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Grub Spy: Take me to Church

Grub Spy Alan Kelly dishes the goods on Ireland’s tastiest dining destinations

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The impressive interior

The impressive interior

The ornate exterior

The ornate exterior

Warm pear almond tart

Warm pear almond tart

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The impressive interior

So much has changed in the restaurant world. New originators have popped-up all over the shop transforming our old ways. I mean, who would have thought, even ten years ago, that all those veggies and vegans with their peculiar ways would become so popular: and doesn’t the grub taste so annoyingly good.

THE CHURCH RESTAURANT
Bridge St, Skibbereen, Co Cork
4.5 Stars
Food: €54.60; Drinks: €5.20

Likewise with a myriad of come-hither cuisines from the Middle East, China and the Indian subcontinent. And we mustn’t forget Japan – all hail sushi and the sorcery of raw fish: specially designed by an evil genius to take our taste-buds somewhere mind-blowing. It seems nowadays ‘mainstream’ has come to mean pretty much everything. And still the multi-layered multi-cultural guzzle-party goes on.

Not everything has changed though. There’s still loads of the monotonous and predictable to be had out there – which is not necessarily a bad thing. For example: who doesn’t love a big-fat-butter-dripping-breakfast-roll every now and again. Truth is, we are creatures of habit. Sometimes we crave the ordinary and predictable.

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The ornate exterior

The ornate exterior

The ornate exterior

At first sight The Church Restaurant menu in Skibbereen looks just like that – predictable, ordinary and cliché ridden. Chowder, Chicken wings, burgers and cheese cake: yeah-yeah, yawn-yawn.

Then we step inside (rousing fanfare required here) and immediately we are dazzled. Resplendent stain-glassed windows, vaulted timber ceilings, cut stone pillars and polished hardwood floors: it’s both a stunner and a definite tourist magnet. And the surprises don’t stop there. We kick-off proceedings by sharing a stack of Union Hall smoked salmon with nutty brown bread and a nifty little salad. Always love a bit of Union Hall smoked fish, us. We’ve yet to meet a sample we don’t splash with lemon and devour.

For mains we go the traditional route with a couple of carvery classics.

What makes the roasted Hereford beef sing and lift it far beyond the commonplace is the rich beefy juiciness, the way it is cooked, the accompanying sides of buttery mash, gorgeous sweet carrot purée and a bunch of perfectly al dente green beans and sugar snaps. The roast gravy, although intensely flavoured, is perhaps a tad over-reduced – which is not really a grumble considering. With aromatic hints of cinnamon, allspice and honey, we could eat the Church’s roasted bacon by the lorry-load.

Along with yet more of the mash, the carrot and greens, there is an extra wodge of cabbage and a luscious mustardy cream sauce. Actually we both agree this is the star of the show.

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Warm pear almond tart

Warm pear almond tart

Warm pear almond tart

For dessert we try a warm pear and almond tart with vanilla ice cream and a blob of clotted cream. Topped with a piece of baked honeycomb I would order it again and again. What a delicious end to a fantastic lunch.

Ok, its official. Even though I would describe our meal at The Church as a good old-fashioned diet-destroyer, I could also file it under ‘outstanding scrumptious.’ The kitchen here has a fine understanding of how to elevate the seemingly ordinary to such an unexpectedly high standard. Genial helpful staff raises the bar even further.

Although recommended a couple of years ago, for us this is a find in the culinary sense of the word.

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