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Sunday, May 20, 2018
The Lifeboat Inn.
Courtmacsherry's Gastro Pub Up and Running
The Lifeboat Inn in Courtmacsherry is not open a year yet but is making quite an impression in the village. Serving good local food, much of it from the nearby waters, in a casual atmosphere has been the aim of David O’Halloran and chef Martin Buckley since they started here last summer and already it is paying off for them.
Indeed, they have “expanded” across the road where an inviting terrace has been set up with views over the water. I reckon that will be buzzing in the months ahead. So, a tip for motorists: drive slowly here and allow that server (it may well be David as he looks after front of house) get across the road!
We were there recently and the menu , as promised, has lots of fish and seafood: cod, black sole, John Dory, crab claws and prawns. And quite a bit more as well. The menu is short enough but I prefer to see a short list and high quality, and that's what you get here.
Surprisingly enough, the wine list is a long one with lots of choice. The outstanding Craggy Range Te Muna Sauvignon Blanc features but the New Zealand wine is one of just a few from the New World. We enjoyed the Tandem Wines Casual Rosé and an Albarino, both from Spain, two of about ten whites available by the glass.
A few more from the New World in the reds, where I spotted the lovely Finca Florencia Malbec from Argentina; some excellent European offerings too, ranging from 22 euro to 130. And there is a bar right there in the middle offering the usual suspects plus an outstanding local craft beer by Blacks of Kinsale.
We had five starters to choose from and my choice was their Prawns in garlic and white cream with crispy sourdough on the side to soak up the cream. A simple enough dish, delicate and delicious and pleasurably dispatched.
CL’s opener had more texture, more flavours, also a little bit more robust, and the warm Haulie’s Black-pudding salad served with apple, walnut and crispy hen’s egg was also a winner.
Aside from the fish dishes, the mains may also include a Beef Burger in a Brioche Bun with Gubbeen Cheese and Tomato or a Sirloin Steak with all the trimmings.
My choice though was the Wild Mushroom Risotto with herbs and shaved Parmesan. This was one of the best I've had, just perfect and, at €14.00, good value also.
CL meanwhile also struck gold with her Cod with a Parmesan crust, baby potato, roast cauliflower, and wild garlic (no doubt from the local wood where we had earlier walked through swathes of it in flower). The fish was pristine, the whole dish a delicious combination of textures, flavours and aromas (19.95). Go for this if it is on when you visit!.
We were tempted by the desserts but eventually decided to share the cheese board. And we got a generous selection - Milleens, Hegarty’s Cheddar and Cashel Blue - served with an outstanding pear and fig chutney and plenty of bread and crackers. Another one to look out for!
Probably not surprising that the offering is so good here. Both David and chef Martin have put in long years learning the trade in London and Dublin before settling in Courtmacsherry. Their Gastro Pub is truly up and running and well worth a call, even if it is just for a glass of wine or beer on the terrace.
While we were among just a few diners - we were in very early - it would be advisable to book ahead, especially if you are going down just for the meal as they tend to get full early on at the weekend.
The Lifeboat Inn
Tel: (023) 886 4656
Tuesday, May 15, 2018
Dining Under A Gilded Dome At Killarney’s Great Southern
|The Garden Room (pic: Great Southern)|
No doubt about it. You will look up, more than once, when you dine in the Garden Room, the principal restaurant in Killarney’s Great Southern Hotel. It is indeed a superb room in the old hotel, comfortably furnished and beautifully decorated and that high dome, with all that gold leaf, is eye-catching.
The food, by the way, isn't half-bad either, well presented too and served with a smile. Here you start with some of their breads (no charge) and a flavoursome amuse bouche.
|Pork Belly starter|
Fancy a wine or a drink from the bar? No problem. Our wine, from the Duoro, was the Ferreirinha Esteva (30.00), a red blend, perfumed and intense, smooth on the palate, long and elegant on the finish, welcome at the table!
Cordal goats cheese is really making its mark in Kerry and in the Garden Room it is served, as a starter, in a lovely mousse with beetroot, saffron pears, candied walnuts, red cabbage purée and focaccia crisp.
Another impressive starter was the Lime and Chilli Crab Tian which consists of Crab Claws, red pepper coulis, and wasabi Mayo while another of the party was well pleased with the Wild Atlantic Seafood Chowder. A sorbet follows.
One of our group goes for the char-grilled sirloin of local Hereford Beef, served with shallot, mushroom, horseradish crème fraiche and Port Jus is your choice. Another picks the Ring of Kerry lamb.
The Carrigcleena Duck Breast may be incorrectly spelled on the menu but the dish itself is top of the class. Pan seared, it is served as a main course with carrot and ginger purée, curly kale, grilled asparagus, and sultan jus.
More top class poultry in the Supreme of Chicken (from Manor Farm), with sun-dried tomatoes and parmesan farce, lentils, pancetta crisp, roasted garlic jus. Four punters well satisfied, so satisfied in fact that nobody orders dessert!
|Cordal cheese starter|
I must admit I was rather tempted myself, especially by the day’s special: the Steamed Orange pudding - here the specials are conveniently listed on the menu. The Garden Rooms certainly support local and that is underlined by an excellent cheeseboard that includes Gubbeen, Cordal, Knockatee, and Cooleeny.
We were ordering from the Table d’Hote dinner, two courses for €36.50. So time to pay up and take a final look up at that amazing dome and head out through the Grand Foyer complete with grand piano.
“Spectacular architecture melded with effortless service and genuine hospitality has made Great Southern Killarney an iconic retreat for over 160 years.” It has had its ups and downs in those years, but it seems to me that it is now, as part of the Hayfield family, once again on the up. Long may it continue.
|Grey outside; gold inside!|
Also on this trip:
Cahernane House Hotel
The Strawberry Field and Pancake Cottage
Killarney. A Quick Visit
Cahernane House Hotel
The Strawberry Field and Pancake Cottage
Killarney. A Quick Visit
Sunday, April 29, 2018
The Rich And Famous (and me) Stay
At Glengarriff's Eccles Hotel
I recently added my name to a list that includes William Makepeace Thackeray, George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats and, of more recent vintage, Pippa Middleton. They all stayed at the Eccles Hotel in Glengarriff. The splendidly situated hotel opened in 1745 and is currently undergoing renovation under new owners but is fully open for business.
Visitors are invariably impressed. Thackeray wrote “What sends tourists to the Rhine and Saxon Switzerland? Within 5 miles of the pretty Inn of Glengarriff there is a country of the magnificence of which no pen can give any idea.” There is still a room named after him in the hotel.
Punch Magazine, in a kind of 1870s Trip Advisor review, wrote: Glengarriff – Eccles Hotel, charmingly situated. Facing the bay and on the road. Old fashioned, covered with creepers and roses with bedrooms commanding the bay view. The Eccles is worth more than a passing visit. I am delighted with it. It is, as far as attendance, cuisine, and general comfort the best hotel I’ve been in.
So how did I get on there? Very well indeed. The hotel, just off the main road, is as you probably know situated on a little height overlooking the bay. You will see splendid views even from the bar on the ground floor. Stroll across the road and you may get a boat to Garinish Island and I did just that, taking in the island, the basking seals and the eagle’s nest (a new temporary attraction here).
I stayed in one of the renovated front rooms at €100.00 per night with breakfast; the room had a bay view and cost a few euro extra. While not the biggest, the room (with its old fashioned high ceiling) was very comfortable, nicely decorated and both it and the bathroom were well equipped
|Gubbeen crubeens starter|
They serve breakfast upstairs in the Garinish Restaurant, a splendid room indeed. And breakfast was rather splendid too, excellent service too. An eye-catching table was laden with all kinds of good stuff: fruit juices, cereals and breads while you could also order something hot, including the full traditional Irish, from the kitchen. My order was Eggs Benedict and that got me off to a good start for the day.
Local producers get a fair crack of the whip here. They featured at breakfast and also in the dinner that we enjoyed, not in the Garinish (which will serve dinner later in the year), but in the Harbour Bar downstairs.
At first glance, the menu seems ordinary enough but do study the bits and pieces that come with your meat or fish and you will note some combinations that are a little different and, in this case, more than a little better, than usual.
We were by the sea, so you'd expect salmon on the menu. But the Eccles version is something else. I thought it worth exploring and was delighted with my Cork Whiskey and Vanilla Cured Salmon (Braised Barley, Apple, Prawn, Radish, Herb Cream).
|Caramel Apple & Raisin Oat Crumble|
There’s a pretty good choice here, augmented by specials on the board. Indeed, CL picked from that board on the bar counter and came up trumps with her Herb Crusted Baked Hake, served with a red pepper confit. Both mains were fairly priced in the mid-teens. Other options included steak, chicken, lamb, and burger.
No shortage of starters either, including cheese and meat platters with Gubbeen featuring. Gubbeen too in my starter: the flavourful Crubeens (Smoked Gubbeen Bacon Hock, Piccalilli, Gem, Pickled Onion.). CL’s Bantry Bay Mussels came with an rather unusual but excellent Cider, Apple and Barley “sauce”.
Service was pretty good throughout our short stay and the WiFi was excellent in the room.
Indeed, the only thing on the downside was that they seemed to be running down their stock of craft beer. They had a tap for 8 Degrees Howling Gale but no beer. So we asked for two bottles of the Full Irish - they had just one. In the end we shared a larger bottle of Mountain Man’s Banjo’d and noticed, just as we were about to finish, that it was well out of date. On the other hand and to finish on a good note, we later enjoyed a couple of glasses of the local and excellent Beara Gin.
|Good morning from my room!|
Monday, April 2, 2018
Excellent Lunch at Celtic Whiskey Bar & Larder
|Fill your own bottle|
Three of us visited the Celtic Whiskey Bar and Larder in Killarney for lunch last week. And not one of us tasted a drop of whiskey! Despite being surrounded by 100s and 100s of bottles from Ireland, Scotland, United States and the rest of the world.
Actually, it can be quite difficult to make a choice on the spot. My advice would be to check out the many whiskies on their website and make a short list. Then you’ll be ready for action.
|Not just whiskey|
You can use that same website to make a reservation too for your food and even for their whiskey masterclasses. I used it last week and it worked like a dream, as it had on earlier occasions.
Of the three, one was a Killarney resident and had not been here before. I reckon they have a new fan, well impressed with the food. By the way, while browsing the listing, my eyes spotted the Blackwater Distillery's Gin with Barry's Tea.
|Blue cheese & pear|
I had that in mind for a lunchtime tipple and our server said, yes, they had it and that it was proving very popular. I had missed out on it during the Christmas lunch and was delighted to get a taste, even if I had to share it!
You may eat as much or as little as you like here in this friendly place, anything from soup of the day to a substantial pie. Speaking of which, one of our choices was the very tasty Chicken, Leek and Mushroom pie (11.00).
|Chicken, leek & mushroom|
I was on the look out for a dish I had througoughly enjoyed on a previous visit: the Lamb Liver, with streaky bacon and slathered in a delicious onion gravy and served with sourdough toast.
This time, with no sign of the lamb, I choose the Roast Barbary Duck Salad (11.00). The duck is warm and very flavoursome and is served with a fresh and crunch salad of Apple, Fennel and Celery and also a mustard vinaigrette. Recommended!
CL was also well pleased with her pick: Pear and Blue Cheese Salad (8.00) which combines these classic ingredients in a slightly innovative and tasty way. The pear is sliced. It comes with pickled walnuts and watercress and those nuts were quite outstanding. Again, the salad, just like mine, was excellent, well prepared.
For details of a previous visit, a little more whiskey involved, click here.
Celtic Whiskey Bar & Larder
93 New Street, Killarney, Co. Kerry
Tel: 64 663 5700
|Take your pick!|
See alsoThe Yew Tree at The Muckross Park Hotel
Quinlan's Seafood Bar Killarney
Visiting Killarney's Big Houses
Dine and Stay at The Brehon Hotel Killarney
Quinlan's Seafood Bar Killarney
Visiting Killarney's Big Houses
Dine and Stay at The Brehon Hotel Killarney
36 Hours in Killarney, inc Killarney Brewing
Thursday, December 28, 2017
Game On at Blairs Inn
The crew in Blairs Inn in Cloghroe are always game for a laugh, summer or winter. But this time of year, four-legged and feathered game is in season and is served up in many delicious ways by the kitchen of this renowned country pub, a few miles from Cork City and Blarney.
A laugh and a smile are guaranteed here, directions too if you’re a tourist seeking the next beauty spot or watering hole; they’ve even been known to change a wheel for a customer.
Not that you’ll ever be in a hurry to leave the pub. In winter, the fires are burning and the company's good. You’ll get the same company in the summer in the garden by the little Sheep River. And it’s also a terrific place for craft beer, one of the first places in Ireland where I was given a multi-page craft beer menu to choose from.
The craft beer is still going strong here and, indeed, the beer I had for lunch was something special. It is a Gluten Free stout, Stag Saor*, and is on draught, Ireland's first.
|GF and on draught|
Richard Blair, one of two brothers now running the pub, told me of a satisfied customer of a few days earlier. A coeliac, the man hadn’t drunk stout, his favourite tipple, for twenty years but, having sampled the Star Saor, left Blair's Inn with tears of gratitude.
I had noticed they were using the Ballyvourney stout in my Venison Casserole so, of course, I ordered a pint. And it proved a great match for the rich casserole of Wicklow venison (16.95) which was served with a side dish of root vegetables, some broccoli too and a big baked potato! Great stuff.
CL was eagerly tucking into her Wild Irish Pheasant (half!), with aromatic gin and juniper stuffing, mushrooms and a red wine sauce (16.50). Another superb dish. Thought she might have had a G & T with this but no she settled, quite happily as it turned out, for the Scarlet Pimpernel by Killarney Brewing.
Lots of choice here, including the corned beef dish for which the Blairs are well known. Meat features strongly but, in fairness, they have no less then three fish dishes in the mains as well. Beside, they have one-plates meals (including a massive Wagyu beef burger), and there are salads, baps and open sandwiches.
Good choice of starters too though both of us went for cheese based dishes. Having tried, unsuccessfully, to milk one of their goats earlier in 2017, CL has a soft spot for Bluebell Falls so no surprise that she picked a warm tartlet of the cheese, with creamed leeks and smoked salmon, a terrific flavoursome dish for €8.65.
For the same money, I enjoyed a lovely salad of Gubbeen and seasonal leaves. Very pleased with that one. Indeed, very pleased with the meal overall as is consistently the case here.
* Saor is Irish for free and producers, 9 White Deer from Ballyvourney, already have a full set of Gluten Free beers in bottle.
|Another venison dish, this from the evening menu.|
Tel: (021) 438 1470
Thursday, October 19, 2017
Holy Smoke On The Mardyke
Temple of Fire and Smoke
If you visit Holy Smoke, and you should, you’ll be visiting a kingdom of fire and smoke. And your royal guides will be John Relihan and Deccie Walsh.
John welcomed us to their tasty palace on the Mardyke last Tuesday night for a rather special evening: six courses of pit smoked BBQ paired with either Irish Craft Beer or Irish Whiskey. Caroline Hennessy, of Eight Degrees and author of Slainte, introduced the beers while Killian O’Mahony, a recently qualified cooper at Midleton Distillery, told us about the whiskey.
Did you know that Holy Smoke is housed in the original Woodford Bourne cellars (1875), that stored at one time over 50,000 gallons of choice whiskies, Cognac, rum and casks of wine, sherries and ports?
John told us they cook here “with fire”, using a Japanese Robata grill and a large smoker. They use sustainable charcoal (supplied by an Oxford firm). Ribs take four hours while brisket and pork can take 14 to 16 hours. He stressed the importance of using the right charcoal and the right wood.
He has trained with some of the best, including Jamie Oliver, and in many cuisines including BBQ, Italian, Spanish, Japanese. “It’s been quite a journey,” said the man from Duagh in Co, Kerry. They have just introduced steak to the menu - “you can expect lots of different cuts and do check out our Jazz event on October 25th.” Link is here.
Six courses seems like a lot. But the Holy Smoke team judged this to perfection. It was quality all the way but the quantity was spot-on too, not too much and certainly not too little.
After a welcome drink of Prosecco and a bowl of pickles and pork scratchings, Caroline introduced the first of the beers. “The Franciscan Well were among the first of our craft brewers and their traditional red ale, the Rebel Red, is great with pork.” And our first dish was Gubbeen Hot Links Sausages. These spicy sausages, commonly used in southern US barbecues, got the taste buds up and running.
More pork now but of a very different kind: Wet Rubbed Baby Back Ribs (marinaded overnight and smoked for four hours over oak). Caroline praised the quality of Irish Malt and said Eight Degrees were proud to use it. And certainly the Howling Gale Pale Ale had a good solid base of malt, a lovely aroma and not too hoppy and proved a good match for the ribs and the cornbread.
And next came one of the highlights of the night: Pulled Pork Slider (shoulder smoked low and slow for 14 hours). Amazingly succulent and delicious and the Stonewell cider, that Caroline had been keeping in reserve, proved an ideal match.
Head Chef Deccie Walsh managed to take a few minutes away from the kitchen and told us of his love for slow cooking and nose to tail cooking. He really enjoys this type of event. After last night, we all do!
Another highlight next: Pit Smoked BBQ Chicken Wings (marinaded, smoked for 4 hours and char-grilled). Accompanied by pickled celery and a blue cheese dip, this was a superb mid-menu course, fingers in action again. And the beer? Another from Eight Degrees: the Barefoot Bohemian Pilsner, a nice light beer in the traditional Czech style and excellent with the wings.
Brisket Burnt End Sliders were now arriving on the table, another highlight for me, all the more appreciated when we heard that their journey to our plates had started during the storm of the day before.
We had a two drinks to go with this one. The first was a can of the Franciscan Well Irish Pale Ale, a favourite of mine. “Don't drink from the can,” Caroline advised. “Pour it into the glass, the better to appreciate its lovely amber colour, the citrus aromas. As you drink, you’ll note the citrus bite.”
Killian told us about the importance of the casks as he introduced the Green Spot whiskey made at Midleton from pot still whiskey aged between seven and nine years, with 25% coming from sherry casks.
Time then for dessert: Chocolate, banana and caramel brownie, with a whiskey sauce. Obviously, if you had whiskey remaining (I didn’t), you could have tried a drop with this.
The final beer was the award-winning Amber Ella from Eight Degrees. As Caroline said, it has a lovely malty flavour to go with the brownie and the sauce. First brewed in 2014, this American style amber surprised the home brewers by taking a bronze in the World Beer Cup in the US. “It was a big surprise,” recalled Caroline. “ It was a boost for Eight Degrees but also a boost for Irish craft.”
Killian had ended his whiskey intro with a toast to friendship and the lovely evening finished in that kind of spirit, old friends met and new friends made. Thanks for the invite and Slainte to all at Holy Smoke.
Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Out of the Blue
And only out of the blue!
Out of the Blue, the restaurant with the colourful beach-hut style frontage on Dingle’s waterfront, is a fish restaurant. Nothing else. So, if there’s no fresh fish, there is no opening. They have a few sample menus on their tidy website but you won't know what is really on offer until you get there, indeed, they themselves profess not to know until the boats come in. So it is always something of a surprise, but never a let-down.
Do book in advance though especially when there is a festival in town. We were there last weekend and reserved a table for Friday night, the night that the Food Festival launched. You don't get a menu in your hand. A large blackboard is positioned on a nearby chair and you are given plenty of time to consider the long list, everything from mussels to lobster, from pollack to black sole. We made our choices as we sipped a glass of cool prosecco.
If the outside looks like a hut, the inside is solid and comfortable, lots of paintings hanging there, including a lovely Currach by local artist Liam O'Neill. We had time to look around before the starters arrived.
Pan fried curried plaice fillet with mango salsa was CL’s choice. And mine was the Duo of home cured and smoked salmon with citrus dressing. Indeed, it was an agreed choice and we went half and half. Both were excellent, the salmon smooth and easy, the plaice enhanced by the mild curry treatment.
Jean Marie Vaireaux has been chef here for the past ten years - he has been in Dingle for much longer - and we noticed that was demoing his Scallops flambéed with Calvados on the following day. We didn't pick that as a mains as we thought we’d catch him at St Jame’s Church, the demo venue for the festival. But we got side-tracked by the Taste Trail!
Back to Out of the Blue and the mains, where there were many choices. Mine was the Char-grilled Halibut fillet with garlic butter. An excellent dish, superbly cooked and delivered to the table.
I enjoyed that and CL was very happy indeed with her Pan fried Plaice fillet with Ratatouille Provençal, another simple dish, superbly executed.
Oh, almost forgot, We have wine. The list is large enough to cover most tastes and the majority of the wines are European. Not a great fan of Picpoul de Pinet but the Cave L’Ormarine Preambule from the Languedoc could change my mind! Crisp, smooth, fruity, and mouth-watering, it proved an excellent match all through.
Dessert? Tempted yes, but in the end settled on a share of the cheese offering that featured Gubbeen and Crozier Blue and we finished off with that and a glass of port. Delicious end to a lovely evening and then a short stroll back to the hotel.
Sunday, September 10, 2017
FEAST. On the Street
The Main Event
|Family day out. Busy side-street.|
From the outset of the rebranded FEAST, Saturday had been billed as The Main Event. And the crowds of people up and down Midleton’s Main Street and side streets and in the Farmer’s Market, demonstrated just that. And, once again, the weather played its part, the odd shower no deterrent at all to those strolling and snacking, and those eating a tad more seriously at the long outdoor table opposite the Restaurant Tent where some eleven restaurants were selling delicious small plates at a fiver each.
But is wasn't just the restaurants. Lots of other food (Green Saffron were busy, as always) available as well under the mainly blue sky. Great too to see the local butchers, including Jim Crowley and Frank Murphy, on the street, bakers too and coffee makers. No shortage of sweet stuff as you made your way between the various hot-spots.
|The Granary Crew|
The Demo Marquee was a magnet as Bertha’s Revenge Gin, Patrick Ryan’s sourdough, and various chefs, including Ciaran Scully, Lilly Higgins, Kevin Aherne and Martin Shanahan kept the punters entertained. Down in the Distillery, you could enjoy a premium whiskey tasting and Carol Quinn’s talk on the history of whiskey here for a tenner.
Opposite the restaurant area was where the long table was situated and just beyond there was a packed children's zone with music shows, puppet shows, and amusements. The siting of the table and the amusement space close together was great for parents and I saw more than a few taking turns at the table and then relieving the partner on child duty!
The regular Farmer’s Market was also buzzing. Maybe one day, all will be accommodated on Main Street but on Saturday the traders were doing well. Had a friendly word with the Lobsterman who I’d met in Rostellan the evening before. Baker Declan Ryan was, as ever, on duty at Arbutus stall while Noreen Conroy was as busy and as friendly as ever at Woodside Farm. Nearby, at the Courthouse, the friendly GIY folk were dishing out advice on what to grown, how to grow it and when.
|Monkfish, chorizo, flatbread by Samphire (at Garryvoe Hotel)|
Back on Main Street, it was hard to make choices. Would have been a gargantuan feat to sample something from all eleven restaurants! And that would leave out all the others. Tough. I had heard on the Twitter that Farmgate’s Chowder was a thing of splendour but by then I had had my fill.
One of the highlights was the Monkfish and chorizo flatbread served by head chef Kevin at the Samphire (Garryvoe Hotel) stand. The crab beignet by Pier 26 went down well. Jack and his team at the Granary Cafe stand were busy and their massive baked Rooster (with Ballinrostig nettle and cream cheese and Gubbeen chorizo) was quite a treat and I also got a few pastries here to bring home.
Indeed, that bag for home filled rapidly. Included were the Mango, Peach and habanero chutney a new product from the Rebel Chilli lads, some garlic (including Avram, Lautrec, and Pink Marble) from West Cork Garlic, a bag of Honduran coffee beans from Badger & Dodo and 30-day aged beef from Woodside. Happy out, as we headed west from F-EAST! Here’s to next year.
|Busy butcher Jim Crowley|