Friday, 28 August 2015

Beer, Food & Travel: Sage, Midleton, Co. Cork - Wise Choices

Your memory can be flawed, seriously flawed.

That is why I try to record as much as possible so that when I come to report on, reply to or simply describe an occurrence I'll have something factual to fall back on.

Some of the places that I have eaten or drank in that sit high on my list of best experiences are recorded in my notebooks and subsequently - or eventually - on this blog and are therefore written with the benefit of hindsight and the cooling-off-period that can help you speak rationally and clearly with controlled passion about any subject.

So as I sit here looking at the notes I hastily scribbled in Sage restaurant in Midleton a few weeks back I can feel confident that what I write about will be accurate where it needs to be and as factual as possible where it should be, allowing for a pinch of poetic licence of course!

We had visited Sage's younger sibling the afternoon before and were impressed enough to think about coming here for the early evening menu, with only the lack of visible kid's menus - on the actual building and online - making us wonder whether they would be fed or even tolerated. But a quick Tweet confirmed that there was indeed a kid's menu and I can only assume that its absence is just to stop hordes of unruly children from running amok in the restaurant and annoying those who have come for a romantic meal or those who don't like hearing discussions about Minecraft, or having to pick small pieces of strewn Lego or worse from their beef carpaccio ... and who can blame them?

We would have persevered even if they hadn't responded to my Tweet ... I like their ethos with regard to their main ingredients coming from within 12 Miles of the restaurant, and also the place had been recommended by a couple of people on the Twitter machine.

Arriving without a reservation didn't appear to be an issue as we had came early enough to avoid any evening rush. Our waiter got the nod from the manager that we looked ok and so we were seated, a little close to the door for comfort for me but only because of some ancient need I have to sit with my back to a wall facing an escape route. Not knowing how loud our kids might be, it was probably the correct decision, as we were a fair distance away from the rest of the diners.

Our surroundings tread a fine line between the warmth of wooden furniture, vases of cottage flowers and low lighting, and the clean angularity of modern chicness. The staff played their part in this look too, sporting jeans with waistcoats and crisp white shirts. This worked incredibly well by putting you at ease and giving you the feeling that this was a place that was easy-going and friendly but with that clinical polish that makes a place really click.

The early evening menu had a few interesting items on it; lamb's tongue, bone marrow butter, beef carpaccio all sounded a little different but Sage's own black pudding appealed as a starter while the brisket seemed like the natural follow-up main course to my palate's logic. Herself went with the chicken and smoked pork rib terrine followed by the hake, while the kids decided on a garlic bread starter between them and then fish and chips, with the memory of Skinny's still in their little minds. To drink I chose O'Hara's Leann Follain to go with my meal while herself went for 8 Degrees Barefoot Bohemian from a beer menu of 10 or more Irish beers.

We were served tasty breads with a sage butter as we waited for our starters, which arrived quite promptly. My black pudding was served with a crispy potato, onions and shiitake mushrooms, and looked like a little dark tower sitting in a sea of bearnaise sauce. The pudding itself was perfectly cooked, pink and moist inside slightly crisp on the outside, with a subtle sweet flavour. The terrine was a seriously smoky, greasy, meaty combination with tons of taste - we were off to a great start, as the kids munched on their garlic bread.

Our two main courses arrived quickly too, the hake was nice and perfectly cooked but my brisket was amazing. A subtle and shreddable, no-knife-needed lump of beef with exquisite creamy mash and a carmelised whole carrot, with gravy and creamy sauce.

There was a short delay with the kids food - I think they might have forgot about them! But their fish arrived not too long after our main courses and although the batter was a tad undercooked it was still gobbled up quickly and enjoyed, with chips dipped in tiny jars of red sauce.

For dessert herself had the the Midleton Brick - a chocolate and toasted marshmallow slice while I decided to have the baked cheese cake I had the day before and choose 12 Acres pale Ale to go with it this time, sticking with two beers that were local to me in this local-focussed restaurant.

The brick arrived and so did my cheesecake, but it turned out to be fridged cheesecake and not the baked one I thought I was having! No matter as it was lovely anyway and still suited the bitter lemony pale ale.

We had been well looked after all evening by the attentive staff and although it wasn't yet busy you could see that service ran like a well drilled army troop.

The meal itself was very good value, the key being the use of local, affordable ingredients cooked correctly and respected, with just a tiny bit of essential faffing. Personally I'd highly recommend Sage and it certainly lived up to the hype surrounding it.

Anything I'd change? Well being a family man I'd like to see some nod to the fact that they do kids food, a mention on the website or on the menu near the entrance would not go astray. But as mentioned earlier, in the interest of peace and quiet, maybe they've made the right decision to keep the kids meals under wraps!

I'd also love to see them with their own nano brewery too, producing beers to compliment their food, but I can appreciate that that's a serious investment in every way. Even if it would fit in with their ethos of local produce.

Anyhow, Sage is a great spot and hopefully we'll get back some day soon.

Oh, and they serve wine too by the way!

Visited 8th July 2015

(Apologies for the photo quality!)

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