About a year ago, I had a meal in La Peniche, the barge restaurant on the Grand Canal, that was so dreadful and so ridiculously overpriced that I’ve had writer’s block ever since. I haven’t felt like I could review that one meal and it has remained like a great big obelisk standing between me and a description of any other public enjoyment of food ever since. For example, and this is a pointed example because, ultimately, this is not going to be a review of La Peniche, but rather a review of Junior’s, I found myself unable to extol the virtues of the really gorgeous and ridiculously good value meal I had in Junior’s Deli and Cafe of Ringsend (right next to Slattery’s of Beggar’s Bush) about two weeks after the aforementioned hideousness. I was similarly unable to write about the pretty lovely meal I had in Junior’s several months later.
The hideousness in La Peniche came to pass not long after a bereavement, so complaints were beyond the capability of every member of our party and, to be fair, all of that probably didn’t help. In any case, I ate in La Peniche again recently, courtesy of a hen party, and it was grand. I believe some work was done to it because gone, long gone, were both the omnipresent stench of dirty engine, the vomitous flavour of bilge pump (the smoked chicken salad) and the inglorious duo that is glutinous consistency AND gelatinous appearance (the steak and Guinness stew). Simple, inoffensive food complemented a civilised night, sadly devoid of willy straws or similar. And now, having eaten in Junior’s yet again, I am reminded that I am now free to describe how much I like it.
I wouldn’t try to pigeonhole Junior’s into any particular school of food preparation, but there is definitely an Italian influence and, for fish lovers, there is always a lot of choice. I can’t remember what I had the first time I was there but I think it was the clam linguini or some kind of fish stew – something messy. Whatever it was, I loved it. One of the others had Spaghetti Vongole and said it was yum. More recently, my friends and I had, respectively, the plaice, the pork belly, the scallops with chorizo and the mackerel (the last one was me, a starter because I wasn’t hugely hungry and I happened to know through experience that a starter there is perfectly grand for a snack-type dinner). All our plates practically had holes in them, we enjoyed our dinners so much. Other recommendations from other visits would be the pint of prawns with homemade mayo, the veal and the steak. We also had a bottle of the house red at €20 and a glass of the special white for €6.50 (could’ve had a glass of the house white for €5 but am very suggestible and, in fairness, the special was only lovely).
I’d never had dessert there before, always having been way too full, but got the others to share a baked cheesecake this time, braving lactose-intolerance and suppressing an innate (and fairly reasonable) fear of making people eat what I want to eat and being subjected to disappointment, gagging noises and scorn. Fortune favours the brave; it was glorious. I wanted it to smear it on my face and snort it. All in all, our meal cost about €100 and we left a good tip, because the service was both cheery and excellent.
I should also say that Junior’s doesn’t take bookings and, traditionally, it has been difficult to get a table (it’s tiny too). That may have changed now that the Chophouse has opened across the road and Junior’s has opened a pizza place, Paulie’s around the corner, although locals might be able to advise further on that one. I ate in Paulie’s midweek recently and had a ten minute wait, but Junior’s looked a little quieter. The pizza, by the way, was really really nice, though perhaps that’s a review for another day.
I should also say, because I love this, that if you’re ever of a mind to sit outside Junior’s in the little area out the front, i.e. if you can’t be arsed waiting for a table inside or if you’re a great big cigarette-addict, the restaurant provides blankets and mini hot-water bottles in times of need.
I am clearly a big fan and almost don’t like to ask – anyone else feel similarly (yay!) or differently (boo hoo!)?