The Ballydehob burger joint sparks a Yay! from our review

I met Yay for the first time! Burger during the third lockdown, as a takeaway pop-up operating out of Hackett’s Pub, in Schull, West Cork.

Assuming you were one of those lucky enough to be spared the personal tragedy of losing a loved one to Covid, or suffering excessively from a similar episode, and also managed to avoid ruin economy that has been inflicted on many, so it’s entirely possible, you shared the national experience of lockdowns, which seemed closely tied to an identifiable pattern.

The first was a dizzying cocktail: the fear of the unknown virus combined with the novelty of stepping off the hamster wheel of life, which coincided precisely with an extended period of good weather as the nation “stepped out” and relearned that in fact , Ireland is a very beautiful part of the world.

It gave time and space for personal reflection and many of us came to appreciate what we had all along but hadn’t seen, distracted by daily routine with no remorse in pursuit. headless of an illusory better future. There were even some truly life-enhancing moments. The third lockdown, however, was just plain crap.

It was winter. We were sick to death of banana bread. We were bored, stressed, moody, irritable, angry and upset – often all at the same time. We missed family, friends. We missed the company of strangers in crowded places. We missed the familiar banality of our old “normal” lives and took comfort wherever we could find it. I don’t think I was the only one to feel particular comfort in food during the three confinements and during the third one, Yay! Burger has become a favorite family treat.

In a West Cork empty of people, as if it had been through a nuclear winter, walking to Hackett’s at the appointed collection time, softly lit by bright red light bulbs on an otherwise dark main street, was an almost surreal experience, a brief encounter with other humans before taking him home with the treats.

I won’t give any hostages to fortune as we head into another winter with You Know What still hidden away, but these early months of 2021 really feel like they happened in another lifetime, and as I go look at the Levis pub in Ballydehob for a prandial pre-pint with three good friends, it’s a bit like “old times”, as if the Covid had never arrived.

As we ascend 20 meters up the hill and into the gloriously vibrant space that is now Yay! Burger’s permanent brick-and-mortar home, receiving an equally buoyant welcome from Gemma Greaney, co-owner with her partner chef Chris McDonald, I’m beginning to think Covid was just a dream.

The window of Yay! Burger, Ballydehob

It’s a tiny room but one with a powerful visual impact: in a part of the world where interior design often leans towards ‘authentic’ and ‘rustic’, yay! Burger is brash, bright and shiny, Greaney rocks a color palette of black and white stripes with splashes of sunshine yellow and it almost sparkles in the glow of neon signs scattered throughout. I even snap a photo of the wonderfully irreverent little toilet, painted charcoal black with a zebra-striped toilet seat and a comical portrait of Noel Gallagher on a throne with a live cheetah. This is precisely the place to go if you’ve misplaced your smile.

We haven’t lost our appetites and drive for Ireland. Braised and infused is an excellent Featherblade beef from West Cork slow cooked for hours and served grated in the house brioche with Dubliner cheese, pepper mayo sauce, English mustard, pickles, arugula. The Frenchman in our party can’t help but rave about the gorgeous “sauce”, though McDonald’s prosaically insists on calling it “sauce”. Whatever you call it, this rich, lush reduction of gravy braised with beer and wine is a powerful partner for sweet pulled beef.

Queen of the Vines has a huge and wonderful parmanormal activity (they like a pun name in Yay! Burger), Panko Fried Chicken Tenderloin, with Garlic Parmesan Butter, Mozzarella, Marinara Sauce , basil aioli and arugula.

The dips and sauces are all crunchy: aioli, chimichurri, chilli jam; the latter is especially good as an extra sauce with Honey I Buttered The Chicken, divine Japanese-style buttermilk fried chicken with honey butter and wasabi mayonnaise.

Fresh local corn on the cob is grilled over charcoal, sweet, smoked, buttered and utterly divine. The rustic fried potatoes come with smoked rosemary salt and what we can’t finish we make sure to take home for breakfast in the morning when they’re just as good.

Although the trip back to the table in the lockdown era took less than ten minutes, any transport of packaged takeaway food invariably diminishes a dish, with the closed package steaming the bun in the own heat dish, for starters, so I keep it dead simple with a burger straight from the daily specials, American Boy. A 6oz patty of superb West Cork beef, from Twomey’s, in Bantry, dry-aged and blended with premium fat and smoked bone marrow, grilled over charcoal and ash, is superbly succulent, smoked and Deeply delicious, served with smoked bacon, American cheese, grated onion, crispy onion, BBQ ketchup, burger sauce, pickles and iceberg. This is, by far, the best burger I’ve had in years.

Our weekend was organized around a return pilgrimage to Dédé at the Customs House in Baltimore, which turns out, incredibly, even better than during my last and very splendid visit during the summer, yet our night in Yay ! Burger turns out to be almost as memorable for similar reasons of conviviality in a wonderful place, while enjoying a particularly exquisite cuisine. Hello Yay!

The verdict

  • Food: 9.5
  • Serves: 10
  • Value: 10
  • Atmosphere: Take out your Geiger counter to measure this one, it’s out of the ordinary!
  • Tablet: €75 (excluding tip and wine)
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