Leo Burdock, Dublin


date of visit: Tuesday 23 October 2012

Our little apartment in Dublin overlooked Liffey Street – very central and packed with small restaurants and bars. From our balcony we could see the excitingly named (and sadly unvisited) Gin Palace, the grandly named (and very much not living up to its name) Epicurean Food Court and Leo Burdock‘s fish and chips – since 1913.

In theory, part of the appeal of an apartment was that we could cook our own meals but that never quite happened. However, with plenty to eat nearby, takeaway was a very practical option. Someone could stop in with the sleeping toddler and two (we were travelling with a friend) could pop out and source food.

Fish and chips isn’t a choice that requires too much menu inspection so I stayed in and waited for my dinner to turn up.

When it did I arrive I was shocked by the price. Overall, we didn’t find Dublin particularly expensive, but €10 for a portion of fish and chips? It had better be the world’s best fish and chips …

Which it wasn’t. The chips rated highly – they were a good size and nicely cooked. The fish itself was quite well cooked but the batter was a bit too thick, stodgy and doughy for me.

Apparently the shop itself contains a list of famous clientele. I don’t know how you’d verify this but Andy noted that both LLCoolJ and Justin Bieber’s family had visited. I suspect not on the same occasion.

I didn’t see see any other chip shops in our wanderings, and Burdock’s is a chain – perhaps it’s the Irish Harry Ramsden – so I suspect they have the tourist market, at least, all sewn up.

Leo Burdock on Urbanspoon

Fish Glenelg


Disclaimer: GroupOn sent me a $30 voucher to use as I liked. I chose the Fish deal which was selling for $49.

Date of visit: Sunday 23 September 2012

First up I’m going to talk about my GroupOn experience. But you can jump straight to the review of Fish.

Quite a while back now, GroupOn approached me, offering me a voucher to use as I wished and provide feedback on the whole experience.

Group buying sites, as a whole, seem to have a pretty bad reputation. I think that part of it is that buyers often have unrealistic expectations (they really do want to get something for nothing!) – personally I’ve only had positive experiences, but them, I’m very cautious. For more on that, check out my top tips for deal buyers.

I hadn’t actually bought from GroupOn before but I accepted the offer because Fish at Glenelg was offering a seafood platter for 2, with wine, for $49. As it was going to cost me $19 I figured there was almost no way I could be disappointed.

I had a bit of a struggle logging on to GroupOn – you’re offered the option of signing up either through Facebook or using an email – so you do have to remember which and, on my first go, the website did get its knickers in a bit of a twist but on a subsequent attempt it was smart enough to remind me how I’d signed up.

Buying the deal was easy (another smart tip for punters – if you have a credit card always use that for online purchases, it’s safer than a debit card) but after a couple of days I realised I hadn’t received any email confirmation of my purchase and it wasn’t showing up in my account on the site either. I checked my card statement and I had indeed been charged. I sent a query to GroupOn through the site and this was answered promptly and my problem solved. All you see on the internet is people complaining about the service offered by group buying sites when there’s an issue so please note that I had a positive experience!

The problem was that I’d managed to mistype my email address so my email confirmation had disappeared and, for the same reason, my purchase hadn’t made it into my GroupOn account either. Note to the GroupOn guys: look at updating the website so that it verifies email addresses (regardless of log on method) and autofills them when people order.

It took me a while to use my voucher (busy busy and all that!) so I was really pleased that GroupOn sent me an email a few weeks before the voucher expired, reminding me to use it.

As we were dining early on a Sunday I only rang Fish a couple of days in advance to make our booking. They open at 6pm so that’s the time we were booked for. We’re usually pretty prompt but we weren’t actually the first people through the door!

The restaurant is a lot smaller than I expected, but has plenty of outdoor seating and faces directly onto the marina. It’s not quite dinner outside weather just yet but it would be perfect in summer – both for boat and people watching.

The kitchen area is really open – it’s really like a fish and chip shop in that respect because you can watch absolutely everything that’s going on. There’s a small bar at the rear of the restaurant but otherwise the floor is given over to seating.

As our GroupOn deal specified what we were getting there was no umming and aahing over food or wine. We opted not to have entrées because we weren’t sure how long the baby’s tolerance would last. The food came out quickly and you could tell it was all freshly done.

The platter consisted of 2 oysters, a bowl of mussels, 3 garfish fillets (doubles), salt and pepper squid, chips and salad.

The Sauvignon Blanc was a pretty generic dilute NZ number – completely inoffensive but certainly nothing to write home about. However, the food was all pretty good. Up until now, the baby has resolutely shown no interest in squid, but the salt and pepper squid, all tender and crispy, was his favourite – outstripping even the chips. The chips were excellent: gorgeously golden brown, irregularly shaped and fluffy on the inside. Much much better than the standard chip. I also really enjoyed the mussels – I think about one in the bowl was not open (something I don’t have a problem with when you have a whole bowl) – and they came in a tomato broth with tons of parsley which was lovely. The garfish was lightly battered and super fresh. The salad stood out for not being too ridiculously over dressed.

By the time we finished, we were full. It wasn’t the most giant fish platter in the world, but it was certainly enough for dinner (even if you do have to share the squid with a small eating machine). We rounded off the meal with coffees and headed home more than happy.

The big point of difference eating at Fish was the excellent service. Our waitress took the time to ensure the high chair was wiped down, she stowed the pram away for us, she offered us both cutlery and crockery for the baby and, when we neglected to order him a babycino (!) she was thoughtful enough to bring one out for him. And when I managed to forget his booster chair – she spotted it and reminded me.

As far as I’m concerned, Fish did everything right with this deal. Do I think it was worth the touted ‘original’ price of nearly $100? No – but it’s also not something you can order from their standard menu. Is it worth $50? ABSOLUTELY. The restaurant has successfully put together a deal which showcases what it can do and should entice you to return.

For the service alone, I’d go back to Fish, but the food is definitely good enough to warrant a return visit. Next time, I’ll go on a sunny day for lunch, sit outside, enjoy one of the lunch specials and order the baby his own serve of salt and pepper squid …

Fish on Urbanspoon

Thai Fish Curry Recipe

Thai curry paste

While living in England I was lucky (or skilled!) enough to have a recipe published in The Fairtrade Everyday Cookbook. Recipes, using Fairtrade ingredients, were submitted from across the UK and the best were published alongside those of celebrities and chefs. The launch party was also excellent.

However, aside from me showing off my recipe to anyone with the time to look, the book has been underutilised. As part of my new weekly meal planning regime (something which is making life very easy indeed), I’m choosing a random recipe from a random cookbook each week.

Last week it was the Thai fish curry which was submitted by Karen Darnton from Somerset. This recipe is a brilliant example of how easily you can make a tasty Thai style curry without resorting to jars or packets.

Begin by making the curry paste. Into a blender, put two red chillis, the juice and zest of one lime, 2 stalks of lemongrass* (roughly chop these first, and the younger and more tender the better), a generous teaspoon of ginger paste, 4 cloves of garlic, 1 small onion (peeled and roughly chopped), one finely sliced kaffir lime leaf (my addition because I happen to have some in the freezer – leave it out if you don’t have any to hand) and a good splash of Thai fish sauce.

Whizzy this up and you have your paste. This you can make in advance – it will keep quite happily in the fridge in a sealed container for a day or two.

When you’re ready to eat, heat a wok with a small amount of oil (peanut oil or other neutrally flavoured oil) and, when hot, add the curry paste and stir fry for a couple of minutes. You want the pan hot so that it sizzles, and you’ll need to stir to stop it from sticking.

Add a tin of coconut milk, mix well and bring to a simmer.

Next – add your fish. The original recipe used cod, I used barramundi (my barra had the skin on – and normally I would advocate this – but for this recipe, prefer skin off). You want a firm white fish that won’t collapse. You could also use prawns or even chicken thighs (although then it would be a Thai chicken curry …). If using fish, choose Australian and sustainably fished.

Simmer the curry until the fish is cooked.

The original recipe at this point starts adding things like mango or pineapple to the curry but that’s not how I roll, at all. I added a single serve of hokkien noodles to the pot and simmered away until the noodles were separated and hot. So now I had some kind of cross between curry and laksa.

Finally, taste the sauce and add fish sauce or lime juice as required.

Finish with a garnish of coriander and serve immediately.

While this was not the most complex (or, probably, authentic!) Thai curry I’ve ever eaten it certainly ticked all the mid-week meal boxes. Prep in advance, quick to assemble when you’re ready to eat, and tasty to boot. Definitely one we’ll return to.

* As an aside, lemongrass freezes. If you buy a packet from the supermarket, freeze the leftover stems in a snaplock bag. They defrost quickly. Freezing does make them a little tough so be sure to remove the outer layers before using.