Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Fine Dining with An Spailpín Fánach

An Spailpín Fánach in full fig, waiting on Caroline/Kathryn/Insert Name HereNews that celebrity chef Gary Rhodes is opening a new restaurant in Dublin’s Capel Street leaves An Spailpín Fánach cold. Fine dining means as much to your loyal narrator as Mongolian folk dancing of the 19th Century, if not slightly less. The only thing that interests An Spailpín even vaguely about this new chophouse is that it’s called D7 even though An Spailpín is reasonably sure that Capel Street is in fact located in D1. I pity poor Postie – let’s hope he doesn’t go on strike, eh? You know what those public sector unions are like.

An Spailpín is not proud of the fact that Gary Rhodes’ new restaurant means nothing to him. If anything, he feels quite lacking. An Spailpín, as he dreams from the gutter, would like nothing better of an evening than to take some uptown doll like Miss Morahan or Miss Thomas to Gary Rhodes’ Expensive Chipper and relive that marvellous scene in Tom Jones – the 1963 movie, that is, as opposed to the ancient Welshman. Miserably, spending his twenties among children who were rough has resulted in that set of social graces never having developed fully in your scribe. While my contemporaries have banished the noble hang sangwich from their lunchboxes in favour of panini of hummus and goats’ cheese, An Spailpín still enjoys nothing better than the snackbox with a six-pints-of-stout aperitif. While my generation goes to each others’ dinners parties, An Spailpín Fánach is still slumped over a pint of strong black porter in the corner of a once-smoky bar, muttering about Croke Park mandarins selling out their Irish nation.

An Spailpín was at an actual dinner party, once. Silent, horrified at the strange sights, I sat there and said nothing while conversation swirled all around. A chap on my left hand side was yammering on about his particular likes and dislikes at table (“at table” – see how quickly I pick up the lingo?) when, having no doubt heard of me, the poor man turned to me and asked for my two cents. “How about you, a Spailpín Fhánaigh?” he asked. “Do you like hot food?”

“Well I don’t like it cold, boss,” replied your correspondent, to the consternation of the gathering. Things, as you can imagine, went downhill from there. Now, whenever An Spailpín turns up at these does, he’s just given a bag of oats and a can of beer, and fired out into the garden while the rest of the company gets dug into the Veal Sweetbread & Liquorice, Veal Sweetbread slowly caramelized, Glazed with Liquorice sauce, Light Parsnip Sauce and Lemon Confit Condiment. It’s not too bad now, in the balmy summertime, but I always think it rather cruel in winter, especially during sleet or hail. How supposedly civilised people can choke down their Pain d'Epice while a Noted Chronicler of Contemporary Irish Life is out in the garden wearing a bag of oats, petrified little blue lips mouthing “couldn’t we have gone to Burcdock’s?” through the French windows at them is beyond me, I must say.

Who is this Gary Rhodes, anyway? What has Paddy Guilbaud done for the nation? It’s not like he was out in 1916, is it? Isn’t a celebrity chef something like a celebrity DJ, a guy that can play records better than anyone else? How can Gary Rhodes turn a steak on a pan better than anyone else? Is it all in the wrist? It certainly would be the likely explanation.

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