LOKO, ARDKEEN AND RACLETTE.
REASONS TO GET YOURSELF TO URBS INTACTA.
Ardkeen Shopping Centre
Phone: 051 841 040
Irish Daily Mail
27 January 2018
I can’t understand when a restaurant website gives you all the menus but no wine list. Or a wine list with no prices. (What can they be up to?) And while I’m at it, I might just mention restaurants on Twitter that don’t state in their profiles where the hell they are on the planet.
All of this pales, of course, compared to the Waterford restaurant whose website failed to mention that they would be closed for a fortnight just when I had decided to make a trip to the urbs intacta expressly to see what the place is like. It didn’t even let its automated booking system know that it would be closed.
However, God never closes one door but She opens another. Every cloud, and so forth.
It meant that we got to visit the new – since last Spring – incarnation of Loko out beside the wonderful Ardkeen Stores, a place that I miss terribly since our days of doing the weekly boarding school run came to an end. I had been wondering how Loko was faring and, as luck would have it, we rolled up within a day or two of a new menu being unleashed on the people of the Déise.
And a clever menu it is too, from the hands of new (or at least newish) owners, Jamie and Nichola Dowling, he being the chef and she being the maitre d’ who conducts this big, busy restaurant with grace and aplomb (and an apparent ability to be in several places at once).
It was a Saturday evening when we sat down to eat and the customers were refreshingly eclectic. There were the old friends having a catch up over a bottle of wine, a family with a toddler who quietly and determinedly munched all evening, a young couple who ordered two pint bottles of Bulmers, underlining that this is a restaurant without pretensions. And as the evening went on, lots more families with perfectly behaved children.
There’s a menu that covers all the bases but with some surprises. This was the first time that I’d seen raclette, the Swiss cheese that melts so deliciously, on an Irish menu. Nichola told us that she had seen it in Ardkeen Stores and had immediately thought of replicating the way she had had it in Holland.
I’m very glad she did. There was a little roasting tray containing two slices of the cheese sitting on a heat source. And around this was dotted crunchy, sharp cornichons, slices of apple, carrot and celery, triangles of pizza base and good sourdough bread. Using all of these as vehicles for hoovering up the melted and melting cheese was both fun and a kind of sensual delight.
As I write this, I want to go back for more.
We also had some of the best chicken wings ever, and I say that as a bit of a connozzer. They were crisp yet perfectly moist – a difficult trick – and came with a dusting of grated Crozier Blue cheese from Tipperary, which added a kick of umami, and a little dollop of blue cheese mayonnaise.
Surf and turf comprised a properly seasoned 8 ounce striploin steak, cooked just as ordered – medium rare – and four prawns in crunchy ketaifi pastry with a tangy avocado-based salsa. Simple, tasty, straightforward and nothing to frighten the horses. Just what we wanted.
A vast rack of pork ribs, although a little cooler than you might want, were impeccably tender, the marinade just sweet enough and with proper sharpness. Far too often this kind of barbecue food is dished up with a payload of sugar worthy of what passes for Donald Trump’s palate. Not so here. This had the hallmarks of chef who knows how to taste. A side dish of slaw, red cabbage and apple, was good.
A shared and subtly flavoured cinnamon crème brulée convinced me, at last that vanilla is not the only flavouring for this class. Large double espressos were good if rather over-generous and packed with energising caffeine.
With four glasses of wine and mineral water the bill came to €94.