THE EAGLE HAS LANDED AND IT'S A QUINOA-FREE ZONE.
THE HEMSLEY SISTERS AND THE THE HAPPY PEAR
WOULD HATE IT.
The Legal Eagle
1 – 2 Chancery Place
Phone: 01 555 2971
Irish Daily Mail
22 August 2017
I come with news of a restaurant that makes its own crisps and, not content with that, produces a DIY crisp sandwich with, and I quote the menu, “batch and too much butter”. A place that speaks proudly of bone marrow and rump heart, hay-smoked ham, corned mutton, proper pie and pork scratchings.
The Legal Eagle, empty since 2012, has reopened in completely refurbished form and entirely rethought by serial restaurateur Elaine Murphy (she of The Winding Stair, The Woollen Mills, The Yarn, The Washerwoman). Not only do you not do this kind of thing at home, there’s no other restaurant in the country doing such eclectic, inventive, tradition-based, rib-sticking food for the discriminating trencherperson.
The aim is not subtlety but the satiation of appetite or the appeasement of greed. Portions are generous, flavours are bold, you will never see quinoa or anything that the Hemsley sisters or the Happy Pear twins have ever even contemplated.
It’s refreshingly different and quite brilliant, so much so that I dined there one night and returned for lunch a couple of days later (in the company of Rachel McCormack, Glaswegian, chef, expert on the food of Catalonia, panellist on BBC Radio 4’s The Kitchen Cabinet and author of the recently published Chasing the Dram, her love song to Scotch whisky).
Between the two meals I ate…
Where do I start? I suppose with big, fluffy pork scratchings, as light as clouds, sprinkled with bacon dust (yes, it’s a thing) and served with minerally, almost shockingly savoury smoked oyster mayonnaise. And there was a potato flatbread of amazing savouriness, remarkably light in texture, topped with nuggets of haggis (hurray!) and glorious, melted Coolattin cheddar.
And there was the pie. At The Legal Eagle, they understand pies and our rabbit, bacon and cider one, with its crisp, glazed top and savoury depths, was a pie to conjure with. We were warned of the possibility of finding shot in it; this was no farmed French bunny but it’s ferally flavoured distant Irish cousin.
There was the platter of Irish meats served with giant pickled gherkins (from Castleruddery organic farm in Wicklow) and brilliantly yellow, tart piccalilli, not out of a jar but freshly made on the premises. You could tell by the crunch of the cauliflower florets.
This was a carnivore’s delight. There was the best of spiced beef from Tom Durcan in Cork’s English market, Mick Bermingham’s corned mutton with its deep, earthy flavour and dense texture, hay-smoked ham and – what a deliriously happy surprise, hazlitt from Pigs on the Green. Now I’m not talking about that combination of sausage meat and breadcrumbs with which so many of us Dubs grew up; this was a rich, finely textured and subtly spiced pork terrine.
As if this were not enough for a great platter of meat, it was augmented by pickled fennel and pickled eggs which are a rarity in Ireland but very common across the water as bar food.
There was an exercise in sheer savouriness or umami in the form of oxtail, off the bone and shredded, cooked in its own rich juices for a very long time and then augmented with melted bone marrow, served in the bone which had been cut lengthways. On top were some Irish snails from Gaelic Escargots from Carlow, small, tender, earthy. This would make a one course dinner for someone with my appetite, with a couple of slices of sourdough.
I know I tasted some smoked and braised veal heart and that it was very good but, to be honest, I can’t remember the details. On the other hand an original take on treacle tart – crisp pastry with a creamy filling that tasted of the best possible brown sugar caramel is engraved on my memory. I want more.
My substantial share of the dinner, as distinct from the equally lovely lunch, came to €87. Lunch weighed in at €117 with wine.