The Fatted Calf, Glasson.

A weekend in Galway’s Twelve Hotel is the ultimate way to unwind, but the trip home is always permeated with gloom. I am always happy to extend the trip by just a couple of hours and stopping for lunch is the perfect excuse.
The picturesque village of Glasson, near Athlone in Co. Westmeath is the perfect spot to stop for a light lunch, especially when the car is groaning and begging for a break from the open road. Unfortunately a light lunch wasn’t to be. The menu at The Fatted Calf soon put paid to that. Strangely enough, eating out regularly can have a somewhat negative impact on my waistline, and so starters have been relegated to the back bench these days. But I just couldn’t do it. There was too much temptation. I consider myself lucky that I managed to escape without having dessert.

Decisions made, I kicked off with Steamed Lissadell Bay Mussels with a Coriander and Lemongrass cream and they were good, good, good. No. 2 went for a starter of Scallops with Pulled Pork which were presented so beautifully that a local seated next to us had to lean across to enquire what the dish was. That’s the vibe at The Fatted Calf, friendly locals who amuse themselves by watching the outsiders gorge on the outstanding food (at least that’s how I felt!).

Mains consisted of the usual pub lunch fare, including fish & chips, homemade burgers and hot roast sandwiches served in a toasted Waterford Blaa. All tempting in themselves. Simple dishes need little fanfare when top-notch ingredients are used, as is the case in The Fatted Calf. I opted for Buttermilk Fried Spiced Chicken with Wild Rocket and Tarragon Aioli, which was served with triple fried chips (yum). The dish was simple but superb and a very generous portion – although I did manage to polish most of it off. No. 2 chose the Donald Russell 28 day dry aged Rib Eye which was served with chunky dripping chips and greens.

It was all exceptional and well worth the detour off the M6. In fact, I’m fairly sure that The Fatted Calf is sure to become a foodie destination in itself. With an experienced team like Feargal and Fiona O’Donnell at the helm (Feargal is ex Wineport Lodge), it’s no surprise. You would be crazy not too.

The Fatted Calf

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Peploe’s Please!

While I adore cooking up a storm at home for friends and family, it is closely followed by my love for eating out and discovering new restaurants. Or sometimes just re-visiting an old favorite. Peploe’s Steak and Wine Bistro, located on Dublin’s St. Stephens Green has been around for quite a few years, but somehow the opportunity to visit had never cropped up. My first visit was only a couple of years ago, after I was romanced there one afternoon by my other half.  And it was perfect. Our most recent visit was on a whim but luckily we managed to procure a table, even on a busy Friday night. The space has the feel of an upmarket Gentleman’s Club, minus the air of stuffiness.  Art Deco touches complete the ambiance, resulting in a relaxed vibe and an understated elegance that pulls you in. This is the kind of place that is a little bit special so dressing up is allowed (which I love) but is also so relaxed that dressing down would not be out of place either.

And so – to the food. On this occasion we opted to show some modicum of restraint and skip the starter, going straight for a main course. The menu is classic brasserie style with starters that include French Onion Soup, Carpaccio of Irish beef and the ever present Moules Mariniere. Not that I’m complaining, there is a reason why some dishes are elevated to the ‘classic’ status, and this is one of them.  I opted for a main of Kilmore Quay Monkfish Pie, with Dublin Bay Prawns and Parmesan Crumb. Now, I’m not a fan of the ‘crumb’ under normal circumstances, but I do love a Fish Pie.

Kilmore Quay Monkfish and Dublin Bay Prawn Pie

More often than not, a fish pie involves chunks of salmon, swathed in a creamy sauce and topped with mash, and leaves you in food coma for the rest of the evening. Not so on this occasion. Chunks of meaty monkfish nestled beside succulent Dublin Bay Prawns in a velvety sauce with pockets of spinach, topped with crispy, butter slicked parmesan breadcrumbs. This dish was comfort food taken to a new level. Satisfying but not heavy enough to render one incapacitated ( it can happen – believe me). I washed this down with a crisp glass of Chablis that out charming Gallic waiter had recommended.

Across the table, my partner in crime had opted for pasta, choosing a Seafood Linguine with  Bacon Lardons, Cherry tomatoes , Chilli & Basil. It did not disappoint. For a change, the (fresh) pasta was a secondary player in this dish, not the main component as is so often the case. An abundance of prawns and clams were suffused with a hint of chilli and basil while the lardons added a subtle smokiness that enhanced the dish greatly, resulting in a gorgeous dish that was both light but fulfilling. We skipped dessert, opting instead for an Irish Coffee before braving the cool Autumn evening. On this occasion, it was very much a case of ‘less is more’. How very unlike me……

Peploe’s Wine Bar, 16, St. Stephens Green, Dublin 2. Website.