Food & DrinkGrub Spy

The Cajun had lost its sizzle, but we're still impressed by our midday feast

Grub SpyBy Alan Kelly
Gorgeous: The Canal Cafe
Gorgeous: The Canal Cafe

I’m sorry to admit that up to very recently I hardly knew about the Village at Lyons.

It’s located not far from Celbridge in Kildare, beside the Grand Canal in the heartland of serious horsey types, big business types, and K Club golfy types.
 
It also happens to be an absolute stunner. It’s like stepping back in time and I can’t help gawping at its ravishing tweeness. And who wouldn’t love a bar that’s a cross between the Green Dragon in Hobbiton, a fortress in Transylvania, and a cut-stone manor house in the Cotswolds?
 
It’s the opposite of city cool and hipsters may well frown, but everyone else will fall for it. 
 
First impressions are good. A converted stone building overlooking a manicured lawn and a teeny scaled-down canal couldn’t be more attractive. Four of us are hungry for lunch and are welcomed in like long lost buddies.
 
A laudable menu offers a fine bill of fare with hefty salads, strapping meaty dishes and tempting fishy bits. We decide on a cross section.
 
 
The only disappointment is the Cajun chicken burger with chili aioli and Asian coleslaw. My ageing taste buds aren’t expecting sledgehammer spice kicks, but at €15.50, an inkling of chili and maybe even a tincture of Cajun would be nice.
 
Likewise, a tub of barely edible cabbagey things masquerading as ‘Asian’ slaw — how? The chicken though is perfectly cooked and atones (almost) for the AWOL seasoning. A humongous feta salad is much more like it. It hums along with crunchy leaves, toasted pine nuts, a tangy mustard dressing and chunks of delicious salty feta.
 
Ditto with a plate that barely contains a sizzling steak sandwich, a pile of delicious onion rings the size of bicycle tyres, and clumps of fresh rocket leaves.
 
Steak sambos are everyday luxuries nowadays but rarely will you get one as outrageously tasty as this version. Finally we have an erroneously plugged bubble ’n’ squeak with pork and leek sausages.
 
Curiously — much like the chili/Cajun snafu — there’s not a bubble or a squeak within a mile of the plate. What we do get is a textbook good old bangers ’n’ mash! All is forgiven as soon as the chomping starts.
 
The sausages are big, plump and juicy; the mash is cracking dollops of buttery pleasure; and the cluster of green beans are earthy, perfectly cooked, and divine. In the end we have pretty much a peerless midday feast and I’d safely say we put on half a stone between us.
 
Which brings me to a niggly question I’ve often pondered. Why do some restaurants feel the need to serve gargantuan lunch portions? We bypassed the starters and looked forward to sampling a dessert or two.
 
Unfortunately, after that mega lunch all we’re fit for is a lie-down. Still, for style, setting, and relaxing pleasure, it’s simply gorgeous.
 
The Verdict: 4/5