Over the course of a decade, I’ve visited Sage greater than most different eating places. Conveniently situated on my — barely prolonged — doorstep, it has been fascinating to observe chef-proprietor Kevin Aherne’s culinary evolution, notably as a 12-Mile Menu locavore zealot, when his kitchen’s larder was sourced nearly totally from inside that self-imposed restrict.
The stays of that very efficiently realised culinary restriction (additional tightened by pursuit of Michelin glory) have been finally loosened and Aherne’s cooking turned much less showy, relaxed, extra involved with flavour than accolade, and all the higher for it, as he delivered in all probability the perfect meals of his profession.
He additionally started to develop as a restaurateur, usually evolving the enterprise mannequin: including the extra informal Green Room, serving ‘snacks’ and craft beers; and growing the courtyard right into a splendid outside house.
But then The Covid rode into city and tore up the hospitality rulebook for one and all. Aherne was quick to reply, reorienting to ship a sensible take-home providing, opening a deli store after which branching into retail with a brand new vary of Sage2Go prepared meals and varied merchandise, now obtainable in a number of retailers across the county.
Imposed lockdown could have initially damage enterprise nevertheless it taught Aherne the true worth of balancing dwelling life with work commitments and, whereas the eating public had come to count on common change from Aherne, his subsequent transfer was an actual curveball.
In late October, final yr, he introduced he was hanging up his apron as head chef and entrusting the kitchen to newcomer Darren Kennedy, a younger Corkman who constructed up a superb CV over six years working in London, together with time at Michelin-starred Chez Bruce and three years as head chef on the famend Brunswick House.
Returning to his native Cork, a number of years in the past, Kennedy took over as head chef in St Francis Provisions, in Kinsale, and was quickly garnering nationwide consideration and rave evaluations.
It is a superb ‘fresh’ Friday night time when Current Wife and I roll as much as a heaving, bustling Sage, gleeful diners having a proper royal time of it. The former ‘fine dining’ room has ‘unbuttoned its collar, thrown away the tie,’ jettisoning white linen and fancy tableware for a decidedly much less formal, infinitely extra down-home look. Moorish-style symmetrical star-patterned tiles function in varied spots across the room, supplemented by a number of tasteful prints on the partitions.
We begin off with three snacks. Fried Chicken Crumpet options Japanese-style karaage fried hen, tender meat, completely crisped coating, doused in punchy fermented chilli sizzling sauce. It sits on a plump and pillowy little crumpet and is topped with crème fraîche, lumpfish roe and a grate of Young Buck blue cheese. All advised, a mighty morsel spanning the flavour spectrum. Mackerel Bhajis proceed on this vein: crisp battered fish, additionally sporting a pleasant chilli hit, the sting softened with coriander and mint chutney and a creamy mantle of melting grated Ballinrostig gouda.
An area Rossmore oyster is served with extra of that fruity fiery sizzling sauce and wickedly addictive crunchy house-made scampi fries. All three are cracking little mouthfuls though it would do to additionally provide a much less fiery various, apart from the home bread and butter, to those that aren’t totally signed up chilli freaks. There are not any complaints, nonetheless, from our quarter.
Starters correct start with confit leeks, fleshy, moist and toothsome, squatting proudly on a homely and textured ajo blanco, a denser tackle traditional Spanish ‘white gazpacho’ (together with bread, almonds, garlic, olive oil). Roasted hazelnuts and nameko mushrooms spherical out the textural and flavour palette, and it’s merely begging for a glass of nutty crisp Amontillado sherry to clean all of it down.
Better once more is smoked beef tartare, Black Angus/Hereford cross from Frank Murphy Butchers in Midleton, aged in home after which served up as a traditional uncooked beef tartare, candy, tender meat topped with tangy acidic aioli, artichoke crisps and shavings of excellent Shepherd’s Store.
CW’s principal course is cod, crisped on the pores and skin facet, plump flesh, sliding away like glaciers in glistening slabs. The accompanying flavours and textures should not for the fainthearted: briny, wealthy seaweed butter sauce, meaty mussels, white asparagus, crispy cod croquette and topped with katsuobushi (dried smoked bonito) flakes, shivering and squirming within the dish’s rising warmth like these polymer fortune-telling fish in Christmas crackers.
If you’re detecting a theme, that Kennedy isn’t any shrinking violet within the kitchen, somewhat a fan of daring, ahead flavours, then it’s additional confirmed with a sublimely cooked BBQ pork: three excellent slices of Darren Allen’s free vary saddleback; fats rendered to near-buttery dissolution; pinkish, tender meat, carrying frivolously a gently acrid and oaky smoke.
Roast fennel, nutty Beluga lentils and exquisitely candy but tart apple sauce spherical out a sinfully satisfying and blissfully comforting dish. Excellent pink fir apple potatoes on the facet are merely past us, boxed as much as take dwelling, and babysitting limitations see us add desserts to the identical package deal.
Accordingly, Rice Pudding, Rhubarb, Pistachio and a Beamish Tiramisu, shall not be subjected to the identical essential rigour as if served in-house; suffice to say, having survived the half hour journey dwelling in a field, they nonetheless current as extraordinarily nice, the tiramisu, particularly good, stout’s bitter nippy notes harmonising with cocoa of chocolate.
It is early days but for Kennedy in his new function however on this type, his promise is greater than marked, deceptively informal type and homely, unpretentious supply underplaying an authoritative hand in the case of wielding flavour and texture. He makes use of his native larder properly, sourcing effectively and making use of sparky grace notes from different cuisines, all leading to some very scrumptious meals on the plate — a most worthy ‘heir’ certainly.
Tab: €156.25 (Including drink and wine, excluding tip)
- The Courtyard, Main St, Midleton, Co. Cork
- Tel. (021) 463 9682
- Opening Hours: Wed/Thurs, 5-9pm; Fri/Sat, 4-10pm; Sun, 12.30-8pm