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The Tables are Turned – Wine Reviewee Reviews Food.

May 4th, 2010

I will now attempt to do something that I always said I never would. I am going to attempt to review a restaurant. In fact, I am going to review two of them. I was out and about this last week and had need of food in Cork and in Ardmore.
I let my iPhone and Twitter account lead me and found myself in Fenns Quay in Cork for lunch and then on bank holiday Sunday, in The Cliff House in Ardmore.

My inspiration for this blog came from Kevin Crowleys decision to review wines in his video blog. While visiting Kevin’s restaurant, Fenns Quay, I found myself in Cork, down to collect some wine from the bonded warehouse. I was early and the lads were away on lunch so i parked up and walked across Cork to just behind the courthouse and found Fenns Quay. This is the home of one of the famous Twitter Blind Tasting gurus. Kevin Crowley and Brian Clayton are credited with inventing #twebt, the Twitter Event Blind Tasting. There have been unsubstantiated rumours that Paul Kiernan, aka @grapesofsloth was a muse, but this could be more blatant self publicity from the media savvy Mr. Kiernan. Anyway, well into the 2nd paragraph and I haven’t even mentioned a piece of bread. Well, there was bread, and it was homemade, and both brown and white. It was very welcome and i polished it off very quickly. I was on my own, and away from the preying eyes of those who think I need to lose some weight. With that in mind, I saw a delicious looking oven baked open sandwich with chicken, bacon and relish. It came with salad and homecut chips. I was driving, and it was lunchtime, and a Wednesday, so I didn’t dare ask for the wine list. Having met Kevin at a tasting, and followed his guesses on #twebt, I had no doubt that it would be very good. It may be missing some French wines from the south, or some Loire Valley wines, but fear not Kevin – I know where you can get some.

My lunch at Fenns Quay

My lunch at Fenns Quay

The service was friendly and efficient. The water was refilled without me asking. Always a nice touch. I should mention, the place was very busy and there was a great buzz about. I particularly enjoyed listening to the solicitor opposite me talk very loudly about her current case. I think the punk will go down for a long time. Irrelevant I hear you shout – possibly, but the food was not, in fact it was delicious. The portion was judged perfectly and the salad was very fresh indeed. I had a very nice espresso and was ready for road. It really was great value, and it is cheaper to eat in Cork city than it is in Clonmel. Choice is wonderful. Another nice touch was the homemade biscuit that came with the coffee. So I went away to collect my wine a satisfied customer. I was in and out quick enough, but not rushed.

The Sunday of the bank holiday saw a very different dining experience, not least because I was not alone. Myself, Mrs. RedNose and our 2 kids were out for a drive. We were originally heading to Dungarvan but the kids were having a sleep ( they are only 1 & 2 ), so we kept going, and ended up in Ardmore. When I knew that Dungarvan would be bypassed, I went about Tweeting @cliffhousehotel to see if there would be space. By the time we got to Ardmore, the response was back, and we went in to try the new bar menu. The place was packed, and with these views alone, it was easy to see why.

Mrs. RedNose and John on CliffHouse Balcony ( the 2 yr old refused to pose )

Mrs. RedNose and John on Cliff House Balcony ( the 2 yr old refused to pose)

I was a little bit apprehensive about bringing children that young into a Michelin Star restaurant, but Adriaan Bartels, the general manager was very happy to risk it. He may have regretted it for a 90 second period when my wife tried to feed John, who let her know that he was not quite ready to eat. Once again, apologies to the neighbouring tables. We got him back on board pretty quickly, and the homemade brown bread shut him up. I ordered a potted monkfish and Claire had the charcuterie. Since it was the weekend, I had a little glass of wine, the Tinpot Hut New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. I knew this wine from my Liberty Wines tasting.

I was not sure what to expect from potted monkfish to be honest. I ordered as if I knew exactly what I was getting, but it was a leap of faith. However, experience has always taught me that a leap of faith with a great chef can be very rewarding. And so it was. The fish was served cold and marinated in a white sauce that balanced perfectly with the white fish pieces. I was very happy with my choice, but being a card carrying Irishman, I ordered some of the divine mashed potatoes on the side.

Potted Monkfish Cliff House

Potted Monkfish Cliff House

Claire had the charcuterie and this was recommended by the chef. Seeing as when we lived in France that she would always order charcuterie as a starter, I was not surprised. It was delicious with the cured ham and the pickled onions in particular shining. As I have mentioned, the place was jammed and it was great to see considering the current economic environment. But, to be fair, the prices were very reasonable for such a fine dining restaurant – €9.75 for the monkfish and €15 for the charcuterie. I even got a thank you from the chef, via Twitter after the visit. It turns out I was there very first Twitter booking.

Charcutrie @ The Cliff House

charcuterie @ The Cliff House

I am glad to report that both Cork and Waterford are being well served by two fine restaurants. I would love to go back to them both at night, and have a crack at the wine list. I am sure that no matter how good it is, I would probably end up saying that it needed a little bit more Red Nose Wine. There’s time yet :)

“Life is much too short to drink bad wine”

Paul ( writes:

To be honest, Gary, I’m not hugely comfortable with self-promotion. Anyone who reads my blog, The Grapes of Sloth ( ) , or reads my articles in Drinks Industry Ireland magazine, or Corklife magazine, or has seen me on “Podge and Rodge” or “The Restaurant” television shows, will be able to tell you that I shun the limelight as far as is possible.

Self publicity to me is like bright sunshine to a vampire.

p.s. free porn at

admin writes:

Apologies Paul
I understand your plight. My own brushes with celebrity are so far fetched that even I don’t beliece them.

Kevin ( writes:

Thanks for the plug for my blog Gary, and thanks again for taking the time to review FQ, glad you enjoyed your lunch. BTW I always have room for more wine ;)

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