Irish Ayes

At the Claddagh, the order of the day is excellent pub grub

That's also the case with the stuffed potato cakes, which are neither really cakes nor stuffed. This is a dish Farley came up with by combining her French training with Irish ingredients. She starts with a potato pancake that's closer to a potato crepe, then fills it with either salmon mousse, cream cheese and chives or Irish bacon and cabbage. The last is the best; Irish bacon, like Canadian bacon, is closer to ham than the crisped strips most Americans are familiar with, and layered with cabbage on the potato crepe and then rolled and cut on a bias, it presents a pretty image. It tastes even better than it looks. Throw in a pint, and this alone would make the Claddagh worth a visit.

But the true standout of the menu as far as I'm concerned is the Claddagh all-day breakfast, which in Ireland is known more simply as the Irish breakfast (if you're in the Republic) or the Ulster breakfast (if you're in the north). Complicated it's not; it doesn't even come close to haute. Instead, it's what farm folks have long known breakfast should be: substantial. Eggs, three types of meat, potato scones or fried potatoes with bread and butter. Eat one of these, and you're ready for a full day of plowing, or a trip back to the office and a nap. The meats -- sausages, Irish bacon and that very Irish/English creation, white and black pudding -- are what make the Irish breakfast Irish, perhaps because they almost demand something a little bitter to wash them down. Coffee will do in a pinch, but a bit of stout is even better. Trust the Irish to come up with a way to kick off the day that goes best with a Guinness.

The Claddagh, 5757 Westheimer, 789-4858.

The Claddagh: stuffed potato cakes, $3.95; "hill 16" pizza, $4.95; Scotch egg, $2.45; soup of the day, $3.50; Claddagh all-day breakfast, $6.95; cottage pie, $7.95; bangers and mash, $5.95; Celtic grilled strip steak, $11.95.

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