Urchin At The Cliff Townhouse
If you’ve been wondering about Urchin at the Cliff Townhouse, wonder no more.
A while back I was invited to the launch party of Urchin at the Cliff Townhouse. Urchin is down a few steps to the basement of the hotel. The decor is fresh and original. It brought me straight back to summer holidays in Brittany.
Every thing is bright and colourful but nothing is manic or too busy. Somehow, even with the music and the crowd, the atmosphere is that of a gentle and relaxed seaside restaurant.
Cliff House Hotel Michelin star Executive Chef Martijm Kajuiter and Cliff Townhouse Head Chef Sean Smith have joined together to create a fresh take on the small plate concept. Staple menu favourites will stay on the menu but a large portion of dishes will change daily. The kitchen will continue serving into the night alongside the bar. This means that if you fancy a late night drink and a couple of small plates of outrageously delicious food, you should give Urchin at the Cliff Townhouse a try.
Signature dishes cooked to order will include Sea Urchin, sourced from the Beara Peninsula, poached and served as an edible cocktail, comprising aerated Whiskey, Tomato and smoked Paprika; Irish Wagyu, from master butcher Pat Whelan, with a Beef Tea Fondue; Fresh Irish Skate and an Oriental Slaw served with a Ponzu Jam on Banana Leaf. Also, immediately available from the open kitchen hatch, will be smaller dishes such as fresh-made Choux Buns dipped in Caramel (I tried those, they’re stuffed with foie gras and are to die for), Minute Marinated Scallops, Pork with Yoghurt and Mint, and Beech Mushrooms in a Lettuce cup.
Urchin at the Cliff Townhouse has an open pass kitchen which encourages direct interaction with the chefs which is a welcome change for food lovers. You get to ask all the questions, and god love them, did I have many questions. I was quite taken with the food and the decor, but even more so with the good grace and clear passion of those involved with the project. So much so in fact, that I went back to them a couple of weeks later for a follow up interview for Marti (the Executive Chef).
Q: What is the first delicious food you can remember and who made it for you?
A: My first real food “umami” moment was when I was around 5/6 years old, licking the cooled oxtail soup out of granny’s plate. I can still taste it. It was a magic moment.
Q: How long have you been cooking for and where did you start?
A: I’ve been cooking professionally since I was 15/16. I started in a hotel in Groningen called WEEVA (which stands for Working And Eating For All – Werken En Eten Voor Allen). It was a family run hotel and it was enormously busy. I did all the small jobs from chopping onions, to straining stocks. Everything was made inhouse, really good, straightforward, wholesome cooking. Every lunch time, a lot of busses pulled up and we produced lunches for up to 300 people. At night, it was simple, normal hotel fair, which meant I learned a lot of the basics.
Q. What’s your go to comfort food and what do you cook if you want to go all out?
A. My comfort food is Dutch Indonesian Food. It’s easy as it’s a take away. You just can’t replicate it at home, and you actually don’t want to. If I’m at home, I made a Super Disco Salad… lots of steak in it and just eat away!
Q. What’s your worst cooking disaster? I once made fish cakes that could have killed a small orphan.
A. Well, I’ve had a few but the worst was actually with an urchin! In my younger years, I thought it would be nice to make a sabayon from the content of the urchin. As I didn’t understand the workings too much, it was a pure horrible thing: pure iodine, raw white wine… so horrendous, I couldn’t serve it and the item had to be pulled from the menu that night. But I picked myself up and tried again for a better result next time.
Q. Wht is your favourite dish on the Urchin menu and why?
A. I love the pork with seafood crunch, but also the sobrasala on the steamed and grilled bun is one of my favourites. For sentimental reasons, the choux bun with caramel and duck liver should actually be no. 1 .. but that wouldn’t be fair!
Q. What are you top three ways to eat urchins?
A. I like them raw, just seasoned with some olive oil, lemon zest and black pepper. I like them caramelised, with thin seaweed cracker and miso mayonnaise. And of course, I love them as we serve them in Urchin at the Cliff Townhouse.
Q. What all went on those razor clams?
A. Ha! The razor clams…. Seaweed salad, pomegranate, pepper, yoghurt (leaked and crisps), lemon zest, sea salt, olive oil and celery cress.
With special thanks to Úna–Minh Kavanagh who took me that night as her plus one. I am still dreaming about the food and will no doubt be back soon!
Urchin At The Cliff Townhouse is now open from 12 noon until late night, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday and from 4 pm until late Monday through Wednesday. No reservations are needed. See their website for more information.