Food & DrinkGrub Spy

Canteen at the Market is small but truly amazing

The Canteen is a real destination restaurant
The Canteen is a real destination restaurant

It’s Saturday afternoon and the Boss and I risk drowning on a trip to Blackrock. I’m not exaggerating – it’s raining whales and elephants with winds of 700 miles an hour.

There’s not many table-jockeys out there who will take chances like this just to keep their beloved readers up to gastronomic speed.

While the storm rages, we eventually hunker down for a badly-needed rest and hopefully a satisfying lunch. 

We’ve dropped anchor at the back-end of a deserted Blackrock market in search of a rather lame-sounding restaurant called  Market Canteen. It occupies a featureless space where you might normally expect to find a greasy spoon with extra grease on the side.

It seats about 22 covers in fairly spartan comfort. There’s also the shortest-of-short menus, with two starters, two mains, a tart of the day and some cheese. Concise, titillating, and straight to the point.

But it’s the size of the kitchen that first grabs me. I’m talking elbow-to-elbow room here, with three guys crammed in for hours on end and not a single fatality or a clatter or a bang or a frayed temper. Talk about being cool, civilised and serene.

And considering the remarkable foodie dreams that are being spun here, the end result is truly amazing. 

Foodie dreams like the ham hock terrine with foie gras and a celeriac remoulade, fashioned with a smidge of grain mustard and (I think) cream rather than mayo. It’s a mix’n’match, eye-widening delight.

And while I’m not sure the luxurious foie gras is at all needed, it is nonetheless delicious.

Likewise, the salmon mousse sausage thingy with a splash of deep green asparagus velouté. Artful and divine and a real cracker of a starter.

They whip out the star performer next – a wedge of perfectly-cooked cod. Its milky-white flakes easily slipping onto the fork, the fregola pasta and the peas going so incredibly well together, and little clouds of the lightest hollandaise sauce imaginable.

The other main is up next; a deep-flavoured rump and breast of lamb, spruced-up with wild garlic and fondant potato. It’s a sultry and aromatic meat fest, the kind of dish I would usually expect to find in a high-end eatery with a high-end price.

Finally, they bring out a lemon tart that deserves to be worshiped. Maybe it’s the hint of Christmassy marzipan, or the almost-runny lemon topping in wonderful buttery pastry. Whatever it is, this is the best lemon tart I have ever eaten. 

These are extraordinary dishes. They laugh in the face of all those metrocentric, absurdly expensive posh gaffs in the city. And to eat such heavenly grub here, in (let’s face it) this culinary backwater, makes the outcome taste even more pleasurable.

I’m sure the guys must have known they were taking a risk in opening here, but some ventures only make sense when they succeed.

And they really have succeeded, ending up with a ‘destination restaurant’ for people interested in eating great food regardless of where it’s at.

Canteen at the Market gets five out of five

Grape Spy

2014 Pinot Grigio Garda
€12.99, Lidl

Starting on Monday, Lidl has great offers on Italian food and wine. Italian Pinot Grigio is THE most fashionable white style in Ireland. This wine is dry with light white fruit flavours of pear and apple. Serve with bruschetta topped with tomato, mozzarella and bazil leaves for a real flavour of Italy.

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