Irish eyes are smilin' at Brendan's

Irish eyes are smilin' at Brendan's

By Allison Costa 03/16/2011

Brendan’s Irish Pub
1755 E. Daily Dr. , Camarillo
383-4100
$5.95-$21.95

“I only drink on two occasions — when I am thirsty and when I am not thirsty,” reads a sign on one of the many mural decorated walls at Brendan’s Irish Pub in Camarillo. Another reads, “Work is the curse of the drinking class,” and another quips, “Those who drink to forget, please pay in advance.” While the signs indicate a sense of humor and a love of drink, Brendan’s is much more than just a watering hole.

Silly quotes aside, the staff at Brendan’s seems dedicated to delivering a top-notch dining experience. A heartfelt letter in the front of the menu sets the tone for an experience where diners feel well taken care of. “The words guest and community are sacred to us…. A pub is a community within a community ... a place where the days can be whiled away without feeling rushed or unappreciated,” it reads.

On a recent visit to Brendan’s for an early Sunday lunch, we were first struck by the décor. The space is large and dark with a decorative tin ceiling. Murals and collectibles, vintage sports memorabilia, Celtic symbols, old Irish beer signs, and Irish music fill the space. We laughed that it reminded us of Disneyland … stepping into Brendan’s was like stepping into one of the thoughtfully created worlds at an amusement park. We were stepping into a dark pub in Ireland, a place where we could envision whiling the day away over a few too many beers.

Alas, we were there midday, with laundry to be folded and weeds to be pulled at home, so our focus was mostly on the food. The menu at Brendan’s offers a selection of traditional Irish fare like shepherd’s pie and bangers and mash, plus unique dishes like monkfish osso bucco and pork chops with apples, leeks and wild berry sauce.

The beer and wine lists take up half of the thick, bound menu — and the draft beer options include Kilkenny (an Irish cream ale from the makers of Guinness) and Smithwick’s Superior Irish Ale. Brendan’s also offers a selection of cocktails, including an unusual-sounding Irish Mule (made with Irish vodka, ginger beer, lime and mint).

My dining companion ordered a Guinness, and I opted for a pint of Brendan’s Gobshite White Ale, a beer brewed specifically for Brendan’s by Firestone Brewing Company. The two beers couldn’t have been more different: to the dark creaminess of the Guinness, the white ale offered a light, refreshing contrast. We started our meal with the corned beef and cabbage sliders, which came two to a plate with a side of crispy homemade potato chips and a whole-grain mustard dipping sauce. The corned beef was thinly sliced and tender, and well balanced by the vinegar taste of the cabbage, the smoothness of the melting cheese, and the soft bun.

From the list of entrees, we simply couldn’t resist the fish and chips after seeing it described on the menu, “The best fish and chips you’ll ever have.” Though the fish was crunchy with a light crisp batter, it was the accompanying tartar sauce that put it over the top. Tinted a light green from the addition of fresh herbs, it offered an intense chive flavor. The chips were thick-cut like steak fries, and we couldn’t help but dip them in the creamy sauce as well.

The chicken curry was saffron-colored and filled with chunks of both white and dark meat, onions, red peppers, peas, apples and raisins. It offered the ideal balance between sweet and spicy; and when scooped onto the fork with sticky white rice, it was clean-plate-club good. So good, in fact, that I didn’t feel like sharing it with the rest of the table.

Of all the dishes, the Irish lamb stew was the least compelling. The thick brown stew was full of chunks of tender lamb, carrots, potatoes, onions and rice; and while the heartiness alone made me want to love it, the stew was shy on seasoning and flavor. From the kids’ menu, my son selected the macaroni and cheese: a generous crock of pasta with a vibrant green salad on the side. The silky sauce was flavored with mild white cheddar, and though it was a simple dish, even the adults at the table couldn’t resist a few bites.

The dessert options at Brendan’s include red velvet cake and bread pudding, but we gravitated toward the desserts that offered something unusual: a hint of alcohol. Though we liked the brownie with Guinness ice cream, it was the pecan pie that really stole our hearts. A large scoop of pie — with bits of crust below, inside, and on top of the pie — was packed with a sweet filling and loads of pecans and accompanied by a hearty scoop of ice cream flavored with Jameson Irish whiskey. The sweet filling, the salty crust and the creamy punch of the whiskey had us all fighting over the last bite.

After licking our dessert plates clean, we agreed that we would definitely be coming back to Brendan’s. An impressive menu and a memorable Irish Pub atmosphere make it an ideal destination for both eating and drinking. Whether you’re Irish or not, it’ll leave your eyes, and your belly, a-smilin.’

Visit my blog: www.venturafood happenings.com or find Ventura Food Happenings on Facebook.

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