Coopers in Kilternan
Paolo Tullio's Review
Imagine a wet winter Wednesday with sod all on telly. Now imagine that
your house is still in the process of drying out after a flood; that's
to say there's an irritating drone from the dehumidifiers, the furniture
is piled up all over the place, the floors are denuded of carpet and on
top of that, outside you can hear the sound of even more rain bucketing
down. If you can imagine all of that, then you've got a pretty good idea
of why my wife said 'yes' to my suggestion of going out for a meal.
When I first started writing these reviews she was eager to come along
and savour whatever delights the catering industry of Ireland could put
our way. But recently, unless it's somewhere she particularly wanted to
go to, she's been inclined to say 'I'm busy, why don't you take someone
else?' Whether ennui or, perish the thought, a desire to be rid of me
temporarily, it had been a while since she'd accompanied me.
I had little urge to go to the city centre, so I started going through
various guides looking for somewhere that I could get to easily. Eventually
I settled on Coopers in Kilternan for the principal reason that I could
get there without going through a single traffic light, which seemed reason
enough to me.
There are, as far as I'm aware, another five Coopers dotted around the
greater Dublin area. The Kilternan one is at the back of the Golden Ball
pub, a place that a long time ago sensible people avoided. Twenty minutes
after leaving home we pulled into the vast acreage of the Golden Ball
car park, which has, apart from lots of cars, its very own fake stone
ruin. This gives some visual interest to what would otherwise be a view
of parked cars. Kilternan has always been a place full of masons and stone-workers
and there's lots of stonework around - the work, I am assured, of local
men. The first thing that hit us as we entered the restaurant was the
warmth, immediately putting us in a better position than if we'd stayed
at home. It has the sort of decor that the Berni Inns made popular in
the sixties; shiny brass bits, lots of dark wood, some stonework, soft
lighting and candles on the tables. I didn't see any, but if there had
been horse brasses hanging on the walls I wouldn't have been a bit surprised.
It's comfortable in the way that only something very familiar can be:
you've seen this kind of room so often that you feel instantly at ease.
Clearly Coopers is run to a formula, and as far as it goes it works.
As I looked down the menu a pattern emerged: these were all dishes that
were tasty, middle-of-the-road and not hard to prepare. What that meant
to my jaundiced eye was that although there was nothing here to jolt a
jaded palate into paroxysms of pleasure, there was a slim to zero chance
of getting a bad meal. All the basic ingredients for a comfortable room
and a comforting menu are in place, and the combination promised a reliable,
if unexciting, meal.
But before we get to the food, a word or two about wine lists. Nothing
irritates me more than mark-ups on wine that break the 100% barrier, or
lists that are so heavy on fine clarets there's nothing good to drink
at less than £20. A few weeks ago I ate in Jacob's Ladder in Nassau
Street where I was struck by a peculiarity of their wine list; there wasn't
a single French wine on it. Every wine was a wellchosen New World or Antipodean
wine allowing me, the punter, a choice of really good wines for less than
£20. Coopers does have a few French wines, but there is a preponderance
of world wines and they are mostly good ones at reasonable prices. Their
most expensive listed wine is the chunky Italian Amarone at £22.95,
which is fair value. I chose the Australian Wolf Blass Cabernet/Shiraz
which meant I had a really full, fruity wine for £13.95, which comes
close to being a bargain. Don't look for vintages, however, because they're
After a brief discussion of whether garlic was to be a communal consumption,
my wife settled on Kenmare mussels with a garlic sauce, while I, ever
conscious of my figure, ordered the deep-fried garlic mushrooms. A generous
portion of mussels arrived with a good enough sauce, while my mushrooms,
well-prepared and presented, were none the less the rather boring button
I had chosen, with dazzling originality and daring, sirloin steak and
chips for my main course which came with garlic butter, while my wife
had ordered 'surf and turf' which was three medallions of beef fillet,
with prawns in garlic butter on top. As you can see, we had both gone
for garlic in a big way. Both of these dishes were good, which brings
me back to my original analysis. It would take a contrary genius to make
a mess of these dishes and thankfully no such person was in the kitchen.
What we got was plain, good and honest.
It was then that my wife, picking up on one of my more frequent laments
when faced with too many green bits, said 'Well, you can't say that this
is girlie food.' Since I was cutting into a bloody steak at the time I
had to agree with her analysis; but as I looked around the room, it slowly
dawned on me that I was the only man in a room of fifteen women scattered
around various tables. It goes without saying that as soon as I pointed
this out, five men walked in and sat down beside us, ruining whatever
theory I was about to propound.
With the main courses and wine finished we both had that mellow sensation
that a decent meal and a couple of glasses of wine brings. The room was
fairly full and there was a quiet buzz of people enjoying the restorative
powers of food. My wife went off to find the ladies and when she got back
she made this observation: the loos were shared with the crowded bar,
which somehow broke the cocooning spell that the dining room had created.
Coopers does not offer you haute cuisine, but then it doesn't pretend
to. It offers simple, honest fare in a comfortable room which makes a
pleasant change from other restaurants which try to be what they aren't.
Our food bill, at just over thirty pounds, was good value for what we