Gastronautical Voyages

Never Forget Where You  Are to be sure, to be sure!!!

We sailed past Paddy’s Milestone on Stena’s Voyager Ferry to Belfast from Cairnryan on Friday evening ahead of the Heineken Cup Final to be played in Dublin the next day.

Glad to say the crossing was as smooth as the Guinness sampled ahead of the match.

We drove down early to beat the convoy of all Ulster’s public and private coaches arriving a good 4 hours before kickoff.

With Jim at the wheel (a man of the cloth) leaving nothing to chance had pre booked a parking place at the hockey club near the Aviva Stadium. Gary our host and navigator, had just been released from hospital having suffered a suspected heart attack!

Colin and I slumped in the back slept off the excesses of the previous night.....a cocktail of Budweiser, Cobra Beer and Pinot Noir which ably washed down a fine late Nepalese meal at The Kathmandu Kitchen on Botanic Avenue.

We shared a non vegetarian kebab platter followed by a tasty Bhuteko Lamb, Nepalese spiced lamb with chopped onion, tomato, ginger, garlic, and Saag Ra Masu, tender pieces of Lamb cooked with spinach and Fresh Herbs in tomato sauce, ginger, garlic and fresh coriander.

I was delighted to see cheese nan on the menu to accompany the pilau rice.

The head waiter was an absolutely charming chap who shared with us the nuances of Nepalese cuisine as well as telling us he had a master’s degree in law!

We did stop off at a sports bar on the way back to The Premier Inn just to get in my first taste of ‘the black stuff you understand!’ Thankfully we decided at the last minute not to walk out with a large Heineken rugby ball.

Now with Gary in tow his welfare was top priority!

The four of us filed in to the first bar we passed on the way to the ground, Guinness Area 22- Paddy Cullen’s on Merion Road. We must have got the last available bar seats in Dublin, worth every Euro as I’m sure we were overcharged for our scampi and chips.

Not surprisingly the offer of a free sweet with every main course didn’t apply on Saturdays.

With a danger that the supply from St James Gate Brewery was running out I got up to get the second round in three pints of the local brew and one of water for Gary, who even in the best of health does not touch a drop.

They were pouring pints eight at a time and letting them settle before topping them up to produce the renowned creamy head! I set off to our table with the water, by this time three full pints had been lined up for me.....I opted to play it safe and carry only two ,lest we had the first unscheduled disaster of the day....these were safely delivered to Colin and Jim, his only one of the day!

I went back to the seething bar to collect mine.......alas it was gone a sole Edinburgh fan had seen  it swiped from under my nose.  “I only saw a hand..... not a face!”

It would have been easier to spot who wasn’t drinking a full pint of Guinness!

With a pained expression and a petulant lower lip I told the tapster that my pint had been pinched. After a long silent pause he passed me the next stout that had fears had been allayed. Would a barman on the other side of the Irish Sea have been as sympathetic??!!

At quarter to five and two rounds later we left for the match.

In the stadium the sponsors , Heineken, had adopted the ‘Ryan Air’ pricing policy for travelling fans - 500mls of Amsterdam  ale at a mere 4.3% trading at 6 Euros!

In the end I capitulated and supported the sporting cause.

I managed to see some of the match through the flurry of Ulster flags and witnessed Edinburgh snatch defeat with the last kick of the game in true Scottish style!

No sooner had Ulster done a lap of honour when my red handed friends were negotiating tickets for Twickenham. Generous to a fault, they asked me if I would care to join them....I declined their offer.....Hearts v Hibs at Hampden was already awaiting the pleasure of this gastronuat on that day.

Having returned to the car the other ‘challenge’ of the day had just begun.

‘ The Longest time taken to depart  Dublin by car’ should appropriately be entered in the Guinness Book of Records.

The route home heading from the east of the capital was grid locked and having tried going round many side streets to get on the main drag everything came to a halt.

Colin had  already decided to close his eyes to the situation.

My eyes were on the clock!

Gary, knowing my pen champs for good nosh had booked a top notch eatery well north of Dublin near Dundalk for 2130.

Having sat static for ages, a decision was taken to travel south and make an alternative escape route.

30 miles later and at 2100 we were leaving Dublin.

Gary phoned the restaurant to duly report our delayed journey with calculated ETA of 2210.

I could just hear the waitress responding “The kitchen shuts at ten!”

The boy had done well as we were asked to give our order down the phone. After given a long list of starters, including Carlingford Oysters and a main special of Surf’n Turf – sirloin steak topped with half a less – we settled for two sirloin steaks with Lyonnais potatoes , a rib eye and a T Bone for me, naturally.

We were certainly travelling now....but were we going to arrive?

I was keeping a close eye on our progress and Dundalk seemed to be getting further away.

Ten thirty came and went.....five minutes later we pulled off the motorway negotiated a roundabout and the words three miles were uttered from the front.

We passed a posh hotel that looked shut and caught sight of a well lit establishment beyond with a car park as busy as the hockey club we had left 3 hours earlier.....we HAD arrived....but what was the  welcome going to be here at Fitzpatrick’s, Lower Jenkinstown, Co.Louth?

The bar was heaving...but could we find a door to the restaurant, just when we thought we were going through the out door we were greeted with a display cabinet heaving with home made breads and desserts.

“We’ve arrived, sorry for the delay!”, hoping my Scot’s accent might soften the reposte.

“If you’d been any later we’d have thrown it at you!” came the reply from the blonde senior waitress.

A younger blonde, Lucy, came calmly to our table with a bowl of wholemeal bread and butter and took the orders for drinks,

The bread was to die for, thickly cut and oaty in flavour.

The steaks arrived on wooden boards with pots for mushrooms and pepper sauce, The T Bone topped with  a thick swirl of brandy cream filled more than half surface and the chips were six thick fried planks of potato.

Stuff the defeat on the pitch...... this WAS victory!

The steak was fantastic - cooked to perfection.....and it hadn’t been lying around for half an hour. I was glad to see that once we had been served another T Bone was delivered to another table.

Colin and I, now replete, savoured the rest of the South African Shiraz as Jim and Gary sipped there cappuccinos.

On seeing the bill I was amazed that the price difference between the sirloin and the T Bone was only .95 Euro, coming in at 29.90 Euro!

We left, full , and full of compliments to the chef and the staff.

The relief was beyond belief........If the tables had been turned and the journey was from Edinburgh to Aberdeen, you could well predict the opposite outcome.

A lesson indeed for Scottish ‘hospitality’!

Take my word for it....Fitzpatrick’s ‘is a Jewel in the Crown in the Emerald Isle.

I will return.

I will also be back to Belfast for a second visit to  Titanic, the best visitor experience of its kind I have ever be sure!

© Ian Cowie 2014