By Mollie McWilliams
By Molly Gore
By Pete Kane
By Pete Kane
By Anna Roth
By Alex Hochman
By Joseph Geha
By Anna Roth
The chowder was good -- really good, in fact. I was amazed at its goodness: lots of chewy bits of clam and fresh vegetables in a broth whose texture and sweet flavor came clearly from real cream. Even with the shepherd's pie coming, I found myself wishing I'd ordered a bowl. The dense brown bread served with it was toothy and similarly genuine.
The shepherd's pie was also the real deal: an oval casserole of well-textured, well-spiced ground beef, with peas, cubed carrots, and plenty of sautéed onions under a layer of fluffy (as promised) mashed potatoes. It was exactly the dish I'd been longing for.
Shepherd's pie $9
Irish breakfast $8.95
Fish and chips $8.50
Irish stew $9.25
Chocolate mousse $3.75
Kitchen open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. (bar open the same days and hours, but closes at 2 a.m.)
Muni: 22, 26
Noise level: quiet at brunch and lunch, can be noisy at dinner
I wanted trifle for dessert (it's not on the menu, but "Trish can make it," said my server, who turned out to be Anne Murray, the bar's owner, holding out hope that someday Trish might); I settled instead for chocolate mousse, which was really an unusually light-textured chocolate mousse pie, the slice barely holding together in a pool of cream on a plate dusted with cocoa. (Presentation is more key here than in most pubs I've been in.)
It was a delightful little supper, and all three courses and a glass of beer came to $20. I was happy to hear that the place does an Irish breakfast on the weekends ("All the meat imported from Ireland," said Murray). As I exited under the legend painted over the door -- "We at Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde's thank you for stopping by and drinking us dry" -- I knew I'd be back soon.
Which turned out to be with Suzanne, for a Sunday brunch enlivened with excellent Bloody Marys. Her Irish breakfast was quite a plateful (two eggs any style, unfatty Irish bacon, Irish sausage, white and black pudding, a mountain of roast potatoes, and a cup of baked beans), and I thought the meats were lovely, especially the crisp-skinned, mildly porky link sausages and the mosaiclike slices of the "puddings," cereal-and-pork sausages themselves, the black one colored dark with pig's blood. I wanted to try the salmon and potato cakes with fresh dill, but we were told, "They'll be ready in an hour; the chef's a bit behind." He might have been recovering from the night before, because he sent out my eggs Benedict without the essential ham, although I barely missed it, as the blanket of billowing hollandaise was so luscious mixed with the yolks of the eggs. I liked the room in the thin daylight (especially the two huge oil paintings of Wilde), and I liked the Irish family, with three tots, having their own brunch nearby.
Which emboldened me to plan a family pub lunch, though pouring rain and the cold that was working its way around the clan turned it into a solitary and rather dispiriting meal. I enjoyed the sweet onion soup capped with toast and melted cheese, but I wouldn't call it "French," since its paleness betrayed neither the requisite beef broth nor truly caramelized onions. I loved the long, golden, fried strips of cod in my fish and chips, but the house-cut chips visibly needed at least a few more minutes in the fryer. A couple at the bar raved over the roast chicken salad sandwich and the BLT (made with Irish bacon and garlic mayonnaise). The proper Irish lamb stew that I toted home made a pleasant supper, warmed up, while the rains pelted down.
But for a glass of expertly pulled dark Guinness with an inch-thick, creamy head, I'd have to go back to the pub.