Eating Out: A healthy fry'll be the death of me
00 353 877 616 123
THERE can only be one thing on the menu for a middle-aged cyclist who's spent the past hour wondering if his ticker would throw in the towel on one of the vertiginous hills he's had to labour up thanks to a misplaced faith in his map-reading skills: a fry.
Mind you, this one was a healthy fry. And the hills were in the Cooley Mountains, meaning that, scenery-wise, it was well worth the near-blood-vessel-busting effort it took to get up them. Dundalk Bay glistening in the morning light to the south, Carlingford Lough blue and shimmering to the north – aaah.
The plan was, meet up in Dundalk, then a nice leisurely cycle out along the Cooley Peninsula for lunch in Carlingford, mostly via the squiggly little yellow roads on the OS map that I – for, yes, it was I – was brandishing with the air of a German general about to cross into Russia.
Due to a combination of my Dublin-based cycling partner being an unsociable sod and the prospect of Sunday traffic at Carlingford, however, we opted for instead for lunch in Omeath.
That is, he opted, I went along with the change of plan reluctantly. The last time I'd been in Omeath was about 15 years ago and, despite the fact that it's got one of the best locations on the east coast, looking out over the water towards Warrenpoint, Rostrevor and the Mournes, the Cooleys sweeping down dramatically if songlessly behind, the meal I got had put me off going back.
But things have changed. The Celtic Tiger has slunk off into the undergrowth and at least one little eaterie in Omeath is making an effort rather than slapping any old thing down in front of you with a growl.
A couple of lunch options present themselves when you arrive on the short street leading to the sea that seems to comprise the village's commercial hub. We settled on Cafe Rosa which, with a well-fed-looking bunch of bikers sitting at its outside table, a nice dog lying near the door and a handy tree to lean and keep an eye on our trusty steeds, just seemed like our kinda place.
And although a couple of tasty-sounding options presented themselves from the menu – Italian Herb Chicken (with buffalo mozzarella, pine nut salad, sundried tomato dressing and basil croutons) and the Cold Meat Salad (with mixed salad and fruit) to name but two – all eyes were on the fries.
“The fry,” we both said, I for one salivating.
As it turned out, due to a miscommunication somewhere along the line we both got The Healthy Breakfast Grill, rather than the Large Fry, but to be honest, I'm just as glad. In fact, if I'd downed the extra sausages, black pudding and, much as I love 'em, fried eggs before tackling the climb back out of Omeath, I doubt I'd have lived to tell you about it.
Our eggs were poached and our bacon grilled, rinds nice and crispy (if there's one thing that lets a fry down, it's a rubbery rasher rind). Grilled tomatoes, (sauteed?) mushrooms and beans – the better to propel us home – completed the plate.
So, what more can you say about a fry/grill, you ask? Well a fry is nothing without the tea and, in this case, wholemeal toast that come with it, and they are worth little unless generously given and topped up when required. And so they were. The two women serving were friendly and attentive to the point of making you feel you were at your granny's.
The homemade desserts get the thumbs up too. Mine was a peach and cherry sponge – a big delicious slab, deliciously moist inside, just the right amount of bite at the crust, served warm with ice cream; Sean Kelly across the table went for the less exotic but no less satisfying apple tart and cream.
All of which rendered the sheer-looking road up into the Cooleys even more daunting when we finally wobbled out. Would we go round by Carlingford and the coast after all? No way. If you're gonna croak, you might as well croak with a good, satisfying meal in your belly.
Healthy Grill X 2 – €17
Dessert X 2 – €9
Americano X 2 – €4
Total (for two) – €30