We've passed the Bull & Castle Gastropub in Lord Edward Street several times a day since we arrived, and, since it was between Christchurch and the flat, it seemed a good prospect for the evening. The interior is dark, with wood panelling, a dark wood back-lit bar, and lots of small tables, each with a candle. Very inviting, as was the bill of fare. We both opted for seafood: I chose the seafood pie, and Tom the mussels and chips. We ordered an 8-beer taster to start, and, since we were unfamiliar with the local brews, we let the waitress choose for us. What arrived was:
Never mind the name—it's a reference to a traditional sailboat, folks. This is an Irish pale ale, very malty, lightly hopped. No added chemicals, apparently, and they take something like 6 weeks for fermentation. I'm not generally a fan of pale beers, but this was good.
Buckleys Golden Ale
This one's from Carlow Brewing. It's got a reasonably malty scent and taste, and enough hops to leave a bright, bitter finish. It's drinkable, though unremarkable, rather reminiscent of lager, truth be told.
Maltier than the IPA (see below), and not too hoppy—it's OK, but undistinguished. Mostly, this one brought to mind the old Hobgoblin beer tag line, "What's the matter, lager boy? Afraid you're gonna taste something?" It's better with food than alone, but I wouldn't go to the effort of crossing the street to drink it again.
Disappointingly watery, for a dark beer. Fuggedaboudit.
O'Hara's Irish Red
Malty and caramelly—not too heavy, with an almost molasses-y bottom note. Sweet, toasty, and gloriously ruby-colored, this one was the pick of the litter, far and away the best of the evening. It's reasonably full-bodied, with a scent as good as its taste.
This was the last glass we got to, so it sat for nearly 25 minutes undisturbed. Nevertheless, it still had a good head to it—I definitely approve. Mild, but good, and nicely dark, it turned out to be even more malty in aftertaste than going down—bravo, O'Hara's, this is excellent! It's balanced, with an understated, mild hopping, and good body. If I can't find this in the States, I'm gonna cause the biggest uproar the local beer purveyors have ever seen!
Hoppy & a little bitter, but not aggressively so—lighter than I'd normally drink, but good. Almost spicy with food, and no longer bitter. This is one I'd definitely keep around for hot summer weather.
This one was slightly malty, but watery—NOT a fan. It tasted a little sour with food, too. No, thank you!
There were two academics at the next table: chemists discussing thermodynamics, material science, chemistry, and a hapless grad student called Robbie. It seems Robbie should use Sean's code, rather than start from scratch. It really was hard to eavesdrop discreetly, so close to the bone was the conversation. Our older son, Christopher, also a grad student, has been fighting other parts of the collaboration to re-write some code that's so abysmal it actually impedes the group's research. No one wants to agree, because it's what they've ALWAYS used. Never mind that Christopher is willing to take the time to do the job better.....
Pity the long-suffering grad student, folks. He (or she) is expected to work 24/7/365, for a pittance, and make miracles happen for the profs.
Over beer and fish and chips, these guys argued their way through steady state, microscopic connections, and the eutechtic transformation. It was fascinating to hear their opinion of how their national labs work, compared with how ours do.
Though the fish and chips at the next table looked very good, I hardly know where to start about the humbly-named seafood pie. It arrived hot as the hubs of hell, a vat of it, under a blanket of mashed potato and cheese. The sauce was creamy, and contained mussels, salmon, smoked fish of some sort, and veggies. The lemon garnish, which I destroyed pursuit of its juice, was a perfect complement. Good? Folks, they serve this in heaven—I'm morally certain of it.
Tom's mussels were just as good—a stew-pot full of them—tender and sweet, with just enough sauce to enhance them.
Dessert was a white chocolate panna cotta, garnished with chocolate sauce swirled beneath if on the plate and some currants, accompanied by a small scoop of excellent strawberry ice cream skewered by a large shard of very good chocolate. The panna cotta was very suave and creamy, with just barely enough gelatin to retain its shape—PERFECT. We washed it down with another O'Hara's Red, at which point we were both comfortably full....and, for once, smart enough to quit.