Last Sunday, I attended the final night of the Chef du Jour challenge at Fenn’s Quay. Chef Kate Lawlor opened her kitchen to the two ladies, Jeni Pim of Tramore, Co. Waterford, and Sarah O’Riordan of Athy, Co. Kildare, for the evening and over 30 special diners joined the event. “I enjoy passing on knowledge but also learning from those who I meet & bring in to the kitchen,” said head chef Kate Lawlor.
It was an enjoyable evening and a delicious one. Each dish was carefully and expertly prepared in Fenn’s Quay’s professional kitchen to their usual high standard but with dishes we’ve not had before there since they were conceived in the minds of two amateur chefs.
The three Chef du Jour judges, boutique cookery school owner Margaret Smith and food bloggers Billy Lyons and yours truly, were on-hand to eat BOTH menus and judge them on presentation, flavor, texture, cooked perfection, and originality as well as execution of the menu itself. The diners each chose one of the two menus that evening, not knowing whose menu was who’s (no one did except the two chefs, their partners, and Chef Kate). But now that the event is over, we know which is which so here are each Chef du Jour’s menus and dishes.
Sarah O’Riordan’s menu:
Beef and Beetroot Slider with Horseradish Mayonnaise
As a big fan of beetroot and the American invention of the Slider (mini hamburger), you know I was destined to love this. And I did. The horseradish sauce was lovely with it and the bun was the perfect size. A softer bun may have been nicer, but the flavor of this one was good with the beef and beetroot. The clever uncooked pasta toothpick was ingenious.
Crispy Duck Egg with Asparagus Soldiers and Hollandaise
The asparagus was nicely cooked and the duck egg was innovative with its crunchy outer coating. The yolk was almost hard-cooked so not ideal for pairing with soldiers but still a unique course.
Lamb Neck Filet Marinated in Wild Garlic and Mint with Polenta Cafe, Sautéed Spinach and Vine Tomatoes
Helping an under-appreciated cut of meet shine! The mint was very subtle (almost too subtle) but one bite with each element included was amazing.
Churros with Mocha Ganache and A Chocolate Mousse
Amazing mousse, lovely ganache (though very rich for the full stomach I was working with by this point of the evening), and interesting churros. Completely unauthentic so I considered them without their name involved and they were light bits of fried sweet dough. Like if funnel cake had an affair with a beignet. It really needed cinnamon to be worthy of the name churros but on the whole anything sweet and fried is nice. But this was just one element of the dessert medley and the mousse was AMAZING!!
Jeni Pim’s [spoiler alert] winning menu:
Anti Pasti of Bruschetta Accompanied by a Bloody Mary Shot
Refreshing fresh tomato flavor. Light start to her Italian-themed menu.
Baby Beetroot and Shallot Tatin with a Lightly Dressed Rocket Salad
Have I mentioned my love of beetroot? I’m not usually a fan of rocket when it is used as a garnish so I was relieved when this use worked with the other ingredients in perfect harmony. A lovely course! Really lovely.
Italian Style Irish Lamb Shanks Served with Creamy Mash and Green Beans
Tender, well seasoned to bring out the shank’s natural flavor, and the sides didn’t try to upstage the natural star. I couldn’t finish my portion because it came after Sarah’s main course so I brought part of it home and reheated it two days later. It was still just as amazing.
Tiramisu Cake with a Mascarpone Cream, Espresso and a Vanilla Ice Cream
The best tiramisu I’ve eaten in the Republic of Ireland. Jeni admitted later she was nervous about this because she knew that my husband and I served tiramisu for our wedding cake (instead of traditional cake). But I was delighted with it and found the handmade textures endearing and the light flavors just right. The ice cream was good, but even better when the espresso was poured over it!
Jeni Pim was voted as the winner by the judges but Sarah O’Riordan’s menu was a worthy opponent. The evening was such fun and delicious. Of course, it is also a nice reminder that a night out can be just a really lovely meal with great company!
Fenns Quay is located on Shears Street (between Courthouse Street and Anne Street) in Cork City Centre. Outside of innovative events such as Chef du Jour, their normal hours of operation are: Monday through Saturday: 8.15am – 11.30 a.m. Breakfast; 12.00 – 3.00 p.m. Lunch; 5.00pm – 10.00 p.m. Dinner.
No. 5 Fenns Quay Restaurant was nominated for the 2012 Irish Restaurant Awards for Best Chef, Best Restaurant, and Best “Wine Experience” in the Munster region. Fenns Quay’s focus on fresh Irish ingredients has earned praise from diners and critics. No. 5 Fenns Quay serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner six days a week. The restaurant’s web site is at www.fennsquay.com and they are @FennsQuay on Twitter.