‘I’ve never worked as hard in my life as I have in the past year,” laughs David Whelehan, of Whelehans Wines on the N11 at Loughlinstown, Co Dublin, where there is now also a new W Farmers’ Market on Fridays and a W Saturday Pop Up Takeaway, with food trucks and stalls in the car park.
Seven years ago, David transformed the former Silver Tassie, a landmark pub, into a sophisticated wine emporium. I remember visiting him in the first week of January 2015. It quickly became a hot destination for the Wicklow and SoCoDu set, with its small wine bar soon expanding into the brilliant W restaurant.
Having grown up with wine — his father being the famous TP Whelehan, whcritiqued wines for many years — there’s nobody who knows more on the subject than David. So, when he set up his oenophile emporium, importing 80pc of the wines directly, he did so in a way not previously seen here — with rows and rows of bottles, and information on each being clearly displayed. In a flash, you know everything; no one is pouring pretentious, flowery wine lingo over you.
I emerged with a delicious Domaine André Vatan Sancerre Maulin Bele Rosé 2020 (€24) by four, and an Italian Produttori Vini Manduria "Zin" Finao 2020 (€15). You can order online and there's free delivery nationwide on orders over €150.
Having had a surfeit of DIY kits and food boxes, the thought of some good old straight-to-plate takeaway food for the weekend was attractive, particularly when I'd heard that Kevin Hui, besides his fabulous cook-at-home meal kits (€22.50), had head chef Li Ke and his full brigade cooking China Sichuan favourites in the Garden Room at the Saturday Pop Up. So, I headed there for a nosy, and to order my China Sichuan treat tout de suite.
Starters included cold 'Bon
Bon' chicken shreds with spicy sesame dressing (€8.50), plus Spicy 'Man and Wife' Beef - a brilliant, cold, spicy sliced beef salad with chilli, soya and sesame (€9.50). We had the alternatives, which were delicious crispy chicken spring rolls (€6.50) and crispy dumplings with Sichuan soya, ginger and garlic dressing (chicken, €9.50; vegetarian, €8.50). These, I hasten to add, are not like anything you'll get in a regular takeaway, but elegant, ready to plate and presented in individual boxes.
For the mains, we ordered aromatic Kung Po chicken (€13.50), with finely cubed chicken pieces and cashew nuts stir-fried in a delicious Kung Po sauce and served with jasmine rice. I absolutely loved my prawns (€15) in 'Fish Fragrance', a punchy, hot ginger and garlic sauce, again with jasmine rice.
We also had a Millionaire's Twix of shortbread, caramel, almonds and praline (€6.50) made by pastry chef Karen Smith. That was dinner sorted!
However, it was still early, so I picked up some lunch from Eoin Garry's Feed food truck. Formerly head chef/ instructor at the Cooks Academy in Dublin's South William Street, Eoin's food is superbly fresh and flavoursome. A buttermilk fried-chicken sandwich (€10) was a sizeable sesame-dredged free-range fillet with house pickles, beef tomato, shredded lettuce and ranch dressing, to which we added fries (€2.50).
A delicious falafel mezze tray (€10) had roasted red pepper, harissa hummus, giant ras el hanout couscous salad, pickles et al, while the chef's special, "Al Pastor Tacos" - four for €10 - had adobada marinated pork shoulder, salsa roja, red onion, avocado, coriander and lime.
Of course, I had to try the breads from the Sugerloaf Bakery, which had a lovely display of different sourdoughs, seeded and unseeded breads, and oatcakes. I bought a brown sourdough, and also couldn't resist an enormous herbed focaccia square the size of a small pillow, and a brace of baguettes. Lastly, we stopped at Treo Coffee, where Liam Kelly from Portlaoise was doing really good coffees, hot chocolates, flapjacks, rocky roads and other sweet treats.
I got a warm welcome when I arrived home with all my spoils from the W Saturday Pop Up Takeaway. It's open from 12pm-5:30pm on Saturdays, while the farmers' market runs on Fridays from 10am-3pm'
Lucinca O'Sullivan, Sunday Independant, June 20th, 2021