Tempus fugit at an undeniably scary speed, like a spry sprinter dashing furiously towards a finishing line. Time tethers us to the present while allowing us to glance backwards and to idly wonder about an uncertain and not foretold future. Time has a way of blurring and misting its own empirical chronological lines so that what happened just a few short days past often seems like centuries ago. A case in point is my recent fleeting trip to Lismore and the lunch I had in the O’ Brien Chop House while I was there; it was only three weeks ago yet seems to belong to a time out of mind in a far distant long forgotten temporal realm.
I am reflecting on time’s elasticity partly because scenically pretty Lismore is a place where times past and present time collide and partly because I am having difficulty, despite making notes when I was there, remembering all the details of my lunch in the O’Brien Chop House.
The restaurant is one of those that even if you have not been within a hundred miles of its front door may sound familiar because it is so often mentioned in journalistic and blogging dispatches. So I was determined to go check it out when I was in Lismore and I was not disappointed. It’s owned by Justin and Jenny Green of nearby Ballyvolane House; Justin’s immpecible hospitality/food pedigree included a stint with the Soho House Group at Babbington House. The restaurant is described as follows on the O’Brien Chop House website ‘an unpretentious eatery that offers diners traditional and robust Irish recipes in a wonderful atmospheric old Victorian pub’ and I would say that’s pretty accurate.
Like Gaul the restaurant is in tres partes divisa est. You enter through the charming original Victorian bar and then on into the dining which is decorated in Farrow & Ball-esque colours and where dark wooden floors and tables are offset by sludge coloured cushions, vintage bits and bobs and old pine furniture. Off the dining room is a higgledy piggdely pretty garden. Because I had earlier indulged in cake and coffee at the nearby Summer House café I was only able to manage a one course lunch. I had pan-fried fillet of hake with an olive oil brandade and lemon sauce. It was good and came with an excellent selection of vegetables. The provenance of all the food is reassuringly listed on the menu and much of it is organic. especially good was the farm-house butter which accompanied the plate of home-baked breads. The friendly service was excellent.
If I was ever lucky enough to live in Lismore I think that I would visit the O’Brien Chop House often. My thanks to Richard Reeve, the restaurant’s helpful and urbane manager for answering all my questions.
UPDATE: I was much saddened to learn that O’Brien Chop House will close for good on the 28th October 2012.