Wednesday, 29 May 2024

Foodie Freak: An afternoon at Molly Brennan

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I stopped by the Kitchen Gallery in Lakeport to pick up some things and asked Lexie Firth if she could recommend someplace for lunch. Without hesitation she said Molly Brennan’s, just a few doors down, right there on Main Street. She continued to say that they had a fantastic shepherd’s pie, great fish and chips, and many different types of beer.


So I walked down the block and I was seated quickly and took note of the room. The early industrial look of the old Main Street buildings gives the appearance that Molly Brennan’s has been in business for over a century. It has a very Irish pub décor to it with natural brick walls, wood floors, and the almost stereo-typical UK beer advertisements.


The menu if full of the type of food you would expect from a pub-style restaurant. It’s a good-sized menu, not pages full of meaningless dishes trying to please everybody. On the menu was Guinness Irish stew (don’t think that didn’t tempt me), bangers and mash, salmon, burgers, even salads, appetizers, and soups. This is basic meat and potatoes cuisine; if you’re looking for truffles, foie gras and caviar you won’t find it here. My Anglophile wife could happily eat at Molly Brennan’s every meal for a month and never get bored.


I asked my waitress, Jessica, if Molly Brennan’s had either a signature dish or something that she recommended, and without hesitation she said the fish and chips. I love fish and chips so Jessica was already doing great.


The lunch crowd started to fill the room quickly and I was asked to move from my table to the bar to make room for the swelling population, and I’m OK with that. The move allowed me to more closely watch Jessica, the sole waitress on duty, as she swiftly but deftly managed to take care of every table without ignoring anyone. Normally a lone waitperson tends to get flustered under a lunchtime crush but not today. Jessica moved swiftly yet unhurriedly through the room as if she practiced moving around the room blindfolded in her spare time.


The other patrons at the bar were openly talking to each other even though they didn’t know each other. People were talking about their plans for the day, the depth of the lake and how Californians don’t know the meaning of the word cold like people from the Midwest do. As I sat there listening to everyone around me I started to realize that Molly Brennan’s isn’t a reasonable copy of an Irish pub, it was an authentic Irish pub! I’d bet that the only person who wouldn’t feel welcome there would be someone carrying a snake.


My food came in a reasonable amount of time and I was happy to see that it was a full plate of food. The fish was cooked just right and had a crunchy breading. The fish itself was moist and hot, and sat on top of a side of coleslaw that was a surprising discovery, it was one of the best coleslaws I’ve ever had. There seemed to be a hint of orange to it, which by itself will get me to come back just to try it again. The plate included a caper tartar sauce (I love capers so Jessica’s recommendation was spot on!).


Personally I think there are only two ways to make fish and chips: you either do a great job or you screw it up. There’s no middle ground, and no best ever, just great or bad. Molly Brennan’s did a great job. In addition to the caper tartar sauce, salt, fresh pepper (in a grinder), ketchup, and malt vinegar were all offered with the meal. I just can’t pass up malt vinegar with deep fried fish, can you?


The fries … oops sorry, chips, were lightly seasoned and obviously freshly made. For all of the people who don’t watch the BBC everyday, in the United Kingdom French fries are called “chips” and potato chips are called “crisps.” As the great Irishman Oscar Wilde said, “We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language.”


Molly Brennan’s has a beautiful Web site with all of the information about the restaurant that you could need. The Web site alone makes you feel like you’re in a pub. There’s a calendar of events, and the whole menu for you to browse at your own convenience, but I caution you, it’ll make you hungry!


They also have a Myspace page ... it’s probably best if you just browse for their page when you get to Myspace than for me to type out the link, so if you can’t get enough of the Irish pub community it’s a nice place to visit.


Molly Brennan’s hours of operation are Monday, Wednesdays and Thursday, 11a.m. to 11 p.m., and Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 11a.m. to 2 p.m. (closed Tuesdays).


Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community.


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