Petronella, on the Butter Slip
The morning that restaurants were advised to close on March 16 because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the staff at Petronella, on the Butterslip in Kilkenny, resembled - on the face of it - a family trying to exit the building to get away on holiday.
Everyone had a job to do: Tidying, dusting, washing, clearing, repacking food stuffs and emptying fridges, the clock ticked down steadily until everyone gathered for a quick update and after some final reassurance, the restaurant emptied and the gates were locked. It felt suddenly as if we had left the dog behind. In other ways it felt biblical. Basically however, it was just very difficult to leave Petronella behind.
Petronella comes first around here. She’s at all times front and centre stage. Quickly rescued at all times from any hint of witchcraft or demonic associations, she’s respected for her allegiance to her mistress and for her survival through medieval tortures.
Sorely wronged and burned at the stake, her story is regaled for many nationalities throughout the day and evening. She conjures up landscapes in the cobbled lanes that still ferry people right past the restaurant door and now and then a blown bulb on the street lantern adds magic as diners drift back to their hotels and later into dreams of the woman that she once was.
The second and present Level 3 restrictions have proven every bit as worrying for staff and wasteful of willing energies, good food and the essence of business acumen.
For buildings that provide that great experience of mashing and blending conversation and food together all day long to suddenly fall silent a second time feels like trying to regain a momentum out of reach now. Petronella didn’t like takeaways during the first lockdown so that plan was abandoned the second time around. You see, Petronella is a showgirl.
On many nights of the week she is surrounded by show people who dine over both floors. She’s urban and after hundreds of years still lives near her mistress Alice Kytler on Kieran street. She likes her name above the door and round the corner from where she met her demise in 1324. Centuries later she showcases the city she knew.
While the shutters are down it provides opportunities for getting things done that can’t be done when the restaurant is open. Of course, it steers us all into periods of reflection too.
The remedy somehow doesn’t seem to match up with the problem, after all surely the antidote to a pandemic should involve something almost like riding into battle on a steed. Instead it’s as basic as wash your hands and stay away from each other and stay at home. It is this mentality that reopened up the restaurant for us in June and it is our wonderful diners who will reopen it up with us again when the current restrictions are lifted.
Let’s always remember ‘He who has health has hope and he who has hope has everything’. And everyone knows that the teaspoon of baking powder rises the loaf of bread.