Every once in a while a restaurant comes along that has the Michelin Guide running out of stars. The Soup Kitchen up on Sunday’s Gate is such a place even if it took a while to open. It was worth the wait.
With child obesity a major worry, the parents’ council of the nearby national school were right to have voiced concerns about opening such a delicious eatery so close to the susceptible noses of their pride and joy. A compromise was reached whereby the smells would be masked by those of a bog standard slop shop of overcooked carrots and gloopy mash. But the smell couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The décor is a delightful mix of Danish minimalism with clear nods to the haute couture of Drogheda’s fashion houses while the lavish menu is a credit to the on-site printing press that rolls out the menus only after the chef has had a good look at you and tailored it to what he thinks you should eat.
We had some complimentary fool’s soup while we waited to be seated – there is a rush at breakfast and lunchtime so our advice is to book well in advance. But what of the food?
Here’s an example – a dish of potato bread, pig sausage and ketchup with a cultured cream dip. Smeared on the edge of the plate like an afterthought, the moreish, intensely flavoured sausage meat had both a tangy spice heat and the sweetness of a teenage boy writing a snapchat poem for a girl he fancies on the bus.
How do they make it? Well, they buy slabs of live pork belly from the piggery near Slane, strip the skin, marinate it with the passive aggressiveness of a Meath farmer’s wife, mince it, put it into handmade sausage skin (only to allow it to be hung and smoked), leave it in a windowless room for six days to develop its own personality, hang it, smoke it over the burning carcass of a joyridden Ford Mondeo, split it open, dust it with paprika, bring it to room temperature, hand-whip it to soften the texture and then serve it with chips. The ketchup is from Lidl.
All this for a bit of spreadable sausage. So you can only imagine how the care that goes into the cultured cream! The bread is a delight. Artisan and homemade by bearded men with interesting lives, it’s studded with chunks of famine potato and the sour note comes from the waitresses who was like that even when she was in school.
We then had some sumptuous home-reared crab soufflé (like normal soufflé but the crabs had names and legacies) with zesty pickled seaweed and a velvety purple crab dip. The smoked octopus came with really wild garlic, sun-dried calcot onions and the pungently liberating crunch of baby coriander seeds. Naturally, the side serving of ‘potato emulsion’ was made with octopus juice and the oil from the tears of a basking shark that got beached in Termonfeckin that morning.
Damagewise? Nothing, though a small donation is appreciated to keep the kitchen open as it provides great service for the town’s needy.