Unassumingly located across the road from a shopping centre, The Kitchen on the quays in Drogheda might look like a regular bistro, but open the menu and you’re in for a surprise.
The owners have travelled extensively in the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East, and their experiences are firmly reflected in the dishes on offer here. The influences of Spain, Morocco, Turkey and Egypt are all evident in the chef’s culinary style.
The menu starts with about a dozen tapas options, from hummus and marinated olives to harcha, a Berber flatbread stuffed with spinach and curd. The tapas can be ordered as small individual starters, but even better, get a few to share since it’s hard to choose just one. The zaalouk – a smoked aubergine and tomato dip – is particularly moreish, the kind of thing you’ll need to order extra bread for in order to swipe up every last bit from the bowl.
If you want something a little more substantial, there are half a dozen starters too, such as salt cod with peppers and chickpeas, marinated piquillo peppers with preserved lemons and capers or cured smoked beef with pickled artichokes and manchego cheese.
Mains are even more intriguing. A sea trout casserole with sultanas, preserved lemons and pine nuts is deceptive. On the plate, it looks like the usual stew of boiled potatoes and carrots, but everything is shot through with the clean, fresh taste of the lemon. A duck breast is served with sautéed potatoes and prunes in a light caramel sauce that upstages the meat and steals the show.
Oddly, though, the Middle Eastern theme doesn’t carry over to desserts, though no one’s likely to complain about the salted caramel baked Alaska, the chocolate truffle cake or the Burke’s Farm ice cream. There’s a separate children’s menu, and also the option for kids to order a small portion of anything from the main menu, which is always good to see.
The small restaurant is bright, airy and charming and there’s a separate room that can be booked for a more private setting. Staff are friendly, attentive and knowledgeable, particularly with wine recommendations.
Yotam Ottolenghi may have made Middle Eastern food the hottest new trend with his best-selling cookbooks and London cafés, but here in Ireland, we can gloat at having The Kitchen in Drogheda. A real find.