

Ms C and I nabbed a deal for the renowned 5-course tasting menu for 2 people at €69 - half the usual price of €69 each, and so we headed down with empty bellies one Friday evening recently.

We arrived in good time, were shown to our table straight away, and were offered drinks. We went for the recommended accompanying wines for the tasting menu (€29.95 per person), and I'm really glad we did, they turned out to be perfect matches. I've never been one for the whole 'drink this with this, eat that with that' thing, but I have to say I may be starting to convert. These were spot on so maybe there's something in that after all...

Ok so I'm just going to reel off the courses given to us, with a comment on each. Suffice to say this was one of the nicest meals I've eaten in a pretty long time. Apart from my own fantastic cooking of course ahem...

We started with an amuse bouche of soft goat's cheese, topped with beetroot and a few other bits & bobs. Really creamy, not too strong or salty, and a lovely way to get the appetite going. This was served with a glass of prosecco from Valdobbiadene in the Treviso province of Italy.

Next up was the fish course, which was house cured Clare Island salmon, served with avocado, radish, cucumber and a ponzu gel which was just tart enough to cut through the sweetness of the other components. Not a huge serving, very delicate and perfectly balanced. As a cheffy type cook, this played as much to my eyes as my palate, and I was left feeling inspired yet again as to how simple presentation is often the best; a feeling I'm getting a lot when dining out lately, such is the standard of Dublin restaurants these days. The wine here was a crisp Sauvignon Blanc (Blanc/Gros Manseng) from the Cotes de Gascogne region.

Meat was next, and time to start getting full! The menu described the dish as Hereford Beef with local celeriac, crispy onion, watercress and horseradish potato. Sounds nice enough, sure, but what Bang fail to mention on the menu is that the beef is slow cooked for around 14 hours. A small detail? I think not. Jeepers creepers, what a piece of meat; I couldn't stop smiling when I tried to cut into it and it just fell apart, and then actually tasting it... I'm drooling just thinking about it! So moist and full of flavour, and coupled with the creamy horseradish mash, a real delight. This was just a fantastic plate of food. Wine with the meat was a lovely full bodied Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux.

Cheeses followed, a hard and a soft (these can vary depending on when you're in), and they were served simply with biscuits, grapes and a fantastic truffled honey. The honey was amazing; I don't know what they did to it but I've never tasted anything so, erm, honey-ey! Absolutely ridiculous. The cheese course came with a lighter red, a Malbec from Argentina.

Finally it was dessert time, and although we'd already eaten four indulgent courses, we were eager to finish off with something just as nice as the previous dishes; expectations were high! Pud came in the form of a chocolate bar, accompanied by mango gel and a mango sorbet. Rich dark chocolate - not too bitter - and the sharpness of the fresh mango, this is a dessert to go on anyone's bucket list I reckon. The final wine was a sweet fruity red dessert wine, almost another part of the dish itself, so yet again a great match.

Service was impeccable throughout, with each dish and wine described in detail to us by the attentive staff. In short this was a great foody night out. Perfect food expertly presented and very well thought out, with each course complimenting the overall menu as a whole.

Now look, I realise €100 a head is a bit on the steep side for most pockets (mine included), but I feel it's worth it, and definitely a place to be recommended for a very special occasion. Or do as I did and keep your eyes peeled for the voucher offer - if you're into your food you won't regret it.

super moist chocolate cake

Super Moist Chocolate Cake

So I'm getting into this baking lark. I like the philosophy behind it all too; a bit of prep, mix stuff together, throw it in the oven, sit back and wait for the thing to cook itself. Hmmm, that might not be exactly how it is in reality it seems...

Arguably easier than making a tart for dessert (no pastry, no blind baking, all that malarkey) I decided to try and perfect the humble chocolate cake. What could be simpler thinks I? Well, very recent experience tells me many things could be simpler actually.

I did make a few chocolate sponge cakes when testing this out, and all of them were pretty much edible. The problem I had was that they weren't perfect. Sinking, cracking, refusal to set, refusal to leave the tin; these have been some of the problems I've faced over the last couple of weeks. The biggest issue I've had however is getting the thing moist enough. I'm glad to report I've fixed this though!

Follow this recipe and you'll get a fantastically moist and tasty chocolate cake every single time; really straightforward too (I think?!). And thank goodness for that...


  • 250g self-raising flour
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs, beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 250g butter
  • 200ml cola
  • 220ml full-fat milk

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c / 160c (fan) / gas mark 4. Grease a 24cm deep cake tin with butter or a light coating of sunflower oil and line it with greaseproof paper.
  2. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa powder into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract and beat well with an electric mixer.
  4. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low to medium heat. Stir the cola into the butter then stir in the milk. Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly for 2 or 3 minutes.
  5. Gently whisk the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and pour into your greased tin.
  6. Bake for around 40 minutes, until a skewer or small sharp knife comes out clean when inserted into the centre.
  7. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for 10-15 minutes. Carefully remove the cake from the tin , remove the greaseproof paper.
  8. Stand back in amazement, dive in. And remember to come up for air every now and again. Oh and if you can bear it, share the thing; that's a lot of cake for one person and you can win some serious brownie points with this one...

    Monday, 21 October 2013

    review: jamie's italian, dundrum

    Jamie's Italian Ireland, Dundrum
    Opened just over a year ago in September 2012, Jamie's Italian is clearly doing something right. Serving great food cooked to order from fresh ingredients in a really cool restaurant might have something to do with it! Jamie Oliver was my first 'food hero', so I was really looking forward to this!

    I was lucky enough to be invited to sample the goods one lunchtime after responding to a post on the restaurant's Twitter page; talk about an added bonus! To be honest, the quality of the food is such that I've have gladly paid for it - maybe I should have mentioned that to Andrew, our host, and Jamie's Italian General Manager.

    The menu offers a huge range of authentic-sounding dishes, and every one of them sounds fantastic - a real problem when you're hungry and like to eat everything! This was our first time here, and not being so sure about portion sizes we opted to share a starter. We went for the crispy squid; that was down to us both reminiscing about our trip to Barcelona last year and wishing we were still there...

    The squid was perfectly cooked and not chewy at all, and came served with a lovely garlic mayonnaise and some fried garlic and red chilli, and really hit the spot. At first we thought the portion size may have been a little small, but then reminded ourselves that this was an antipasti dish, not a starter, so all good. Definitely a dish to be recommended and great to whet the appetite. Maybe best to have it to yourself though; too tasty to share!

    We ordered a couple of glasses of vino too, a lovely pinot grigio, Delle Venezie. Nice & crisp, and perfect for Italian cuisine. Lovely.

    Mains were next. Ms Chefilepsy opted for the Honeycomb Cannelloni Three Ways, a lovely dish with freshly made pasta covered with tomato sauce and filled with a combination of aubergine & sun-dried tomato, pumpkin, and ricotta & spinach. I went for one of the daily specials, which was a whole roasted sea bream, served with garlic, Heritage tomatoes, olives and a lovely light sauce. The fish was cooked perfectly and was really tasty; both mains really delivered.

    Being guests of the house we thought it rude to not indulge in a couple of desserts; well you would wouldn't you?! Ms C chose three scoops of ice cream, topped with crushed nuts and seasonal berries - delicious. I went for the panna cotta, which was served with a seasonal fruit compote. Lovely and packed with fresh vanilla, it had the flavour (and the wobble) I love. So, more ticks in more boxes!

    All-in-all this was a well balanced lunch, and could have just as easily been enjoyed in the evening for dinner. The food is just great and comes highly recommended as one of the few places I've found in the Dublin area to offer genuine-tasting Italian food (and without the menu just being limited to the standard pizza and pasta options). The atmosphere and buzz of the place is great too; the sound of loads of people chatting, along with the clatter of cutlery, is really infectious, and is spot on for this type of setting.

    Getting to the restaurant is easy too. We took the Luas from the city centre (green line) and the journey only took around 15 minutes. If you're driving that's just as simple, with loads of parking available within the Dundrum Town Centre complex.

    Well done and thanks again to Andrew & the whole team; we were left wanting for nothing and I for one can't wait to head back.

    Honeycomb Cannelloni Three Ways

    Whole roasted sea bream, garlic, Heritage tomatoes and olives
    Vanilla ice cream, crushed nuts and seasonal berries

    Panna cotta with seasonal fruit compote

    Jamie's Italian
    Unit 1
    Pembroke District
    Dundrum Town Centre
    Dublin 16, Ireland
    +353 (1) 298 0600

    Monday, 7 October 2013

    simple soda bread

    Simple soda bread

    I cook. That's what I do. Usually savoury recipes, usually starters & mains, occasionally a dessert or two. Baking has always evaded me; or more accurately, I've always evaded baking! The fear of the unknown I guess? Don't get me wrong, I can make a decent bit of shortcrust pastry for a fantastic lemon tart (recipe to follow!), but bread has always been something I've bought rather than made. Time for that to change!

    So here we go, head first into the world of bread making. We're starting with arguably the simplest of all: soda bread. No yeast, no kneading, no proving, no knocking back; in fact not much of anything, and ready to eat from start to finish in less than an hour - my kind of bread recipe indeed!

    Thanks to Easy Food Magazine for this recipe from their latest issue!

    • 500g plain flour
    • 400ml buttermilk
    • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
    • 1 tsp salt

    1. Pre-heat the oven to 200c / 180c (fan) / gas mark 6.
    2. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large mixing bowl.
    3. Make a well in the middle and pour i the buttermilk.
    4. Mix gently together with your hands until well combined.
    5. Lightly flour a large surface and plonk the mixture onto it. Knead for 30-60 seconds, just to bring it together, and form into a round shape.
    6. Place the bread onto a lightly floured baking sheet (or alternatively line with a piece of baking parchment) and place the bread in the middle.
    7. Flour the blade of a knife and cut a cross across the top of the bread, around 2cm deep.
    8. Place in the middle of the pre-heated oven and bake for around 45 minutes.
    9. Check the bread is cooked by tapping the bottom of the loaf - it should sound hollow. If it does, it's done.
    10. Hey presto; you've just made bread.