An Cruibin used to be The Lobby in Union Quay and was taken over by Paul and Frank and re-designed by Simone Kelly from Interior Living (McCurtain Street). And it was my foodie destination for last night as I wanted to try their upstairs restaurant, Silk Purse. Dianne and her lovely daughter joined in and we booked the table for 7pm. I was a few minutes early and used the time to enjoy a glass of Prosecco (they didn't leave the bottle long enough for me to see the name) and it was a good one.
The bar downstairs is furnished with tables made of old wooden doors, an old singer sewing machine table and a butcher's block as part of the bar. The walls are either bare brick walls or dark olive painted. All in all a good combination. The bar got tapas style food on offer that is prepared behind the bar - the chef there was very quiet, didn't interact with the guests (and there were some lovely ladies who tried to get his attention :-) and didn't seem to have much energy. The other waiter was very young and didn't know the menu neither was he able to manage his dockets properly (might have been his first day). The food looked great and the smell of fresh pan-fried fish swifted through the bar. Although there were quite a few people in the bar, the atmosphere didn't excite me much (one reason was that there was no background music - they kept forgetting to change the CDs). I have been to this bar now quite a few times (we normally have our SlowFood meeting there) and the experience was always different.
Although Dianne was 30 minutes late and I didn't tell the waiter that I had booked the table, nobody called my phone to ask if I will attend or not. When Dianne arrived we didn't waste anytime but went upstairs. You walk up the narrow stairs and pass the kitchen on the way up. All the aromas are welcoming you on the way up. The restaurant itself is painted in dark colours and the windows are the original ones - high and big and gave a great view over the city (okay over the city hall and the river). One part of the room is raised with a table for 4 (including a man sized pig sitting at the table - made of paper mache and completely dressed in a suit).
Our waitress was Italian (although I guessed she was French and Di and her daughter thought she was from Spain - so much for our observation skills) and very friendly. She didn't introduce herself at all but gave us one sheet of menu. When we asked for more sheets, we were told that the printer gave up after printing just the one page. The menu is short but very interesting. We saw unusual dishes like lamb liver (it is ages that I saw offal on a menu) and the choices varied between meat, fish and vegetarian (apparently Paul Lewis used to be a veggie). Di wanted to try the liver which came with a salad of mixed leaves and a vinaigrette (the poor girl didn't know if the dish came with potatoes or anything so she had to go back a few times with questions to the kitchen). Di's girl went for the red snapper - pan-fried with chilli, aubergine and garlic and I opted for the haloumi - also pan-fried with babaghanoush garnished with pomegranate seeds and pistachios, served with buckwheat flatbread.
One word - the food was excellent, the liver slightly pink in the middle, the fish had a crispy skin and was very flaky indeed and my haloumi was one of the best dishes I had in a long time. The cheese was lovely spiced, not too thickly sliced and just fried right. No chewiness at all. The babaghanoush was even better than the ones I had in Egypt (and I don't really like aubergines) and the pomegranate went so well with it.
I had great expectations for the desserts. We went for the cheese plate (cheese & colleagues on the menu), dark chocolate cake and lemonalmondmeringuebiscuitvanillaicecreamsandwichallah (no that really is the name)....the cheese was all Irish with oatcakes and quincepaste, the chocolate cake dark, velvety and gooey - but the lemonthingi...didn't live up to the name. It was a spongy cake (with a bit of lemon) cut into circles and pressed down, a bit of caramel spread on it and a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with another circle of sponge. I wasn't sure where the meringue was hiding but the whole dish didn't work for me.
Paul came out to explain the cheese board to us and he ensured us that all ingredients are sourced locally. I love the place and will be back soon as their menu changes regularly. I just hope that they get their staff right soon (Bridget who used to be front of house in Cafe Paradiso works there but she wasn't on duty, is a good choice). This restaurant has the potential of becoming a foodie destination. Laid back atmosphere paired with good food - what better combination is there.
The bill came to €63 for all of us excluding wine (we all had to drive) which is actually very good value for good food in the city.