I love eating out, it may be my very favourite pastime! Everytime I have a trip booked, one of the first things I do is check out the local restaurant scene – mostly via the internet. In many cases, I will already have heard about restaurants and have a list of ones I want to try. It was strange therefore that I didn’t have many on that list in Cork and after a quick internet browse settled on The Silk Purse on Union Quay for a saturday night dinner. The Silk Purse is located above the An Cruibin Pub.
I had visited their website and was attracted by the quirkiness of it, the handwritten menus and the promise of seasonal local produce. It was on this basis I suggested to my friend that we eat there – and consequently felt somewhat responsible for the success or otherwise of the visit.
The Silk Purse is accessed via a stairs inside the pub and you pass the entrance to the kitchen on the way up to the restaurant. The decor is tired and in need of sprucing and tidying up and I was a little apprehensive as we entered the room. After being seated, we were handed the handwritten menu. We ordered a bottle of New Zealand sauvignon blanc from the short wine list which is displayed on a blackboard. Whilst the wine list is short, about 6-7 each of red and white, all but one of each is available by the glass which I approve of – nice to be able to have an additional glass of the same wine when the bottle is finished! The wine arrived, not overly chilled (and no ice bucket provided), but it was nice and we enjoyed it.
From the menu, I chose a starter of purple sprouting broccoli with black pudding and a main course of Brill served with paella rice. Shortly afterwards an amuse bouche arrived – periwinkles cooked in garlic. I am normally good with tasting anything and like shellfish – will often order mussels etc – but although these periwinkles smelt lovely courtesy of the garlic, neither of us were brave enough to taste them. For me, although I rarely refuse things, if I do it will be on grounds of texture rather than taste – and these periwinkles did not pass the texture test (on sight anyway!). The starter arrived (sorry no pictures), the broccoli was not of the purple variety and the dish was basically a stew consisting of tenderstem broccoli, onions and black pudding. The broccoli was nicely cooked however the pudding took on the appearance of it being boiled and there was a “brown” sauce which was what probably led to the “boiled” look of the dish. It tasted a little better than it looked but I didn’t finish it and it didn’t impress. My friend had haloumi with babaganoush – she had struggled to find a starter to her taste – and it looked more appetising than my starter and she finished most of it but wasn’t thrilled with it.
Both of us had ordered the brill as a main course. It arrived and certainly the chef knows how to cook a piece of fish and it was lovely. The paella rice was also a lovely but non-traditional accompaniment to the simplicity of the fish, however the entire dish was over dressed in oil and felt very heavy and we did not clear our plates.
I appear to have a sweet tooth (or a “dessert tooth”), courtesy I think of many trips to foodie heaven – South Africa, but mostly am too full after a starter and a main course to consider one. However, on this occasion both of us (after not finishing either of the first two courses) wanted to try something sweet. Discarding the “chocolate” option we settled on two of the remaining options; an orange cake and a plate of petit fours (the petit fours being charged at dessert prices). The orange cake was billed as a sponge cake baked that evening and that was exactly what it was – a piece of orange flavoured sponge with cream on the side. Because that was exactly what I expected, I was not disappointed with it. It was very fresh and we polished it off. The petit fours were also finished and the dessert course became the only one where empty plates resulted.
The restaurant was full and I did not detect any disappointment with the food from other diners. The restaurants signature dish is hanger steak served rare and many diners had this and I saw many empty plates. The decor is very simple, no tablecloths and no frills of any kind – I like this, much preferring the food to do the talking – although on this occasion it did not live up to my expectations.
Would I eat here again? – only if I was asked to accompany someone who wanted to try it. Every restaurant deserves a second chance, however given the responsibility I feel when I pick a restaurant for an evening out, I probably would not choose The Silk Purse again unless the other diners had been already and had liked it.
Postscript: The Silk Purse has since closed. In its place now is a lovely Wine Bar called L’Atitude 51. I have visited this for a drink and really loved the vibe. There is a great selection of wines available with many by the glass – and there are tasting size glasses available too. Full post to follow when I have had the opportunity to sample the food offering too.