Just for breakfast
When I first told a friend over the phone I was hitting an Irish pub called Slattery Rand's, she came unglued. "Why the hell would anyone name a restaurant that?" she asked. "That's disgusting." It's not so much a restaurant as it is a pub, I said. "So what?" she said. And it's not slatternly (which Webster's New World Dictionary describes as a sexually promiscuous woman or, more succinctly, a slut). It's Slattery. "But it sounds like slatternly," she snapped. "Why would anybody even hint at it?"
So I called the place and asked. I got the bartender. "It's just an Irish name we use. We like the sound of it," he said. I asked him to elaborate. He cut me off. The bar was filling up, and he had drink orders to fill. This was at 4 p.m. on a Wednesday.
But the word slipped back into my mind when I visited the pub and ordered Slattery Rand's Irish breakfast, about the best thing on the menu. Just like with the pub's name, you can create some pretty randy twists here -- the menu is filled with rashers and bangers.
But I don't know. Words get twisted, especially between cultures. Two friends visited from Australia a couple of years ago, and the woman said she all but slapped the U.S. Customs agent after he asked to search her fanny pack.
Slattery Rand's Irish breakfast ($12.95) comes with your choice of eggs (our poached version was flawless) and black-and-white pudding -- thick, chewy slices of Irish link sausage made from pig's blood, suet, breadcrumbs, and oatmeal. The pudding was hearty and delicious. Griddle-singed pork bangers (British sausage) were another surprise: firm and moist with a slightly sweet flavor. The only slip on this platter was the rashers, thin slices of Irish bacon that were overcooked and blackened, making the strips bitterly brittle instead of crisply chewy.
Irish pancakes ($5.95) also hit the bull's-eye. These light, thick, and fluffy buttermilk pancakes never lost resilience, even after soaking in butter and syrup.
The sliced Irish smoked salmon ($12.95) was delicious. Smooth, tasty sheets of satiny fish were draped over moist slices of hearty soda bread and topped with rings of red onion and a sprinkling of capers. The platter came with drawn butter, but skip it. There's no need to muck up the delicate texture and opulent flavor of the fish.
And mucked-up is what Slattery Rand's isn't. It's clean and crisp, with immaculately polished hardwood floors and walls that alternate between rich wood paneling and stone. Rustic stained-glass windowpanes separate the large wooden booths, which hold long tables with Irish postcards or painted swirls shellacked deeply into their surfaces.
A room to the side of the dining area holds Slattery's salad and prawn bar, a sparse, pathetic thing with a bowl of chopped head lettuce and a bowl of sallow shrimp about the size of coiled carpet beetles. These mushy, soapy coils had no sweetness. To dress the bland spirals there were three containers of dressing and three measly bowls of garnishes: sunflower seeds, pickled peppers, and croutons.
But this was just an indicator that this pub's real charm, aside from nips of Irish beer and live Irish music and such, is breakfast. Dinner items confirmed this. Corned beef and cabbage ($8.95), an Irish pub staple, was a plate of dry, gristly meat slathered in a dark brown gravy clotted with surface film. The cabbage was white with the flavor flushed out of it, and the carrots weren't much better. A crock of spinach, dark green and yellowish muck obviously disgorged from a can, was inedible.
Carbonade of beef ($14.95), roast tenderloin medallions resting on a layer of that canned spinach ooze and topped with a delicious ale-and-wild-mushroom sauce, was disturbing. The thin patches of beef, ordered medium, lacked the slightest hint of pink, and the flesh had a pallid, boiled taste. Mushrooms, sprawling through the mix like pieces of frayed tripe, were tough and crunchy.
Still, these scraps of fungi flashed the kind of mettle the fish and chips ($7.95) desperately lacked. Although the seasoned steak fries were tasty with a moist core and a crisp, well-seasoned exterior, the spongy fish suffered from a thick, dark Guinness batter sheath that formed a layer of gooey paste where it clung to the cod flesh. Perhaps it was fried at too high a temperature.
Even the boxty ($7.25) -- a thick potato-pancake creation said to have sprung during the Irish famine in the 1840s -- was a disappointment. Charred on the surface and flavored with rancid griddle grease, the pancakes, ordered pocked with salmon, had little or no discernable salmon flavor.
But the dessert of Baileys cheesecake ($6.95) established an aura of respectability to finish the meal. It was thick and rich, yet light and fluffy with a crunchy, robust crust.
So Slattery Rand's has a problem, because it's the pub that could get you slapped, more so than any mangling of the name: To fully appreciate it, you have to ask the one you brought if they want to stay for breakfast.
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