Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Restaurant Review: Bodega, John Street, Waterford

I definitely clock up a lot of miles in my work for TheTaste.ie where I am tasked with seeking out and reviewing the best places to dine in around Ireland. Not that I’m complaining because, over the past year, I have visited many different parts of this island and have re-discovered a love for and a pride in the food that we produce in this country. My travels recently brought me to Waterford and I asked friends who know the area well for recommendations on which restaurants I should visit. One name kept cropping up which immediately piqued my interest so I booked myself a table for an early evening meal in Bodéga! Restaurant & Wine Bar and was looking forward to discovering whether the enthusiastic endorsements were deserved!

Located on John Street in the heart of Waterford City, Bodéga! is easy to find as its bright orange/red frontage acts like a beacon attracting diners through its doors. Inside, the restaurant is surprisingly spacious despite initially seeming long and narrow. Decorated in  bright jaunty colours with wooden tables and chairs and comfortable banquette seating along one side of the dining room, this is a place that makes you feel happy inside and brings a smile to your face.

I sometimes feel self-conscious when dining alone but the warm welcome and laid-back atmosphere in Bodéga! immediately  put me at ease and I happily sipped on sparkling water as I examined the menu in greater detail. Three menus were offered on the evening that I visited - an Early Bird an À La Carte and a Tastes Menu which after some consideration was the one that I decided to go for.

Smoked Salmon
Although I had arrived early to the restaurant, a steady flow of customers meant that the tables soon began to fill up creating a pleasant hum of chatter against the lively Spanish music playing in the background. I could feel myself relaxing as I nibbled on Bread dipped in a fruity olive oil and waited for my meal to arrive.

The Tastes Menu comprises four courses with local produce being used throughout, where possible. First up was a snack consisting of ‘rosettes’ of Carpaccio of Beef and Smoked Salmon. Both were presented simply without any unnecessary embellishments which I found appealing. The tender beef was partnered with small dots of a mild horseradish mayonnaise whilst the smoked salmon was drizzled with a rather zippy pickled onion dressing that was unbelievably moreish. I was impressed to learn that the salmon had been smoked in-house and I loved the depth-of-flavour that it possessed.

Rabbit Terrine
My second course a Terrine of Elda Wild Dunhill Rabbit, Carrot Chutney & Grilled Bread was an attractive looking dish consisting of a generous portion of the terrine with slices of griddled bread and a wonderful carrot ‘chutney’ This was, in reality, more like a pickle of grated fresh carrot but with its perfectly balanced sweet and sour notes I felt that it was an ideal accompaniment for the rabbit terrine. Terrines can be bland with a tendency to dry out during cooking but this was a delight to eat. Wrapping the terrine in bacon during cooking helped to protect the lean rabbit meat whilst the inclusion of green peppercorns and cornichons gave the dish added oomph and texture.

Although a choice of duck or fish  was offered for the main course I quickly decided on Billy Burke’s Dunmore East Brill, Dillisk Foam, Pea Purée & Warm Potato Salad. Presented on a speckled grey stoneware plate this was a stunning looking dish that was begging to be eaten. Brill, with its sweet taste and firm texture, is a great favourite of mine and one that I order whenever I see it on a menu. The accompanying pea purée with its light and silky texture served to accentuate the natural sweetness of the fish whilst the chunks of warm potato gave the dish body and texture creating pleasing sensations in the mouth. The dish was finished with a dillisk flavoured foam which was evocative of the spray that remains as the tide ebbs and flows against the coastline. This was an outstanding dish that pleased on so many levels.

Chocolate Cake
I was torn between the Warm Chocolate Cake, Cherry Crisp, Chocolate Soil, & Cherry Ripple Ice-Cream and the Milleens Farmhouse Cheese, Honeyed Walnuts, Oatcakes & Apple Chutney for dessert and after a quick chat with my obliging waitress decided to order both.  The brownie-like chocolate cake was dark and damp and had obviously been made using a good dark chocolate. Partnered with an excellent cherry-ripple ice cream and an intensely flavoured cherry crisp, this was a simple but decadent dessert.

I finished my meal with the cheese and oatcakes. I am a huge fan of Milleens - a washed rind, medium-soft cheese with an orange, slightly sticky rind. Here it was served with superior oatcakes, a refreshing homemade apple chutney and rather addictive candied walnuts. This was a fitting end to a truly  memorable meal which  for the quality of food offered on the four-course Tastes Menu represented unbelievable value for money at €35 per person.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Waterford and was charmed by my meal in Bodéga! Talented Head Chef Jamie Dowling produces exciting food that is fun to eat. His cooking is accomplished and confident but he also has a lightness-of-touch that makes each plate of food irresistible. Service throughout my meal was exemplary and staff were enthusiastic and eager to please. Charismatic restaurateur Cormac Cronin has built a good team in Bodéga! and has created a restaurant that is understandable popular. I would have no hesitation in strongly recommending it.
Bodéga! Restaurant & Wine Bar
54 John Street
Opening Hours:
Monday - Saturday: Serving Noon-10pm; Early Bird: Monday - Friday 5pm-7pm
Closed Sundays
Telephone: 051844177
Website: www.bodegawaterford.com

This review first appeared in TheTaste.ie