9 Grattan Terrace
Phone: 01 453 7791
Irish Daily Mail
26 March 2016
There are many varying opinions of Mick Wallace, all of which I’m going to ignore in this account of a visit to one of his restaurants. Well, almost all. One of my own views is this.
I believe that the pink-shirted politician with flowing white hair has added to the sum of human happiness by championing real Italian food.
I’ll draw a veil over everything else. You see, I believe that anyone who can enthuse about the cooking and the wines of Piemonte can’t be all bad. He was a guest on my Food Talk programme on RTÉ Radio 1 years ago and his enthusiasm for proper eating and drinking eclipsed even his passion for football.
Wallace’s place at the Millennium Walkway is a joy in its simplicity: a few robust dishes, great platters of cheese and salami, wonderfully off-beat wines, all directly imported and fairly priced. What’s not to like?
The outpost in Inchicore was rather different, as it turns out, when I dropped in for lunch prior to taking the Cork train. We got there early and had the undivided attention of the kitchen for quite a while before the crowds descended, all of them it seems, for the €10 two course lunch.
I can see why. A tenner for two decent courses? And it looked good, especially the pasta with what appeared to be a proper, old-fashioned ragu (and I don’t mean the stuff of the same name that comes in jars and should, in my humble opinion, be banned).
We, of course, went off piste and stuck with the à la carte menu which may have been a mistake. It was, like the curate’s egg in the ancient Punch cartoon, good in parts but involved a few horrors.
Prawns wrapped in savoy cabbage leaves, grilled, with a wine reduction was, frankly, downright strange. Perhaps there’s a delicious way to bring these disparate elements together, but this was not it. The prawns were sweet and decent enough if very salty; the cabbage was wilted and charred; and the wine reduction didn’t seem to know what to do. Perhaps it was just embarrassed.
It may be a great local delicacy (and I don’t mean in Inchicore) but it doesn’t seem to travel.
Our other starter was great in theory: slices of courgette, dipped in egg and flour, fried and then topped with ricotta, saffron and mint. Busy yes, but potentially good. However, sogginess of the courgette let the side down. Nevertheless, I’d quite fancy this dish done properly. I may even have a go at it myself.
The “Parmesan basket” (i.e. melted cheese fashioned into a container then let set) should have been a warning. I mean a risotto should stand (or, indeed, slump if it’s the right consistency) on its on two feet. A white dish, risotto, some Parmesan grated on top, that’s all you need.
The risotto, with prawns and lemon, tasted remarkably good considering that it neither looked nor felt like a risotto. The grains of rice were leathery, there was no creaminess, no risotto texture. It was like a risotto made from a distant, hazy memory of the real thing.
Ravioli of butternut squash, gorgonzola and mascarpone were the real deal, hand made from perfect pasta cooked just al dente. And then carelessly drained, so that the accompanying butter and sage sauce got diluted with a whole lot of the pasta water. Bear in mind that this is a pretty beige dish, bar the few leaves of sage. Having it swim in warm water does it no favours.
Personally, I’d brown the butter and lightly crisp the sage leaves (having got rid of the cooking water), but perhaps that’s just me.
Yes, so near and yet so far.
Pannacotta was a horror. Instead of a floppy, creamy dessert (this was one of those things that used to exercise the otherwise unflappable Paolo Tullio) we got something that suggested to me what would happen if you melted down a lot of rubber bands and let them set. I’ll say no more but that we abandoned this shared pud within moments of tasting.
Our bill, including mineral water, three generous glasses of excellent wines and good coffee, came to €86. And I’m still haunted by the thought of how good those ravioli might have been with just a little attention to detail.
I might go back some day, however, for that €10 lunch.