Eating at your covenience – even if it’s on the next floor down
Our annual trip to the Wexford Opera Festival, as usual, produces a fine trio of operas that one goes to see for their scarcity value, if nothing else. At the same time, as we have recorded elsewhere on this website, we note the considerable increase in the quality of the restaurants over the 16 years we have been going there and our report on a fine new discovery this year will be reported in the next monthly update of the website.
However, this report will be destined for the Malessere section, as we encountered bitter disappointment at a long awaited restaurant we have failed to get into in the past. I am referring to the Sky View Cafe restaurant which sits on top of the newly constructed opera house (well, fairly newly constructed – it’s about 3 years old now). The restaurant has magnificent views of Wexford’s harbour and river, which is a terrific draw, apart from being so conveniently situated in the opera house itself.
The Sky View restaurant is not open post opera normally, but this year, for the first time the Sunday operas were scheduled to start at 5 p.m., so the restaurant WAS open post opera as the opera finished at around 7:15 and was not open for dinner pre opera on those days. They do have a snacky menu for lunch on all days, but this is not what we wanted to go there for. So as soon as the opera was over, we took the lift to the top floor and were shown to our allotted table. Unfortunately our table didn’t have a view (only about 3 tables out of 10 have a complete view anyway) so there is obviously a mad scramble for these and we were beaten to the punch by habitués anyway. I needed to go the loo and to my surprise, was told that none were on the same floor as the restaurant but I had to go back into the opera house to find one. A bit irritating and I cursed the architect both down and up the stairs.
The menu was astonishingly short. First course choices consisted of a cheese crottin (3 tiny pieces of goat’s cheese on a few rocket leaves), smoked trout (with a beetroot sauce) and a soup. I chose the smoked trout, but as I’m not keen on beetroot, I asked not to have any beetroot sauce. I needn’t have bothered. Sure, I got my smoked trout without any beetroot (in fact without anything else and dryz’ a bone, as they say in Australia), but one of my dining companions, who liked beetroot, had hers accompanied by four or five tiny blobs of beetroot on her plate, each the size of a ink blot, which I could have easily avoided. The quantity of trout given was pretty mean, too. The starters were preceded by what was described on the menu as ‘amuses bouches’ which consisted of a half inch slab of minced chicken which had the density of uranium.
Main course choices were either chicken, salmon or vegetarian. Now for a flagship restaurant of the Wexford Opera House, it’s pretty astonishing that they are using just about the cheapest ingredients you can get in the catering industry – chicken and salmon. The chicken was pretty dry again – the mushroom sauce was nice but the roasted carrots and parsnips that came with it might have fared better in an Irish stew. I have to say that this menu showed an outstanding lack of imagination from the menu planner, compounded by the fact that the only fish starter was trout and the only fish main course was salmon. The whole of the catering operation here is contracted to the upmarket Ferrycarrig Hotel just across the river from Wexford and the menu had clearly been created by an accountant rather than a chef and specially geared towards a captive audience.
The above menu plus a two choice dessert (one of which was tirimisu, of course) and coffee was priced at €40.00 without service. When you compare this with what you can get at other good restaurants in Wexford with a lot more decent choices for little more than half this amount, you realise what outstandingly bad value this is. Furthermore, if you look on the Wexford Opera House website’s restaurant page, you will see it priced at €25.00 – a discrepancy I didn’t notice until I was halfway through writing this blog.
I have to say that we were so fed up and disappointed with this meal that we forewent the dessert and coffee and to their credit, they reduced the price to €30.00 a head. Nevertheless it didn’t make up for the 15 euros worth of value we had.
A final word about the wines. The wine list mirrored the list of wines which are available by the glass or bottle in the opera house itself, consisting of 3 whites, 3 reds and 3 cuvées of Deutz Champagnes. Again really poor choices for a €40.00 meal. We chose a bottle of Delas Crozes Hermitage Blanc at €25.00 which was not overpriced for a restaurant and it’s lack of character was a perfect match for the food. We could have had Deutz’s Amour de Deutz 2005 at €195.00 with our chicken but perhaps it might have gone down as a better match in Kentucky.