WHY IT’S NOTEWORTHY
New Orleans has had a scattering of Irish pubs over the years. Some of them even took a stab at serving Irish food. But Chef Matt Murphy’s Irish House is the first major Irish restaurant here. It delivers everything you’d get in a similar place in Ireland, excepting only a brogue in the speech of staff and customers. Even that gap is filled by Matt himself, who sounds as Irish as his name suggests. Although he cooked New Orleans food for over twenty years, he grew up with Irish stew, soda bread, and black pudding, and knows how it’s supposed to taste.
Chef Matt is smart enough to know that Irish cuisine is not one of the world’s most promising for Creole-tuned palates–even those of Irish heritage. He uses local ingredients freely. Many come from nearby farms–notably beef from a Louisiana cattleman. The menu includes many dishes that are only coincidentally Irish, and some British pub food (fish and chips, chicken curry, bangers and mash). Rustic dishes share the table with polished plates from Matt’s gourmet playbook. Breakfast every morning, brunch on weekends.
A native of Dublin, Matt Murphy was one of the lead chefs at Commander’s Palace when Chef Jamie Shannon died. When his torch was passed to Tory McPhail, Matt sought a top job elsewhere, and got it at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. He was there for most of the hotel’s history until a bizarre illness brought him to death’s door. A fundraiser to pay his extreme medical bills (and those of the quadruplets to which Matt’s wife had just given birth) was the biggest gourmet grazing event in the gleaming history of local restaurant generosity. Matt recovered, and the Ritz-Carlton named its main restaurant M Bistro in his honor. In 2011, he left to open the Irish House, which started serving in August.
The Irish House inherited two large, spacious dining rooms and a generous parking lot from the extinct Taqueros/Coyoacan, and made them very Irish. Spaces on the walls not taken by mirrors advertising Harp Lager or Guinness are covered with increasingly small ads and articles from old Irish magazines. The first floor has the most formal dining space, plus a big bar. Upstairs it’s more of a pub atmosphere, completed with live music most nights. The place becomes fully involved with anything going on outside–like the St. Patrick’s parade.
»Potato and leek soup
Roasted chicken soup with tarragon, potatoes and mushrooms
Smoked mussel, tomato and basil soup
»Covey Rise Farm garden salad
Jumbo lump crab and sliced heirloom tomato salad
»Truffled chicken, wild mushroom, smoked gouda and cilantro tart
»Pan fried farmer cheese, grilled romaine, warm cherry tomato-bacon dressing
»Meatloaf, fried walnut bread, wild mushrooms, foie gras butter
Ginger- and whiskey- glazed shrimp, mixed greens, local organic vegetables
»»Slow-cooked lamb belly, polenta green onion cake, mint sauce
Seared scallops, chorizo grits, lemon beurre blanc
Fish and chips (fried cod, fresh-cut fries)
Beer-battered venison sausage, wild mushroom cake
Chicken breast stuffed with garlic spinach butter
»Braised lamb shank, apple brandy broth, roasted root vegetables
Herb-rubbed medallions of beef, bacon-green pea purée, peppercorn sauce
»Fig and brie stuffed Muscovy duck breast, sour cherry brandy sauce
»Cider-braised pork cheeks, apple potato champ, honey clove jus
»Seared salmon, colcannon, cherry tomato-pepper ragout
»Shrimp and artichoke risotto, wild mushrooms, parmesan fennel cream, poached egg
»Herb-crusted redfish, leek shallot cream
»Lamb and beef Irish stew with sweet potatoes
Strawberry shortcake drizzled with dark chocolate
Mixed wild berries with hard meringue
Hazelnut and raspberry tipsy cake
Apple crumble with vanilla ice cream
Lion cake with chocolate, peanuts, biscuits and caramel
Sticky toffee bread pudding
FOR BEST RESULTS
If you want an Irish pub experience, tell the host, who will not only seat you in the appropriate location but give you the more casual menu. (Although you can get anything you want anywhere you want it.)
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVEMENT
1. The seasoning in Irish and British cooking is well below that found in New Orleans. Be aware of that, and ask for the Tabasco bottle immediately. 2. Soda bread may be the world’s worst bread.
FACTORS OTHER THAN FOOD
Up to three points, positive or negative, for these characteristics. Absence of points denotes average performance in the matter.
- Dining Environment +2
- Consistency +1
- Attitude +2
- Wine & Bar +1
- Hipness +2
- Local Color +2
- Live music every night
- Sidewalk tables
- Good for business meetings
- Many private rooms
- Open Sunday lunch and dinner
- Open Monday lunch and dinner
- Open most holidays
- Open after 10 p.m.
- Open all afternoon
- Unusually large servings
- Good for children
- Easy, nearby parking
- Reservations honored promptly
ANECDOTES AND ANALYSIS
There’s some big soccer event about to happen in Europe, and the Irish are involved somehow. The Irish House is building an entire week’s worth of activities around this, complete with big-screen television. When that’s finished, Matt Murphy–whose Irish eyes are always smiling–will start some kind of game where you roll a rubber ball down the St. Charles Avenue neutral ground, to see who can cover the distance between the streetcar stop for Commander’s Palace and the one for the Irish House. Then we’ll all go inside for a beer.