“THE VINTAGE KITCHEN” AND SOME END OF DECADE RANDOM THOUGHTS
It was quite a decade. So many things happened. Even to list those of more than marginal significance would occupy several columns. Consider them read. Several points stand out.
But first a recommendation. At the prompting of your intrepid Editor and Publisher Cliff Carlson, I offer a suggestion for a must visit restaurant for anyone planning a trip to Dublin. Recommendations are always subjective but one restaurant I DO recommend unequivocally is the” Vintage Kitchen,” where Cliff and I had a very pleasant meal during his recent visit. The restaurant is centrally located a short walk from O’Connell Bridge and has the added advantage of being right beside one of Dublin’s most famous bars – and a special favourite of mine – Mulligans of Poolbeg Street. A DART station and Luas stop are nearby.
The Vintage Kitchen (VK) is small (max 30 at a squeeze), unpretentious and crowded – always. Decor is basic, with walls lined with an eclectic collection of art and photos. Reservations are a must, particularly in the evening where several weeks advance booking is normally required. The chances of getting a table on a walk-in basis are slim, though some can be available for the 2.15 second lunch sitting. It’s not cheap, dinner runs to €35 and lunch to somewhat less, but that’s not overly expensive in a city with many pricier easting houses. The VK, moreover does have the signal advantage of allowing patrons to bring their own wine for a modest corkage fee.
If they haven’t already, Michelin inspectors should pay a visit. What the restaurant offers is good food, fresh and sourced overwhelmingly in Ireland, well cooked and served by a friendly cosmopolitan staff under the supervision of amiable chef/proprietor Sean Drugan and regular maitre d Andy. A varied menu includes vegetarian options, daily specials and some delicious desserts. Check out the menu on the VK website; and the reviews, virtually all overwhelmingly positive.
The trademark starter is a delicious and award winning Cajun Chowder for which Mr Carlson can vouch. But be warned. The quantity is huge, the dish a meal in itself and anyone taking it (and you should) may struggle to finish the main course. Other starters include a Wicklow duck liver pate and a much praised risotto featuring roasted red pepper and prawns.
Main courses offer a range of meat and fish options with an excellent fillet steak on the evening menu. My favourite is the Slaney river slow roasted lamb shank which melts off the bone while the hake is also always good. The desserts are to die for but will do little for your diet, particularly the half- baked chocolate cake. All in all the VK experience is one not to be missed, assuming you can get a reservation. If not you can always drown your sorrows next door in Mulligans.
Now the decade just ended.
The overarching events of the decade may well prove to be not politics, wars, the refugee crisis, or any other conventional topic, but rather the rise of the Social Media in tandem with the explosion in Smart Phone use, both underpinned by the Internet. It is less than a generation since the “Information Superhighway” of the Internet became a reality. Whatever about information it is now the malleable base of a genuine communications revolution which is having profound implications for societies around the world. There are currently an estimated 3.3 billion smart phones operational, covering a good proportion of the world population of 7.7 billion, with almost saturation coverage ( and usage) in many countries.
Billions use the various Social Media daily. Twitter has revolutionised social contact and the almost instantaneous harnessing of opinion with all that that implies in terms of bringing pressure and influence to bear on any topic or occurrence. From the tweets of Trump, through the “Me Too” hashtag, to the platforms provided to pressure groups and like-minded followers of every hue , the advantages – and limitations – of the new social communication order are everywhere apparent. A learned article on Global Warming from a Nobel Prize Winner counts for no more on Facebook than the rant of some ignoramus. (That without even entering the areas of fake news, fake websites and misleading and manipulative on line discourses.)
Barack Obama commented at the end of his term that he was fortunate to have been elected prior to the emergence of this new social media reality, implying that it was a reality all his successors would have to take cognizance of and be shaped by. And indeed it has been a game changer, bringing instant attention and focus locally, nationally, and internationally on events as they develop. Trump’s tweets and the resulting “dialogues” are a prime example. A mundane Irish example is the way in which populist opposition to paying water charges was coordinated and consolidated into a (successful) mass pressure group. Internationally the plight of refugees has been highlighted in dramatic photo footage published on the Web, while a downside to this has been the populist manipulation in Britain and elsewhere of images of the streams of refugees crossing the Balkans in 2015. Arguably also the images posted and circulated worldwide by the protesters in Hong Kong have been a factor moderating the reaction of the Chinese authorities.
The growing international awareness of the climate crisis we face has been facilitated and enhanced through the social media, though without any demonstrated willingness by politicians to take the radical remedial measures needed. This may come as images of extreme climate occurrences circulate but right now halfway measures seem about the best to be hoped for. Climate change will probably be the dominant theme of the next decade as we move closer to the limits of sustainability. The world population has grown over the decade by 11% to an estimated 7.7 billion, the extra 800 million, even with minimum carbon footprints per head, negating virtually all attempts to reduce man’s global carbon footprint. It should be obvious to all that unchecked population growth is just aggravating the situation. Ireland’s population has kept pace with the global trend, rising by around 400,000 (slightly under 10%) over the decade to an estimated 4,906,000 and continues to grow, though the rise has been more from significant inward migration than any natural increase.
The decade was not one of enhanced international cooperation and has actually been marked by an uncomfortable realignment among the major powers, reflecting shifts in the economic and political balance between them. Everywhere liberal values are in retreat with the emergence of populist movements on virtually every continent, the whole starkly demonstrated by the election of Donald Trump, who has set about tearing up seventy years of US policies. Authoritarian leaders are pushing through; China and Russia are now firmly established as major players in an uneasy and potentially unstable geopolitical situation where nationalism is now undermining such international cooperation as exists. The Climate stalemate says it all. No country or grouping, with the possible exception of the EU, seems willing to shout “Stop”.
2020 promises to be interesting, Can anyone beat Trump? Who will win Ireland’s General Election? And how will the Brexit own goal pan out?