Food of the Irish

by Kate Ron

This story is part of our 'Funniest hotel experiences' series, featuring tales from luxury hotel guests which were sent in for our recent travel writing competition. Photo by The Gifted Photographer.

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Ah Ireland, land of history, laments, lilting Irish brogue, and – laughs. In high excitement we drove the rental car from Shannon Airport into the city. Not for us the flash, modern hotel; instead we plumped for the ‘historic and truly Irish’ hotel off the main drag. The lobby was definitely historic; you could tell by the faded décor. And the room was, well, dated is a kind description. Described as ‘quaint’ we now know this is Irish for very old furniture and noisy plumbing.

The package deal included dinner and breakfast, so that evening we entered the large, dimly lit, dining room. We ordered the ‘Special’ – Boiled Beef & Cabbage, and pretty soon our ‘authentic’ Irish dish arrived. Boiled was a correct description, especially for the cabbage.

Thank goodness Guinness is filling, and a nightcap or two of Jameson’s ensured us a good night’s sleep. Next morning, in trepidation, we went down to breakfast. Daylight revealed much more detail of the dining room and as we sat down, we couldn’t help but notice the tidemark where someone had cleaned the walls above the dado, but only as far as they could reach. The sweeping, rounded streaks of a scrubbing brush only enhanced the dusty dark nicotine colour above their strokes.

We were still smiling at this as an ancient waiter approached, looking for all the world like a leprechaun. His green gabardine waiter’s suit with brocade detailing looked quite smart, until he got close up. The impeccable creases contrasted strongly with some historic stains and, stop me from laughing, frayed cuffs. Exuding a faint odour of whisky, he bent over to flick imaginary crumbs off the table and fuss with the condiments. With our heads down, we could only nod in agreement as he recommended the scrambled eggs. Hands over our mouths, we watched his departing back head back to the kitchen, revealing pants with a shiny backside. Perhaps it was our slight hangovers, or maybe we were uninhibited by the otherwise empty dining room, but our laughter finally erupted with a slight edge of hysteria to it.

We had composed ourselves by the time our leprechaun returned. Placing two huge plates in front of us he disappeared out towards the bar. We stared at our plates. I had never seen square scrambled eggs before. Or so much. They resembled in size and texture a yellow house brick, with the doorstep of undercooked toast resembling mortar. Touched with a fork, there was a slight wobble, but not much other movement. Several halves of huge black and soggy grilled tomatoes flanked the egg building, like sentinels. Our suppressed laughter erupted again, and we hastily made our way back to our rooms to pack.

W were looking forward to the next fortnight of touring round the Emerald Isle, but I couldn’t help reflecting that the food had not improved in the fifteen years since I’d been in my home country. Ah but the drinks, and the laughs, were as wonderful as ever.

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