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The Poppy & Parliament: Lively atmosphere and wonderful food in downtown Huntsville

Listen up. I finally had a chance to try The Poppy & Parliament on the courthouse square in Huntsville, and I can heartily recommend it. After spending 10 days in Ireland last September, we knew that Irish cuisine and the pub atmosphere were both delightful experiences. We wanted to see if that atmosphere could cross the Atlantic and land in North Alabama successfully. We were happy to find that it is working well.

The exterior is striking with its bright red paint -- the color of red poppies, of course. You'll know you've found it when you see the British-style red phone booth (called a phone BOX in England) out front. The interior is divided into three distinct sections -- the pub, the restaurant, and the market upstairs.

Shane Brown, a native of Yorkshire, England, opened The Poppy in 2019. His educational background doesn't hint at pub ownership but his birthplace and desire for a touch of home explain it easily. His degree in poultry science brought him to Alabama, then he transitioned to a position as program manager for a local aerospace company. One night Chef Barry O'Connor, a highly-trained, experienced chef and restaurateur from Cork, Ireland, walked into The Poppy (while visiting Huntsville for a conference). The two men struck up a conversation, and by November of 2020, the restaurant side (Parliament) opened with O'Connor as the proprietor. Now the whole business is known as The Poppy & Parliament. Three weeks ago a Gourmet Store and Butcher Shoppe opened upstairs.

I'm sure your first question must be "How is the food?" I would describe it as a delicious, creative blend of English, Irish, and Mediterranean dishes and influences.

And your second question, no doubt, is "What's on the menu?" Their website says they are an "upscale English pub," but I would add that the menu is much more elevated than that. It's not a large menu, but it offers plenty of intriguing options.

Steve and I were there for dinner, and as we often do, we shared several dishes. We started with Beggar's Purse Frogs' Legs. This appetizer consisted of two pairs of legs, prepared with cajun seasoning, a light crust, and a "peppered chimichurri sauce." It was wonderful. I could honestly have eaten a dozen of them.

For our entree, we shared Traditional Fresh English Fish and Chips. This was served wrapped in newspaper, a great touch. The chunky chips were housemade, the fish was lightly-battered wild Atlantic Cod, and it was served with mushy peas (much better than it sounds) and several sauces for dipping. The portion size was definitely shareable.

For dessert, we splurged on the nightly special of Apple Cinnamon Bread Pudding. We can rarely pass up bread pudding. This was served warm, in a ramekin with fresh whipped cream. So, so good.

I am eager to return for lunch and have my eyes on a Warm Mediterranean Salad on the menu. The Poppy & Parliament also serves Sunday Brunch from 11:00 - 2:30 which sounds delicious.

One of the sides is Irish Creamy Colcannon. This is a warm, pureed soup with potatoes, onions, and cabbage. Doesn't that sound good for these cold winter days?

The Pig Bone-In Cowboy Steak was described as having "a pastrami'd outer edge," and Shane's Old English Bangers and Mash is a housemade dish.

The Prime Minister is a 40-oz. Prime Bravehart Tomahawk Steak. Watch this YouTube video to see Chef Barry preparing the meat then serving it tableside.

As I've described, the food was exceptional. But truly, the more enjoyable part of our evening was meeting the various people making all of the magic happen.

Melinda Appleby (I hope I spelled that correctly) was upstairs managing the market. She happily showed off the various products on the shelves and also gave astute menu recommendations. From what I gathered, she must be a Girl Friday employee who is willing to fill any role she's assigned.

Dave Matlock is the Director of Operations and handles all the front-of-house happenings. He made frequent runs through the dining areas and stopped to answer all my questions. Very personable and appears to enjoy his job.

Kate King was our enthusiastic and capable server. She was handling quite a few tables, but each of us received ample attention and courtesy.

Chef Kristen Caroselli is the Executive Chef & General Manager. I only spoke to her briefly as we were leaving, but I observed her attention to details regarding the presentation of dishes coming from her kitchen, and, of course, tasted the wonderful results. I loved the respect that I heard from others in the restaurant. Melinda praised Kristen's "amazing work ethic" and Kate said, "Chef Kristen is killin' it back there tonight!" It was a busy night, and everyone seemed to be very happy with their meals.

Before I wrap this up, here are some photos from the Gourmet Store & Butcher Shoppe.

As a summary, was it worth driving around the block and on the side streets several times looking for a parking spot and then having an hour-long wait to be seated? Yes! We found a spot about two blocks away, and we spent our wait time pleasantly browsing the market.

During an interview about The Poppy & Parliament, Chef/Proprietor Barry O'Connor described Huntsville as being a good fit for the restaurant because of the multicultural population with adventurous palates. I, for one, am glad it is within an easy drive from Hartselle, and I look forward to returning.

P.S. Keep in mind that The Poppy & Parliament does not take reservations, so plan accordingly.

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