The Picky Eater

by Gazette Reporter

RYAN’S of Parkgate Street – still “Bongo Ryan’s” for those of a certain vintage – has been around a while.
Since 1886, it has sat elegantly between the Phoenix Park and Heuston Station, offering refreshment to weary travellers. Today, it continues to ply its trade, albeit in a more modern manner.
On a quiet Monday, The Picky Eater and pal repaired to the Victorian pub for a late-afternoon pint and a morsel after a tramp through the Phoenix Park.
The menu offers a tempting range: Irish “tapas” for nibblers; plenty of starters ranging from creamy chowder to flambeed kidneys; mains for vegetarians, the gluten-intolerant and committed carnivores, along with dishes of the day set out on the old-fashioned blackboard just behind the bar. Sea bass and beef and Guinness pie on the day in question.
We chose chowder and spicy chicken wings to start, followed by corn-fed chicken with pea and chorizo pearl barley with sauteed spinach and green herb dressing (€16.95), and pan-fried hake with crushed baby potatoes, grilled asparagus, black olive and tomato dressing (€17.50).
The chowder was loyal to its name: creamy, chock full of fish and, in truth, a meal in itself. Alas, the bread was nondescript – two different sorts of tired soda which needed a bin.
The wings were a triumph and suitably devoured. Half full and slightly trepidatious of the mains, Picky Eater took in the Ryan’s interior.
Revamped gas lamps and polished whiskey casks; old brass match strikers and big wooden drawers, relics of the days when pubs sold tobacco and tea and the clientele smoked; massive hanging baskets beneath old-world skylights and snugs for those seeking quiet.
Stepping into Ryan’s can be like stepping back in time – if it wasn’t for the huge TVs that cater for diehard sports fans.
The food came in its own good time and found us relaxed and ready. The chicken was really succulent: crisp on the outside but juicy and tender inside, the pearl barley was perfect texture- and taste-wise, with spinach an ideal accompaniment.
But the hake was the star of the show: it parted softly under the fork and melted in the mouth.
On tastebud overload, we surveyed desserts and plumped for a selection of cheeses from Sheridan’s Cheesemongers, served with house onion jam, fennel honey and water biscuits (€8.95). The right choice – a mix of strong and mild, soft and hard and the remaining drop of beer to round off the afternoon nicely.
For “high tea” on a quiet afternoon, Ryan’s is recommended.

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