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  • Writer's picturegfmeade7

MENU CYCLING IN CIRCLES


I was listening to someone reminiscing about what Irish customers used to eat in bygone days and they mentioned when it was once customary in Ireland to have a simple glass of orange juice listed as a starter. When I was beginning my career, this was actually the case on my first ever menu in the early eighties. It was listed along with the other fixed choices of starters on every menu around namely pate maison with melba toast, egg mayonnaise, half of a grapefruit, prawn cocktail, vegetable soup, smoked salmon and a melon wedge or cocktail. The anaemic bread rolls and butter packs would be in a basket and you might get a few slices of soda bread thrown in.

     The main courses were just as set in their ways nationwide, there was sirloin or fillet steak Diane or with pepper sauce, darne of salmon with hollandaise sauce or simply a lemon wedge, bread crumbed deep fried fillet of frozen defrosted plaice and tartare sauce, a half roast duck or chicken, stuffing and gravy, chicken Maryland, a gammon steak with pineapple or a mixed grill. It was rare to see a steak cooked rare back then, a few mediums at the most. These mains then would be garnished with a leaf of lettuce, a wedge of tomato and a couple of slices of cucumber and onion.


The sides were frozen chips, lumpy mash, croquette or baked potato, sliced buttered carrots, cauliflower mornay, sautéed mushrooms and onions, battered onion rings, not very al dente broccoli florets and maybe cabbage that could be on the reheated whiffy side.


There might be a turnip puree either and any green beans or peas would be frozen. Finally on the dessert trolley often wheeled to your table was a sherry trifle, apple tart, black forest gateau, meringue nests, fresh fruit salad, banana split and crème caramel with ice cream and cream on everything.The table wines would be Blue Nun or Matteus Rose.

You could of course splash out on a big Bordeaux or Burgundy red but you would pay top punt. The coffee was instant but you could have an Irish one with whiskey or really show your class and go for a French version made with cognac. Ironically I now live a few hundred yards from where this simple country three star Beechmount hotel once stood and is long demolished.

    Fast forward to today and it has come full circle with another all Ireland wide menu. The regular starters these days are some sort of spiced prawns, Caesar salad, garlic mushrooms, black pudding, chicken wings, potato skins, goat cheese with beetroot and deep fried brie. Mains are still steaks, a chicken breast, salmon, hake or cod sometimes in batter, sea bass, a spicy sizzler platter, a curry, a burger, a pasta and maybe a pork belly or rack of lamb. A couple of specials will add a bit of welcome variety.



  The sides are invariably chips, baby boiled, champ or gratin potatoes with vegetables much the same but cooked a bit better. Desserts now are usually a choice of crème brulee, pavlova or meringue roulade, sticky toffee pudding, a cheesecake, an apple pie, ice creams or sorbets and a chocolate option like a lava cake. There are of course the vegetarian choices and all the allergen compliance. Portions have generally doubled though and the average customer is much more discerning.

   


The real difference is that eating out is not such a big deal. We are not far off the States now where all three main meals are eaten outside the home or bought in. I still cannot adapt to eating on the hoof never mind between meals so I am firmly in the past on that one. We are creatures of habit and the fact that menus are still so uniformly widespread even today shows we have not changed that much at all.

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