Welcome to a new occasional feature on the blog – restaurant reviews! I’m going to try to steer clear of better known establishments and focus instead on more local cafes and restaurants. I’m kicking off the series with a review of the Oak Alley in Maynooth, Kildare, which opened earlier this year.
WE HAD great plans for our day off when The Beast was on holidays with his grandparents but when the alarm went off we said ‘feck that’ rolled over and went back to sleep.
Thus our day of fun filled activity turned into a massive lie in followed by hours slobbing on the couch with the laptop, until we finally peeled ourselves away and threw ourselves under the shower, emerging into the early evening, blinking against the light.
‘Food,’ sez I ‘we need food so let’s go somewhere nice for our dinner.’
‘Do I need to dress up,’ Yer Man asked, gesturing at his scruffy jeans.
‘Not at all,’ I said pointing at my own greasy knotty hair and crumpled t-shirt ‘we’re grand as we are, sure we’re only going local.’
So off we tripped to Maynooth, a few minutes drive from us, which boasts a whole hape of restaurants along the Main Street. It was only about 6.30pm but as it was a Bank Holiday Monday the town was busy.
We happened upon the Oak Alley Restaurant and Cocktail Bar and decided to give it a go as we had never been there before. We were only inside the door when we realised that indeed’n we SHOULD have dressed up and we were easily the scruffiest pair this place had ever seen.
Undaunted by the state of us however, the waiter seated us promptly in the spacious, cool, elegant dining room. We were seated towards the back which I liked as it allowed me a great view of the room
as I am a nosey bint for research purposes.
The restaurant doesn’t sport a menu outside the door so we weren’t sure what kind of cuisine they offered and were pleasantly surprised when we discovered it was cajun/creole, something neither of us had much experience of.
The menu offered things like Jerk Chicken Wings, Crab Claws and even Alligator and Vegetable skewers for starters then there is a burger section, a steak section, a section ‘From the Deep South’ which includes pork belly ribs and then there’s a range of curries from the West Indies as main courses.
I decided on the BubbaGump Shrimp to start followed by the 10oz Rib Eye steak, while Yer Man plumped for the Oak Alley Fish Cakes and the Sticky Pork Belly Ribs.
My shrimp came served in a bowl in a spicy – though not overly hot – tomato creole sauce and was very tasty – plump, meaty prawns complemented the robust sauce nicely. My only quibble was that there was only about four prawns in the dish and it really could have done with a hunk of fresh bread to mop up the delicious sauce. At €9 for the dish, I felt a little let down.
Yer Man’s fishcakes however were much more satisfactory. Two thick crab and prawn meat patties served with an aubergine relish were fresh and soft and delicate and you could really taste the prawns. In fact Yer Man was lucky to get any at all, as when I had finished my own starter, I dived on his.
Attentive and, frankly, handsome staff whisked our plates away and replaced our knives and forks before bringing out the next course. (Seriously, you guys, where do you get your staff? All of them to a man (and woman) were young and gorgeous. Bravo!)
My steak came accompanied by Homecut Southern Fries, chunky fluffy spicy slabs of deliciousness, and a little jar of flavoursome peppersauce along with a wee side salad. I had asked for my steak to be cooked medium and it was a little overdone, but the meat was still lovely, soft and melt in the mouth.
His ribs were outstanding. A whole rack piled high onto the plate, falling apart as soon as they were touched, combined with the aforementioned fries and a whole fresh corn on the cob. He almost gibbered with delight when he started eating.
‘How is it?’ I asked through a mouthful of steak.
‘This corn … it’s like .. it’s like … it’s like ICECREAM,’ he moaned, hoovering up another creamy bite. ‘Hands down best corn and ribs I’ve ever had.’
Full to bursting we decided to make absolute pigs of ourselves and ordered a dessert to share. This was the part of the evening I had almost been dreading, so disappointed am I by most Irish restaurant desserts which are usually tired and predictable. (I swear to God, if I see one more Tarta Fantastica on a menu I’ll beat someone to death with it.)
Not so at Oak Alley – there’s an extensive list of desserts, including the obligatory Mississippi Mud Pie, as well as a Carrot Lime and Walnut Cake and a selection of ice-creams including Vanilla Bourbon and Jack Daniels.
We opted for the Chicago Baked Doorstep Cheesecake and weren’t disappointed. A thick slab of cheesecake that was creamy, crumbly and sweet arrived at the table along with a scoop of the vanilla bourbon ice-cream, served in a dark chocolate mug. It’s rare to get a good baked cheesecake these days, restaurants usually favour the tasteless overwhipped fridge variety which I’m not a huge fan of, so this dessert was a delight.
The only downside to the evening however was the price – ah lads, it’s expensive. There’s no getting away from it. Yes the food is good, the decor is beautiful and staff are lovely but it costs. On average starters are around the €10 mark while mains are around €20, so it ain’t cheap. In fairness though, Oak Alley isn’t presenting itself as cheap and cheerful so nobody is being duped, but if you go here, as my late Dad used to say, bring your chequebook. In fact, bring two chequebooks.
Our bill for two starters, two main courses, one dessert and two Cokes came to €76. (There is also an Early Bird Menu of two courses for €18.)
There is also an extensive wine menu and a full cocktail bar, which we didn’t sample this time.
Overall, we were most impressed by our visit to Oak Alley and will certainly return and recommend to a friend. We happily award the restaurant Five Stuffed Bellies out of Five for the food and service, but have to award only Three Stuffed Bellies out of Five for value for money.