My grandfather, the only real gentleman I’ve ever met, was a great one for tradition.
Firstly, he was always immaculately dressed, but you would expect that from a man who was at his prime way back during the 1930’s and 40’s.
And, of course, he had a list of do’s and don’ts for every possible occasion, no matter what the day might bring.
‘Never leave the house without an umbrella.’ He lived in Ireland, this is just common sense really.
‘A gentleman never discusses politics, money or religion. Never, and especially not at the dinner table.’ Unless, of course, somebody was stupid enough to utter something about politics, money or religion that he considered nonsense; at that point it was open season.
‘No brown in town.’ This refers to a gentleman’s choice of shoe colour should he be heading into the city, so calm down.
This ‘list’ extended far beyond the day-to-day gentlemanly behaviour he expected.
When it came to food, it was very simple. For example, it was always goose at Christmas, never turkey.
However, I do remember this rule was quickly abandoned one festive season when he arrived home with a goose, wrapped in newspaper, only to find that the innards had yet to be removed.
What followed I can only describe as carnage in the kitchen as my grandfather and my mother attempted to gut the said goose. I was five at the time and can still hear my mother’s screams as she stood there, elbow deep inside the bird, while my grandfather shouted instructions from the opposite end of the kitchen.
Of course, it was always fish on Fridays, a roast on Sundays and tripe and drisheen (that’s the stomach lining of a cow and a blood sausage made from pig’s blood and fat, yum) on Tuesdays. This menu was written in stone, along with bacon and cabbage, of course, which would fill in the gaps so to speak for the rest of the week.
I was reminded of my grandfather’s lists and the traditions many people used to have, and indeed some still do, when it comes to our daily bread. My lovely wife and I spent a day eating (and yes drinking) our way around my home by the Lee. That’s Cork city, Republic of Ireland, look it up on Google maps.
To begin with, I think, no sorry, we did break most if not all of grandfather’s rules within the first two hours of setting off. It was a Wednesday, I wore brown shoes, we had no umbrella, politics, religion and money were all discussed. I think there may have been a mention of sex as well…and then we did other things that he would certainly have considered simply not done.
We had cocktails before 5pm. Well, before 3pm if truth be told.
Now I’ve said it, it’s out there and you know what? I simply don’t care. It was a refreshing mojito for me and a delicious cosmopolitan for my lovely wife. We drank them in the sun by the river watching the people go by. It was sublime.
In case you’re reading this in shock and horror at our lack of sobriety and common decency, your hand hovering over your mouse ready to unfollow my blog, fear not, these drinks were but an aperitif to the culinary experience we were about to enjoy. I mean, we’re not animals!
We rose from our seats having finished our drinks and crossed the river serenaded by a busker with a classical guitar. When I say serenaded, it sounded to me as if he only knew one note and was playing this, really well mind you, over and over again. However, my lovely wife assures me that this was not the case.
A short distance away from the one-note busker, as you begin to climb a slight hill that leads from the Southgate Bridge to Barrack Street, you will find a small, Japanese takeaway, named for its owner and chef Takashi Miyazaki.
While Miyazaki’s is ostensibly a takeaway, there are seven stools arranged along the wall and the window. When we arrived, we were very lucky on two counts. Firstly, we were about to experience incredible food and, secondly, there just happened to be two stools available overlooking the busy street.
We settled in; my lovely wife and I examined the delights awaiting us, all displayed in both Japanese and English on the menu board.
There was, of course, sushi, salmon maki and assorted nigiri, a bento of breaded and fried mackerel or Shimeji tempura served with tendashi dipping sauce.
It was, however, Takashi’s Special Lemon Ramen, described as ‘fresh and clean ramen soup noodles topped with pork’ as per the menu board, that caught my lovely wife’s eye and I just saw the words ‘crispy fried chicken’ so I chose a bowl of Tori Tatsuta Donburi, which on further examination of the menu told me that this was ‘Japanese-style crispy fried chicken tossed in namban sauce, shredded cabbage on steamed rice’. Well, ok then.
While ordering our food, I noticed the words tempura prawns. A dilemma, a major crisis. Ok, it wasn’t a ‘UK leaving the EU’ crisis but you have to remember I was very, very hungry and faced a ‘Sophie’s choice’ scenario of crispy chicken or tempura prawns. I love them both; I mean, what would you do? What would you do?
In the end, I opted for the tempura prawn soba. For a fleeting moment I was about to order both but I knew I could always come back the next time I was up in the city. I may have finally grown up.
Takashi’s Special Lemon Ramen was light and delicate. The lemon was a perfect addition, cutting the tender, fat-layered pork slices while the crispy spring onion added a nice clean bite. My lovely wife enjoy this so much that she drained the bowl by lifting it to her lips and drinking it, every last drop. What would grandfather say to that?
The tempura prawns arrived resting on a bed of the most deliciously flavourful soba noodles and stock I have ever tasted. Earthy, full of deep rich flavour, the stock was a very surprising and delicious accompaniment to the sweet prawns. As I relished every bite of the prawns and slurp of noodles, I discovered a surprise and the source of the incredible earthy taste hidden beneath the soba noodles.
Mushroom, shiitake mushrooms, soft and juicy. Sublime, just sublime.
We spoke with and complimented Takashi and insisted that he open a restaurant with walking distance of our house. He didn’t say no so we’re hopeful, forever hopeful.
We promised we would return and headed off out into the late afternoon to break some more of grandfather’s rules.
Whiskey next, I think.