Eating Out: The Draft House is impressive for its food and its attitude to children
The Draft House Gastropub
00 353 7191 22222
APRIL in Paris…Autumn in New York… October in Strandhill… Why we picked the Atlantic coast for a holiday at this time of year, I don't know. Bracing wasn't in it. Although it was beautiful, so long as your idea of beauty is horizontal rain driven by constant gales.
I have an app on my phone, called The Baby Soother. It's got a store of sounds – vacuum cleaner, hairdryer, washing machine and so on – that accompany your baby to sleep. There's an option to record your own sound, too. So, big softy that I am, I thought it would be special to make my own recording. To give it a personal, tender, loving touch, you know?
So it was I walked carefully down the steps from the promenade at Strandhill to the raging ocean. I pressed Record and held my phone out to the Atlantic like a tech-savvy Canute, and was promptly soaked from the waist down by a freak wave hurled by a chuckling Neptune.
And lo, it came to pass that I went to the Draft House for an early dinner looking like I'd really, really, really wet myself. Nevertheless, I was allowed in, and my wife and baby even let me sit with them, so long as my soggy beige slacks stayed firmly tucked under the table.
The Draft House is a touch wintry, maybe, with worn parquet flooring and lots of bare brick and dark wooden boards on the walls, as well as some white tiles that look like they came from some old public baths. There are splashes of colour, too, from the odd painting here and there.
It's friendy and trendy, very much its own man, and gives the impression that it follows its own path, regardless of fashion. That extends to the presentation of the food, which is served in a variety of ways – in enamel bowls, on slates, on plates.
I tell you something that marks this place out, and that's the way they treat children, which isn't a bad way to judge somewhere. They brought our baby a bowl of soup and a pan of mash – exactly the same stuff as they serve the adults, and all free of charge. A baby cup full of water, too. Now, obviously, that shows they've got their heads screwed on. Treat the children well and you're three-quarters of the way there with the grown-ups they belong to, but still, it was done with an ease and spontaneity that was impressive.
Talking of impressive, the food was great. The tomato and basil soup ran the scale of notes from deep to high, and was sweet, fresh, and rich. I got the cauliflower cheese to start and it was so much more imaginative than I'd expected. The aroma hit first – a tempting waft of curry from the puree, which went so well with the crunchy cauliflower inside the crisp batter shell and the slivers of sharp and sour blue cheese. It came with raspberries, which was a bit of a surprise – not an unwelcome one, but not one that was completely successful either.
There couldn't have been much left in the kitchen other than the sink once they'd finished making the super-food salad. Fig and walnut cheese, beetroot, cucumber, pomegranate, quinoa, chia seeds – you name it, it was in it. (There were toasted nuts, too, which weren't nearly as painful as they sound, especially once you've been hit by a wave). All the different ingredients combined perfectly, although the added chicken was a bit of a let down – just too dry.
The pan-fried sea bass was fantastic. First off, the fish was cooked beautifully, the fillets holding intact, the flakes of meat delicate and subtle, and the skin lovely and crisp. There was a real deep flavour to the tiger prawns, not to mention a strong texture. And the noodles were wrapped in a delicious soy, mirin, and lime dressing.
Tempting though the puddings were, we decided to call it a day there. This was an excellent meal, served by lovely staff in a good-looking, stylish pub. A full tum, a happy family, and almost dry trousers. What more could a man ask for?
Tomato and basil soup €5.50
Cauliflower cheese € 8.50
Pan-fried sea bass and tiger prawns €21
Super food salad with chicken €13.50
Pinot Grigio, glass €5.75
Guinness, pint €4.40
Total: €58.65 (£52.64)