Wednesday 6 May 2015

Bia Beatha: An Irish Supper Club

When I received an invitation to a supper club from Bia Beatha a few weeks ago the first thing I did was check their website as I’d never heard of them. I liked what I saw, a monthly Irish themed supper club during which attendees enjoy a 4 course meal while listening to a food historian between dishes. I was sold.

Also, I knew it’d be hosted by Máirtín Mac Con Iomaire, a chef and culinary art lecturer in DIT, who I was curious to meet in real life. A few years ago I stumbled across his PHD thesis (‘The Emergence, Development and Influence of French Haute Cuisine on public dining in Dublin Restaurants 1900-2000: an oral history’) online, so you can guess my curiosity was peaked.

On a Saturday evening Mr. FFID and I headed to the United Arts Club, a gorgeous Georgian building located on Fitzwillliam Street. 

We were first greeted with a hawthorn (I think) royale cocktail in an upstairs room where got to chat with some of the other guests.

Without being too rushed we were ushered into a gorgeous candle-lit, art filled room where we sat according to a sitting plan. The room was beautiful and small enough to create a comfortable, intimate atmosphere for the group.

Máirtín greeted us and gave us a brief introduction to Irish food history which was followed by a starter of Carlow Spiced beef with Cashel blue dressing, poached pear and toasted walnuts. 

This was my favourite dish of the night, simple yet nicely presented with perfect flavour combinations. We had a choice between two main courses (one fishy, one meaty), most of us at our table got the slow roast shoulder of Wicklow lamb with rosemary gravy, which came with a potato cake, wilted spinach and a side of potato gratin and carrots. No over the top sophistication, just wholesome uncomplicated food designed to be comforting and deliciously Irish. 

The dessert of buttermilk panna cotta was possibly a little bland for my palate, served with an apple compote (I might have preferred rhubarb given the season) but the shortbread biscuit was a lovely buttery accompaniment. 

In addition to the food, we were very generously served wine throughout the evening and ended the meal with either an Irish coffee or a nip of whiskey.

Between each course Máirtín talked us through the history of Irish food, which was so was captivating. He’s an amazing storyteller and speaker, his enthusiasm for Irish food and history is remarkable. We got to listen to him singing, recite poetry and just burst with Irish pride in the most delightful way. We also had a small musical interlude with a talented young flute player, which was definitely a lovely touch.

The meal was a great representation of contemporary Irish food combined with warm hospitality and a lovely down to earth atmosphere. The experience was much more than just eating Irish food and felt like a celebration of Irishness, enjoyed by visitors and locals alike.

I honestly had goosebumps several stages during the evening and when the Irish food matriarch Myrtle Allen and Ballymaloe were mentioned as being the epitome of Irish hospitality I even got a little teary-eyed.  Definitely an evening well spent.

Disclaimer: I was invited to this event free of charge.  I gave no undertaking to write a review and the words above are, as always, my honest opinion.