If there’s anything good you can say about the sleepy month of January, it might be that it’s a good time for reflection, analysis and making grand plans for the future. Each of the last three Januarys has seen changes to at least one of the menu structures, staffing and/or opening hours here in Cafe Paradiso; and this year we’ve been doing some more hard thinking.
One of the most satisfying aspects of 2011 – besides simply being still standing at the end of it – has been the success of our short three-course menu that has been running alongside the longer a la carte dinner menu every evening. Leave well alone then, you might say. However, if we’d said that in 2009 or 2010, we might not be here now, pontificating.
One of the predictable but contrary effects of the limited choice menu has been the concentration of our sales on a small number of dishes and, by extension, ingredients, while at the same time increasing the workload of the kitchen staff.
The first part of that made it difficult for us to be as flexible as we would like in terms of taking in the variety and volume of vegetables coming from Gortnanain Farm, though we got better at managing it as the year went on.
At the same time, the kitchen has been working longer and harder to maintain the two all-evening menus plus the early pre-theatre one. Not that they’ve been grumpy about it, you understand. But, frankly, it’s true to say we made it through last year because the chefs worked out of their skins, beyond the call of duty and all that. To avoid losing critical staff, sacrificing standards or over-simplifying the food, we’ve been looking at ways to find a better balance for the year ahead.
The result of the 2012 January think-in, which involved a lot of spiral notebooks and the snapping of fiercely sharpened pencils – is the decision to crossbreed the set and a la carte menus, effectively turning the a la carte into a long set menu with no restrictions, and the option to have two or three courses.
The ultimate objective is to be able to carry on cooking to the standards we’ve set for ourselves, and offering it at the lowest price we can.
We’re pitching this new composite menu at a price for three courses that is substantially lower than the sum of individually priced dishes in the old a la carte format. Yes, a little higher than the limited choice set menu of 2011, but we hope you’ll agree that the unlimited choice makes it even more attractive.
This comes into play this week on Thursday 26th January. You can see the new all-evening menu here, with the options to have two or three courses priced at €33 and €40 respectively. There will also be the option to have two courses plus our ice cream of the month – currently the amazing damson mascarpone – for €36.
The pre-theatre menu continues at the same price as before, available from 5.30pm to 7pm every evening.