Bicycling in Kilkenny
One of the philosophies of the space-a traveler is to make the most of every time and place they are in. There is no need to waste the mone...
Saturday, July 29, 2017
Temple Bar: Part II (The Parliament Hotel)
Read Part 1 here.
The next item on our agenda would have to be something in the way of food. Unfortunately, it wasn’t really lunchtime and it wasn’t really dinnertime, but I figured surely one of these tourist friendly establishments would be willing to accommodate our ill-timed, American sized hunger.
Upon passing yet another Starbucks, I asserted the fact that I did not desire any sort of fast food. I wanted a sit down place where people would come to the table and offer water and napkins and other civilized things of the sort.
We walked just a few more steps to see a board outside the Parliament Hotel. “Food served all day,” it said welcomingly. Looking at my watch-free wrist, I said, “Yep, we are definitely in the parameters of all day. Wanna eat here?”
“Sure,” John said in his usual agreeable manner.
As is with many Irish eating places associated with hotels, this place had two very distinct sides. The restaurant side’s tables sported carefully placed linen tablecloths covered with sparkling glassware while the pub side exuded the typical Irish pub charm with its freshly polished bar, wood worked walls adorned with images of local pride, and carefully chosen knickknacks occupying skillfully crafted built in shelves and fireplace mantles.
We had our choice of seats since everyone else was either outside enjoying the sun or having vente mocha lattes at Starbucks. We chose a table towards the back of the room where the bartender met us with two menus.
“Two pints, please,” John said with confidence. We were really starting to feel less like tourists and more like locals. We looked down at our single-page menus, and I began to feel disappointment. It was pub food, but it looked more like regular American fare to us: burgers, chips, and sandwiches. I wanted to eat something else like perhaps what they would be offering just a couple hours later to the patrons who would be using the linen napkins next door, but I was sure my hunger couldn’t possibly wait that long.
I suggested we order something small, perhaps share something to hold us over until we could eat a civilized dinner. John went along with that idea, and we settled on the club sandwich. Fearing that the management might frown upon sharing, we humbly asked if it might be okay for us to split a sandwich. The bartender responded with exorbitant agreement, as if people ask to do it at least two or three times a day.
It wasn’t long before our sandwich arrived, but instead of the ubiquitous extra plate often given begrudgingly and sometimes with an added charge in many American restaurants, we were actually presented with two very distinct and well dressed plates, complete with what appeared to be two full helpings of chips. The chef’s willingness to accommodate our request was more than enough to make up for what had appeared to be modest at best menu offerings, so we were even more pleased when we tasted the decadent sandwich that was so amazingly delicious, it deserved a name much higher than to simply be called a sandwich. But if it must be called a sandwich, I would have to say without doubt that it was the very best sandwich I have ever had in my entire life.
This club sandwich was not like any American club sandwich. Sure, it had the usual turkey, ham, lettuce and tomato on it, but it also had a glorious smattering of what the Irish refer to as ‘egg mayonnaise.’ With each bite more delicious than the one before, I just had to know how the egg mayonnaise was made. I was sure that it was THE ingredient that made that sandwich great, so I asked our friendly bartender if the chef might be willing to share his secret recipe with us even though I knew that probably would not be possible since it seems most chefs prefer to keep these sorts of things to themselves.
As we ate our way to nearly naked plates, we realized that perhaps we should have been splitting meals all along. We were both getting rather full, and we quickly abandoned the idea of eating dinner later. We decided to order a dessert instead! But before we could order dessert, John wanted to use the facilities and look around at all the eclectic decor. I used the time to ask the bartender about the area a bit. “You see we are middle-aged,” I said, pointing out the obvious, “What would you say are the best bars for us to listen to music?”
I asked him that question because at night, Temple Bar is teeming with young people all smashed into loud bars overflowing with people. We are just too old for that sort of thing because after we hit 40, our enjoyment for music became based more on its quality rather than its high volume.
Right as he was offering a couple good suggestions about where to go to hear good, middle-aged type music, a very strapping young Greek man appeared from the kitchen and approached the bartender. “I am Stavros,” he said proudly while slapping his very masculine hand on his even more masculine chest.
I was feeling the effects of the second pint I was drinking and was glad John wasn’t at the table to see my jaw fall to the table. “Well hello, Stavros,” I said as if my age had suddenly divided in half to meet his millennial status, “How'r you doin'?”
His polite and respectful answer reminded me that I was old enough to be his mother, so I quickly diverted my attention to the coldness of the beer in front of me until the two restaurant personnel were joined by yet another of their colleagues. The chance to speak to her about the sights and sounds of downtown Dublin made my 'flirtation fail' quickly fade into the annals of ancient history.
One more person joined the group before John returned from his lengthy pit stop. It was the chef himself, and he had come out to our table just to tell us about the egg mayonnaise. I was becoming more and more impressed with this wonderful pub at The Parliament Hotel. “The egg mayonnaise is simple,” he said as if the origin of its unique flavor was really no secret. “The trick is in cooking the eggs for the exact amount of time. You don’t want to overcook them.” He told me never to boil them for longer than 10 minutes before adding some mayonnaise and chopped shallots to the chilled and shelled perfectly cooked eggs.
I had never once even thought of putting shallots in my egg salad, but after he had said it, it began to make perfect sense. I made a silent vow to myself that the next time I make egg salad, I would replace the mustard with some carefully chosen and chopped shallots.
Just as the kitchen staff disbanded and found their way to their stations, John arrived back at our table. “Did you order dessert?” he asked, completely unaware of all that had just transpired at our table. I told him I had not yet had the opportunity and suggested we go ahead and place the order.
A few moments after we had asked if we could split a piece of apple pie, the bartender informed us that we were in luck because the chef had a bunch of extra apple pie leftover from a catered event the day before, so he was going to let us have two full pieces for the price of one. We felt like we had really won the jackpot, and we were even more pleased after we had received our plates.
We learned that apple pie in Ireland is more like what we Americans refer to as apple crisp, and apple crisp warmed with a little dollop of ice cream is a delectable dish that is most worthy of following the absolute best made sandwich in Dublin and even the entire world.