Otto's Creative Catering - One of our top 5 meals of all time

I’m not going to be able to put into proper words how fantastic the meal in OCC in Dunworley was last night. We just can’t stop talking about it. Perfection from start to finish. But first some history:

When we moved to Bandon two years ago, I asked around about good restaurants in the area. The general consensus was that none of the ones in Bandon were great but that Otto’s in Dunworley was fantastic. A few months later I did a foray down there to see where it was and to check out the beach. I thought the road would never end. Finally, just as we arrived exactly in the middle of nowhere, I saw the entrance. We kept going and went down to the beach which is fabulous - small, rocky, interesting, fantastic views.

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So for the next 18 months, we said “we must we must” but the drive down that twisty road late at night was putting us off. Then last christmas C&T gave us a voucher for a meal for two there as a thank-you. We continued on with “we must we must”. A few weeks back, Catherine and her sis Paula decided to have a day of pampering in Inchydoney (they left 30 minutes ago and all 4 children are still alive - even if Sibéal’s lip is bleeding). Paula, the saint, offered to mind our darlings last night so we could head out. One problem is the cost of cabs to get anywhere. Cork is €40, Clon is €25, Kilbrittain is €20 and Dunworley is €30 - all of those are each way! We initially went for Casino house but they were booked out. Then we copped ourselves on and realised that if we did Otto’s then we were only paying for the taxi (and booze). So off we went.

The restaurant is up a rutted track through their organic farm. Being on a headland, they have wind-breaks everywhere to help with growing all the produce they use in the restaurant. I’m guessing they have had lots of chats with Joy Larkom, the famous vegetable gardening writer who moved down to the same area in the past few years to retire. She has written several articles since on her wind-break efforts.

The house is beautiful. Looks old and stonewashed but you realise pretty quickly that it is a modern house with (as Hilda put it herself) “not a straight line in the building). The welcome was really friendly with Otto himself taking the order. I noticed a copy of the Bridgestone Guide on the coffee table in the waiting area. I don’t think they should leave it there. The review of their restaurant is the greatest pile of “right-on” horseshite I have read in years. At least they did actually mention the food towards the end.

They encourage people to bring their own wine and they don’t charge corkage - how many other places do that? I guessed they might have a few organic wines available so we didn’t bring any. They had a very short list of cheap (€20) organic and bio-dynamic ones. We went with bio-dynamic Riesling and it was fabulous (both bottles :-)).

On to the menu. Exactly the kind of thing I was expecting - good simple dishes made with their own produce. Lots of salads in the starters and then steaks, pork, fish, offal in the mains. I’d have been happy to eat anything on the menu.

For starters Catherine had a smoked Gubbeen salad and I had a selection of salamis made from their own animals in the Gubbeen smokehouse. As I said at the start, words fail me in trying to describe how fabulous these dishes were. Every single mouthful was an explosion of different intense flavours. The salami was the best I have ever tasted (beating Gubbeen’s own offerings in Urru). The salads and the dressing should win awards for perfection. Hilda said we could lick our plates if we liked. I pretty much did that by mopping up every single dribble on the plate with the bread. There is simply no comparison between the quality and flavour of their ingredients straight from the garden and the sort of chlorine-doused salad we now all buy in a supermarket.

We were worried initially that we were going to be the only diners for the night but there was only one free table by the end. The only slightly grating note was the preponderance of Dublin accents (including our own mangled Cork-Cavan-Kilkenny-Wicklow-Meath-Dublin accents).

Catherine skipped the soup course but I had the consommé. I was half-expecting it to be pretty insipid like every other one I have ever had. But this thing had a taste kick like the bullock it came from. Wow. I heard them tell another table that it takes four days to make. I’m not surprised.

Whilst waiting for the mains, I noticed the lovely vine-like plant which covered the entire ceiling of the dining area, which we now realised was a conservatory. Then my eyes refocused across the room - “oh my god, there are grapes hanging from those vines”. Without a doubt the coolest thing I have ever seen in a restaurant. We had some of them later in our dessert.

Onto the main courses - Catherine had monkfish and sole with a crab cream and I had braised ox-tongue. Both utterly gorgeous. I had been concerned that I was trying to be he-man by going for the tongue but it just melted in the mouth (there is some sort of weird double entendre in that sentence). And for the first time ever in a restaurant, we both kept shoveling into the veg which was a meal in its own right. This is in comparison to most places with their poxy side dish of microwaved mange-tout and other scrag-ends.

Catherine had a selection of ice-creams and a fruit salad mix for desert. Mine was similar - sorbet with fruit salad. Again, the intensity of the flavours was just joyous. Lip-smacking all the way through.

Throughout all of this, the service was wonderfully friendly and attentive but without that horrible obsequiousness that you get in upper-end restaurants in Dublin. We were already planning what we were going to eat on the next visit before we left.

The menu is a fixed price €50 per head. If they were doing food of this quality in Dublin it would easily (and rightly) be double that. They do offer the restaurant for functions and they also do B&B. I’m already thinking about our 10th Wedding Anniversary in two years and my 40th in (oh dear god no) two and three quarter years.

We have two Nokia-crap-cam pictures. One is of the vines which I’ll post when I get Catherine’s phone off her. The other is the bannister down to the loos - perfection in house design.

UPDATE: Got vine piccie from Catherine

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The title of this post was “Otto’s Creative Catering - One of our top 5 meals of all time”. The locations of the others were (in no particular order):

Roscoff Peacock Alley One Pico The Commons The Tannery

Otto leaps in and I now just have to decide who drops out.

[tags]occ, otto, dunworley, cork, bandon, restaurants[/tags]

Conor O'Neill

Tech guy who likes running slowly

Bandon, Cork, Ireland http://conoroneill.com