I’m fairly confident J.B. Priestley’s play, An Inspector Calls, is on the current GCSE syllabus. How do I know? Because Ann and I sat surrounded by school children during a matinee performance at the Playhouse Theatre. There was that distinctive smell of cheesy tortilla crisps, rustling of packets, wriggling, and rather sweet cooing noises from the girls over a cute five-year-old boy in the cast.
We needed fortification and headed for “The Port House”:http://porthouse.ie/#section-strand on the Strand. The frontage is small and you could probably walk up and down the Strand without noticing it. Consequently, it’s long and thin and we had the option of sitting up at the bar, but opted for a table near the back to avoid draughts.
We’d chosen the port house because we could drink madeira which Ann insisted on us having as I’d spent a few days on the island of “Madeira”:http://www.silvertraveladvisor.com/blog/cultural-holidays-including-music-and-festivals/madeira-wine-festival in September with Silver Travel. I decided to test the waiter by asking whether we should drink it at the beginning or end of our meal and he said ‘either’ but suggested that as it was a sweet madeira, we might prefer it as a digestif.
He recommended a glass of white port to start with which sounded good until he suggested white port with tonic which sounded even better (for reference, they have a separate gin and tonic “menu”:http://porthouse.ie/#section-strand). It was delicious and like a white sangria, and we perused the menu whilst nibbling Ann’s favourite: hot, salty, green Padron peppers.
The main “menu”:http://porthouse.ie/#section-strand, on both sides of our place mat, was extensive with various sections (e.g. cured meats, cheese, seafood). The tapas-style dishes are all small and vary in price between £3 and £10. We both choose a couple of personal favourites: marinated anchovies for me, and chorizo for Ann, which this time, was three mini-sausages on skewers. We also selected: ham croquettes, a slice of tortilla, seared pork belly with quince aioli and bread smeared with crushed tomatoes and garlic. All the dishes were excellent but the pork belly was a definite winner.
After the port and tonic, we’d moved on to a bottle of cava and to accompany our last glass, we shared a cheese platter with six small tasters served on a board with bread, crackers, grapes and quince jelly.
For pudding Ann, fancied churros (Spanish fried doughnut strips) with chocolate dipping sauce which I’d never tried before. They were hot and crispy and delicious, especially with our long-awaited glass of madeira.
The service was excellent but not pushy, and bearing in mind we were there for nearly four hours, we never felt rushed.
Whilst there was lively music it didn’t detract from conversation and it was still easy to have a conversation. Candles were lit at each table and dimmed lighting provided a lovely atmosphere. My only complaint, the wooden seats could have done with a cushion.
As you can imagine from the name, there is also an extensive port menu – but that’s for another time.