By Amy McCarthy
By Scott Reitz
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
Subtlety was successfully evicted in the dessert: New England apricot bread-and-butter pudding. The moist, satisfying cakey square with shreds of whiskey-soaked apricot was plopped in a puddle of whiskey caramel sauce. The nutty punch of the spirit was out front and forceful, invigorating the sweetness with a fiery edge.
The only startling deficiency at The Cock & Bull is the conspicuous lack of a wine list. We were offered glasses of a passable California syrah and a barely drinkable Chardonnay. It seems the wines are more like catch-of-the-day specimens than thought-out and crafted to match the menu. That's regrettable, because the food deserves more, and this neighborhood pub-bistro is fertile ground for an inventive, distinctive list--like a roster based exclusively on Commonwealth wines: a bold, creamy Chardonnay and rich, concentrated Shiraz from Australia; forcefully crisp Sauvignon Blanc, delicately rich Pinot Noir and lush Merlot from New Zealand; and a host of simple whites plus the exotic Pinotage from South Africa. It might give this pub some serious pull.
Cock & Bull was launched by Noel Graham some 18 months ago as a wine bar and restaurant. Balliet sublets the kitchen independently of the bar. The demarcation is a little too apparent, but with a little work, the blend could be seamless. Then, the only dinner distractions would be pub laggards.
There's a blurb on the Blarney Stone's menu explaining the name. The Blarney stone, it says, is a rock set in the wall of the Blarney Castle tower when it was built in the Irish village of Blarney in 1446. Legend has it that a hag cast a spell on the stone that gives whoever kisses the thing the gift of gab.
Maybe if the Irish didn't spend so much time puckering up to rocks, their cuisine would taste better. Still, a meal at Blarney isn't as bad as sucking on stone. There's even a little culinary imagination here. Irish nachos, boiled potato disks gooped with melted cheese and sprinkled with lettuce, tomato, and onion with a freshly cool dill sour cream sauce, was a fair twist on the Tex-Mex dish. But for my taste buds, it would have been a screaming jig if the potato disks were sliced thinner, brushed with oil and then baked until golden.
Kilkenny corned beef and cabbage also was good. Sliced thin, the boiled meat was moist, chewy, and savory, while the cabbage was supple and crunchy. The only drawback was the vegetables, which included a cluster of old, woody baby carrots with splits down the middle.
And fooey on Foley's stew. A slow-brewed mash pumped into a bread bowl, the thick, sticky sludge had chunks of hard, tasteless lamb, mushy green beans, and potatoes. The whole thing was bludgeoned with black pepper in an attempt, it seemed, to resuscitate the suffocating mass.
Sandwiches worked better. Despite the boring slices of white bread, the tuna fish salad sandwich was thick and creamy with little bits of grape plugged into the mix.
The Tinkler, purported to be an Irish pub favorite, was thin slices of hot ham cemented with melted cheddar imbedded with scallions and juicy tomato slices. Again, the roll was a bit too pedestrian to elevate it.
Plugging the pub into the spot that used to be the Tiburon bar, Blarney Stone co-owner Ivan O'Mahoney, former bartender at the Dubliner, kept the Tiburon's shark tank behind the bar and crusted the place in dark wood paneling. He also slapped a bright yellow map of Ireland on a brick wall opposite the shark tank and slabbed the floor and patio areas with rough-hewn stone. So after a few draughts, you can get to work Frenching the rocks to see which one's Blarney.
The Cock & Bull. 6330 Gaston Ave., (214) 841-9111. Open for dinner 6:30-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 6:30-11 p.m. Friday & Saturday. $$
The Blarney Stone. 2116 Greenville Ave., (214) 821-7099. Open daily 11 a.m.-2 a.m. $-$$