Sage in Letterkenny a smart option for diners
THREE of us drove down from Derry, through the warm Donegal countryside, past the Swilly glistening in flashes of evening sun, and into Letterkenny, its pavements empty, its kerbsides nose to tail with parked cars.
For some reason, I thought Sage had only opened quite recently, but one of the waiters told me it had been going for two or three years.
Shows how well I keep my finger on the lentil (other pulses are available).
It nevertheless felt new: the décor clean, fresh, and stark, but softened by curtains and cushions; the service a little hesitant, although amiable and genuine.
We started with the scallops and two portions of the spring rolls. So often the meat inside a spring roll is shredded to within an inch of its life, ending up in an unrecognisable mush, but this certainly wasn’t the case here.
While the pastry was a touch thick, the duck was generous and chunky and cooked perfectly. So too were the scallops – beautifully caramelised on the outside, just the right consistency within.
The mild black pudding and gently sharp sauce went perfectly with the scallops, but I thought the chorizo – lovely on its own – overpowered them, and the dish would have been better without it.
I loved two-thirds of my trio of fish. The cod flaked apart well and the flavour of the fish sang out boldly.
The hake was more reserved in its taste, but also cooked well. The salmon, while properly seasoned, just like its two mates, was overcooked and a little dry.
The same could be said, I’m afraid for both of the chicken dishes we had. They were full of flavour, just not as moist as we would have liked.
The sauces were very good, however. The white wine sauce was creamy, smooth, and fruity, while the tomato sauce that came with the Mexican chicken was full of chilli heat and packed a real punch.
However, there simply wasn’t enough of it and both the rice and the chicken suffered as a result. The side orders hit the spot, mind, or they did up to a point, at least.
I couldn’t fault the lovely smooth mash, but the chips were a bit of a mixed bag. Most of them were absolutely lovely – crisp, golden, and soft – but some of these triple-cooked fellers tasted like they’d missed out on the second and third dip, because they put up some resistance when you bit into them.
When it came to the puddings, two of us decided to share the trio of homemade desserts. My brother only had eyes for the sticky toffee pudding. When it arrived, he bade us farewell and joined us again in a licked plate’s time.
I don’t blame him. One of our trio was the sticky toffee and I’ve got to say I’ve rarely tasted better. The sponge was light but rich, with a deep, dark, gorgeous taste.
But, just as with the Mexican chicken, it didn’t come with enough sauce, which was such a shame because the little sauce we had was knock-out.
The chocolate mousse was delicious, a really well-made, fluffy bundle of goodness, while the ice cream was creamy and lovely. I wasn’t too keen on the toasted breadcrumbs in the ice cream, however, as they were a little sharp and hard – and I do think including ice cream as one of a trio of puds is a bit cheeky.
Although I’ve been critical, we had a nice time and we enjoyed our meal. These people clearly care – you can taste that.
However, pretty much every dish came with a 'however'. It wouldn't take much, though – a bit more of this, a bit less of that – and Sage would prove a wise choice indeed.
Duck spring roll, pineapple salsa, oriental sauce – €6.95 x 2
Donegal scallops, black pudding, chorizo, apple gel, red pepper salsa – €10.95
Roast chicken breast in white wine sauce – €17.95
Guajillo chilli chicken fillet, rice, tomato sauce – €17.95
Trio of Donegal fish, sautéed spinach, rapeseed fennel sauce – €21.95
Champ potatoes – €2.95
Salad – €2.95
Triple cooked chips – €2.95
Trio of chocolate mousse, sticky toffee pudding, brown bread ice cream – €6.95
Sticky toffee pudding, honeycomb ice cream – €6.95
Glass of Sauvignon Blanc – €5.95
Peroni – €5.00 x 2
Sparkling water – €3.25
Total: €124.65 (£105.32)
41 Port Road,