Ray Moran, Soda & Starch

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Bistronomie is one of those train-wreck terms that uses mashed-up language to give a name to a straightforward idea: if you want to explore and refine the roots of a cuisine, then do it in a simple, logical, straight-ahead way.
That is what Ray Moran and his team are doing in Derry’s Soda and Starch, a bistro-style room of muted charm where Mr Moran explores the gastronomic roots of the dishes he loves to cook, and does it without fuss or hoopla.
He’s not alone in the quest. There is fine bistronomism to be enjoyed in the Wild Honey Inn, or in Belfast’s Muddler’s Club and Hadskis, or in Donegal’s Foyle Hotel.
But as a chef with a knotty, well-wrung culinary path that has seen him show his mettle right across the culinary spectrum, Mr Moran brings something powerful to Irish bistronomie.
Look at the way he riffs on old warhorses like steak and onion rings, or seafood cocktail, or chocolate pudding, or a plate of pork belly and fillet. These are all Irish staples, standards of the kitchen. But Mr Moran takes them on a dance of culinary delight by rebirthing, refining, and adding depth to their potential. He understands these dishes, and he understands how to make them better.
A decade ago, Ray Moran made his name in Harry’s of Bridgend with some of the finest meat cooking you could eat. Today, the fillet steak in SnS remains a sublime achievement, the meat as sweet and unctuous as umami ice cream, the onion rings crisp and perfect.
The pork belly with slices of pork fillet is an ode to technique: the belly needs time, the fillet needs mere seconds. Both get exactly what they need to create a tour-de-force dish, thanks also to the you’re-gonna-hear-all-about-him skills of Chris Moran, Ray’s nephew.
The chocolate pudding shows the daisy chain effect of modern Irish food, and shows how bistronomie moves forward. Ray rediscovered it in Paul Flynn’s first, most brilliant cookbook, having let the book sit on his shelf for years. His rendering is a sublime homage to Flynn’s invention, whilst also moving the dish in a new direction. There is no better way to eat chocolate pudding.