herald

Thursday 30 October 2014

Good food on tap is a worthwhile currency -- The Exchequer is rare in that it actually deserves its gastropub tag

The Irish pub has always been about drinking rather than eating, but perhaps this is finally beginning to change.

A number of pubs have opened in the recent past that take their food seriously, with Eden Bar & Grill, Damson Diner and Fade Street Social just a few that come to mind.

The term "gastropub" originated in the UK to indicate a pub that makes a strong effort to serve food well beyond typical "pub grub" fare of toasted sandwiches and lasagne. Although there are many pubs in Ireland trying to be gastropubs, very few deserve the title.

The Exchequer, which opened in 2009 proclaiming itself to be a gastropub, has held true to its word so far, while still offering a good selection of craft beers, spirits and cocktails.

Myself and the teenager were bringing the Engineer out for a treat one afternoon to help her de-stress after an exam defending her Masters thesis. The Exchequer is one of the few places you can get decent food at 3pm.

We were offered our choice of seating in the comfortable club-like room at the rear of the pub.

The menu has some innovative dishes, such as crab and crayfish salad with chicory and asparagus but is mostly made up of bistro and gastropub standards such as posh bangers and mash and slow-roast pork belly.

Creamy

We began with a shared starter of foie gras and chicken liver parfait with spiced apple chutney and a thick slice of toasted brioche. I loved the light creamy texture of the pâté cut through by the acidity of the apple and complemented by the sweet crunchy toast. The bland dressing on the salad was a little disappointing but otherwise this was a good start and interestingly matched better with my pint of Czech Pilsner Urquell than with the Landais Columbard/Ugni Blanc crisp white wine the Engineer was using to calm her nerves.

Flank steak is one of those newly fashionable cheap cuts from the stomach and the Exchequer serves it sliced on flat bread with lots of rocket leaves, avocado, plum tomatoes, feta cheese and sweet red onion "jam" with a portion of chips. I liked the contrast of the steak's texture with the leaves, feta and flatbread.

Fillets of ling in a light Dungarvan blonde ale batter and good crispy chips were devoured by the teenager. Ling is a less endangered member of the cod family, with a texture that works well with batter.

The Engineer's fish pie was reasonably rich with a good mix of fish, chopped eggs, leeks and peas in a creamy sauce topped with mashed potato and cheddar cheese.

Our desserts of white chocolate and sweet chestnut cheesecake and jelly and ice-cream managed to be both classic and innovative and my espresso was excellent.

The Exchequer is worth a visit. We enjoyed our meal, although the menu seemed much the same as my last visit in 2011 and given the increasingly vigorous competition in that part of the city, I suspect they may need to innovate a little to stay in touch.

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