|Top: Duck (left) and Lamb|
Bottom: House Salad (left) and Prawns.
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Wednesday, April 1, 2015
Macroom’s Church Lane Restaurant
Blessed to have great food on the table
Church Lane is a multi-room restaurant in the grounds of a church in Macroom. The building itself was originally used as the sextant’s lodge and later as a family home. Since 2012, sisters Laura and Cheryl have been feeding locals and visitors alike. Many of the visitors are travellers on the main Cork-Killarney road that runs alongside but quite a few now make a special trip as the restaurant is well known for its high quality.
We had enjoyed that quality via their super Tapas menu some time back but, on this occasion, we went for the a la carte. Reading the menu you notice that quite a few local producers are suppliers here and now they've added local craft beer brewers, including 9 White Deer, to their drinks options.
And this a heads-up for you. If you make it as far as dessert, then do please try the Tiramisu. It is one of the very best around, maybe the best! Unfortunately it is a special and you could be unlucky if it's not on!
There is a very good choice of starters. CL went for the House Salad and was delighted with the mix of sweet potato, cherry tomatoes, beetroot, Toonsbridge Mozzarella, pesto, and balsamic vinegar, all for €6.90.
And if she was happy I was even more so as I got a very pleasant surprise, both in its quantity and quality, with the Prawn Bruschetta (8.90), three pieces of gorgeous bread piled high with the prawns which had been pan-fried and were served with a dazzling garlic and cream sauce. An absolutely brilliant dish that also features in the Tapas menu.
My mains, though excellent, was almost mundane by comparison! But again it was perfectly cooked and delivered at the proper temperature and with a stylish presentation. This was the Pan-seared Lamb Cutlets with rosemary and garlic mash, fresh vegetables and a luxurious red wine jus!
The other mains was also dispatched with some gusto, this the award winning Skeaghanore Duck Breast on a bed of creamed spinach with potato gratin and wild berry reduction. Superb, as you’d expect and, of course, we had excellent side dishes as well.
Each of our mains cost €23.95. The amazing Tiramisu, that we shared, cost €5.75 as do all the desserts on offer. Had we known the Tiramisu was going to be so good, we’d have ordered two. Next time!
Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Two Special Days in West Cork
Bantry a Perfect Base
|Bantry Library in the morning sun|
Just back after two spectacular days in West Cork, two days when the sun shone non-stop. I drove through picture perfect scene after picture perfect scene: the sensational azure blue of the ocean and inlets, the bright yellow of the furze bushes. Just perfect. Lots of brown too, a relic of the winter, yet even that contained the promise of coiled up green waiting to shoot out to enhance and complete the picture in the weeks and months ahead.
First stop was Ballinascarthy, to take a look at the cross-roads memorial to Henry Ford, a full size model of the car-maker’s famous Model T. The slogan for this car, and for the stout of the same name now being sold by Black's Brewery of Kinsale, is: You may have any colour you like, provided it is black! The nailed-down Ballinascarthy model though is not black but a shiny silver. I suppose not too many would stop it were black.
Next stop was the seaside village of Schull with its lovely setting between Mount Gabriel and the sea. And just by the car park over the harbour, you'll find a cafe called Cois Cuain, perfect for a snack and, a tip, they have fantastic coffee here, Maher’s of course.
We continued west - we weren't taking the direct route to Bantry! Soon we were passing through Ballydehob and then lovely Goleen, heading for Mizen Head, Ireland’s most south-westerly point. A temporary cloud changed the light just as we arrived but the visit was brilliant. If you go out to the lighthouse - there is a reasonable fee - be sure and take the fenced path (with helpful hand-rails) up to where you can see the spectacular Dunlough Bay, probably even more spectacular on a bad day.
Time then to head to Bantry, via Durrus. Our base was the Maritime Hotel. And an excellent place it is, with very courteous staff, from reception, to bar to breakfast. Comfortable spacious rooms here, all with a view over the harbour. And breakfast is good. There is a hot buffet but here it is regularly refreshed. And you have the usual juices, meats and cheese too, and breads of course. No shortage at all. The long low rise hotel has its own underground car park and that, with a lift up to reception, is very convenient. Recommended.
There was a still an hour or two left of the afternoon and the regular Friday market was winding down as we strolled up the huge impressive square where statues of St Brendan and Wolfe Tone stand.
|Barleycove, on the way to Mizen Head|
We were heading for the Evans sweet shop (great photo here by Nicolas O'Donnell), a shop that is one hundred years old. We joined the small queue. The woman just ahead of us was buying hard liquorice sweets for “a suck” that night. Then three young girls were next but they very courteously indicated that we should be take their place in the line. We declined but, seeing the kids were possibly still making up their minds on what sweets to buy, we did take up the option.
After a lovely chat with Jennifer who has been here for many years, we decided to buy some clove rock cubes. “They are very fresh,” she said. And so we left with a small bag, nostalgia for just a euro. We should probably have bought more as she had a great choice of old time sweets including Bon Bons, Raspberry and Custard, Pear Drops and more.
|Market in the square in Bantry|
Dinner, and a good one it was, that evening was in the Fish Kitchen. They are building their craft beer list there and we sampled a few and, later, across the street at Ma Murphy’s Pub - you go through the grocery store to get to the bar - we enjoyed some draft Green Bullet by the Mountain Man. Back in the lovely bar at the hotel, with a singer (Neil Young and JJ Cale songs mainly) on duty, I had a very impressive bottle of Galway Hooker Pale Ale. Great label design on that one.
The morning was cool enough as I strolled out to the pier and had a chat with a guy stacking full fertiliser bags in readiness for the Whiddy Island ferry. Then we drove off up the road to Manning’s Emporium in Ballylickey where Andrew told us of their plans for the season ahead, exciting plans too with an expanded restaurant service (serving local produce) and Culture Kitchen tours on the horizon with Val Manning as guide (should be fun!). We’ll bring you more details shortly when arrangements are further advanced.
|Nostalgia for a euro|
After the coffee, it was back to the car and on the road west. More of the spectacular blue water as we passed through sunny Glengarriff and headed for Adrigole and the Healy Pass. We stopped halfway up the winding road and immediately a car that had been behind us pulled in and the man got out and asked us if we needed help.
|Copper mines reminder|
We didn't, we were just going to take a few photos. But then quite a chat ensued and question after question followed and I reckon he found out more about us - ages, children, and more - than any internet investigator would. The elderly man, a local sheep farmer, was also volunteering info about himself and we enjoyed the chat. Soon, he was back in his car and speeding up the windy road, leaving us well behind!
At the top, we paused again, this time for quite a while to drink in the amazing views of the mountains, the lakes and the sea inlets beyond. Amazing place. Then we dropped down into Kerry for a while before turning left on the Ring of Beara Road and back into Cork. And one word of advice. Do take that windy, up and down road that hugs the coast and do stop and enjoy the views.
We passed through Eyeries and Allihies (above) and their colourful houses. Near Allihies, you’ll see remains of the copper mining industry and there is a museum and cafe in the village (it opens from April). And, of course, that amazing blue was out there to our right all the time, the frame changing from bend to bend. Our final stop was in Castletownbere itself and here we walked along the pier where many large fishing boats, not all of them Irish, were docked.
|Ring of Beara|
|Boats in Bantry|
About forty minutes later, we were back in the city after a brilliant two days in the west!
|Our Bantry base|
Monday, August 11, 2014
Holy Tapas!When you're travelling between Killarney and Cork and need an evening bite, but not a full evening meal, where do you stop? I asked myself that question one evening last week and Church Lane in Macroom came to mind. Not quite. I must admit, I thought of Chapel Lane but a quick google search on the phone yielded the correct name Church Lane. It turned out to be a terrific choice.
The multi-roomed restaurant, which supports local producers, is right along side an old churchyard in Macroom and has a large enough outside space and it was there that we were seated.
Church Lane’s philosophy “is to serve food that is naturally full of flavour and goodness by cooking with seasonal ingredients locally sourced and from places we trust. West Cork and the locality is full of really excellent food producers and our menu showcases the best of local and artisan produce”.
Quickly decided on the wine and picked the Grant Burge Chardonnay Viognier (Australia) 2012, (€6.00 a glass) and the Lamberti Santepietre Pinot Grigio (Italy) 2013, (€6.20). Then we sat back in the sun. Water, breads, and menus were quickly delivered and we concentrated on the tapas menu. Really, most of them were small plates, more or less starter portions, and most cost just under a fiver.
They have quite a selection; some meat based, some fish based and some veggie options. As it turned out, the pair we choose were vegetarian and both were absolutely first class, a terrific balance of flavours and really well cooked. We thoroughly enjoyed the Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli with a red pepper bisque and shaved Parmesan (4.95) and Roasted Aubergine with tomato chickpea, spinach and smoked cheese (4.50).
They have two Sharing Plates listed on the Tapas Menu. One is a Mediterranean Charcuterie and Cheese Selection. The other, our choice on this occasion, was the Seafood Platter (smoked salmon, poached salmon, prawns, crab meat, and anchovies, all served with three dips and more bread, all for €19.95). This was another excellent combination of contrasting flavours and textures and, as we had eaten earlier in the day, was a perfect solution for this pair of travellers!
Wed - Sat: 12:00 pm - 9:30 pm
Sun: 12:30 pm - 8:00 pm
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Castle Scoops 2013 Travellers' Choice Award
|In the Gearagh, a beautiful|
natural attraction in Macroom.
The boutique 4 * Castle Hotel in Macroom, Co. Cork, beat off stiff competition and was voted a best ‘customer service’ hotel by Trip Advisor this week in its annual Trip Advisor Travellers’ Choice Awards.
The Castle Hotel was ranked 12th within the top twenty five hotels in Ireland by Trip Advisor. The hotel is no stranger to Trip Advisor and was awarded a Certificate of Excellence for 2011 and secured best “bargain” and “family” hotel in 2012.
The prestigious awards are run on an annual basis by Trip Advisor, which is the world’s largest travel community, where millions of travellers seek information on all items travel related.
Owner, Don Buckley said “It is refreshing to be awarded by Trip Advisor and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the team at The Castle Hotel for their continued hard work in achieving best practices in the hotel. We are delighted to be right up there with well established hotels such as The Aghadoe Heights Hotel (13th) & The Four Seasons (11th). This is a fantastic boost for management and staff and will spur us on to exceed our guest requirements”.
For further information on family packages and special offers contact The Castle Hotel on 026-41074.
Other Cork hotels featured in the Top 25 were Hayfield Manor (#2), Inchadoney Island Lodge and Spa (#7), The River Lee Hotel (#21) and Bayview Hotel (Ballycotton, (#23). In the best Small Hotels, Ballyvolane House came in at Number 10 with Liss Ard in Skibbereen (#22), while the Cork Airport International Hotel took 1st spot in the Bargain Hotels category.
Monday, February 13, 2012
MACROOM’S CASTLE HOTEL
Must tell you that I really enjoyed a recent stay in the town of Macroom where I was a guest at the excellent centrally located Castle Hotel .
The hotel is located right on the main street and looks very well indeed, well kept, well painted. It has three doors on to the street, one for Dan Buckley’s Bar, one for the Next Door Cafe and the other for reception.
Our first contact was the reception desk and we got a very warm welcome indeed. No shortage of information on the hotel and its facilities and also three brochures for the town and its surrounds. That friendliness continued right through all areas of the hotel, restaurant, bar and cafe. Other facilities available to guests include a lovely swimming pool, gym and treatments area.
Before we checked into the hotel, we had taken a walk through the nearby Gearagh, a fantastic place and well worth a visit. Now after leaving our bags, we headed west the street to the nearby Town Park, through the Castle entrance, and enjoyed a smashing stroll on the banks of the Sullane River.
We had been told the pastry treats in the cafe were irresistible and soon confirmed they were. Later, we visited the Hotel’s B’s restaurant, where again the service was ever so friendly and the food was well presented and generally top notch.
After dinner, we gravitated towards the bar. Once again, we found friendly helpful people. A proactive young employee gave us a tip as to where best to sit, to stay away from the door to the street as the weather had turned very cold and an icy blast intruded whenever the door opened. We took his advice.
After a good night’s sleep in our warm comfortable room, we headed for breakfast. What a selection! Juices galore, all the cereals, nuts and seeds you’d ever want, yoghurts and berries, breads and pastries and, of course, the hot meals from which I picked the Smoked Salmon and Scrambled Egg.
This lovely hotel is right bang in the centre of the town and the town itself is also very central to the region’s attractions with Cork and Killarney each about 30 minutes away while West Cork and North Cork are also easily accessible. Even if you must pass through rather than stay, do stop at the Next Door Cafe or the restaurant and see if you resist their goodies.
Monday, January 30, 2012
DINING AT THE CASTLE
Friday last, we dined at the B’s Restaurant in the Castle Hotel in Macroom. And dined quite royally, I might add. Food and service were terrific.
Service came in the shape of AJ, the maestro of the dining room. No shortage of advice or recommendations and, if something wasn’t on the menu, then he’d get it as he did with the fruit dessert at the end. Lots of friendly chat too, “like”.
As we munched the handmade breads, from a “secret” recipe according to AJ, I was delighted to see so many local producers mentioned on the menu, reliable sources such as Jack McCarthy, Cappoquinn, Ardsallagh, Gubbeen, Milleens, Michael Twomey and quite a few others.
I started off with the Jack McCarthy Black Pudding, which was perfect, as usual, really top drawer stuff. This time, it was served with a Spiced Apple Chutney, a great match.
Local input also to the other starter with the mozzarella coming from the milk of the buffalos on the farm of local man Johnny Lynch. The full title for this starter was: Mozzarella and Roasted Vegetable Bruschetta with fire roasted pepper relish and baby leaf salad. Another good one! Peppers and Aubergine were the roasted veg and the whole thing came together very well indeed.
AJ then humourously explained, just in case we thought the meal was coming to a premature end, that the next course would not be dessert but a sorbet. And quite a tasty and colourful one it turned out to be.
Now, the palate was ready for the mains and I went for an AJ recommendation: Baked Supreme of Cappoquinn Chicken filled with Ardsallagh Goats Cheese wrapped in Parma Ham and served with a Tomato and Basil Sauce. Must say I liked this one. The cheese played a key role in the overall taste without ever threatening to dominate while the sauce – I spooned out every bit – added extra flavour and moisture.
I like it too that the sauce was served in its own little container as was the case with the other main dish: Baked West Cork hake with sundried tomato salsa and served with a light Champagne sauce. The fish was juicy, the spinach underneath was lovely and creamy while the salsa added a bit of tartness. The main dishes were also accompanied by a side plate of perfectly cooked seasonal vegetables.
Now for the real dessert. Once again AJ played a part as one of us was looking for something light. And so he got the chef to produce, without any delay, a perfectly presented plate of gorgeous fruit, as you can see from the picture.
I too had a gorgeous presentation, quite a line up of local cheese, including top names such as Milleens and Gubbeen, crackers and plum chutney and some slices of plum and mango. Lapped it all up while finishing off the wine which was another treat, the real face of Chardonnay from Burgundy.
For the record it was a Champy 2009 Macon-Lugny (€26.00). It was full-bodied luscious and creamy, not a trace of oak, the real taste of one of the world’s most popular grapes. Lovely wine, lovely meal. Thanks to AJ and all the crew at the Castle.
Monday, January 23, 2012
Customers make Macroom hotel their Number One
Castle Hotel Scoops Trip Advisor Travellers’ Choice Award
A delighted Lorraine Kelleher, who manages PR for the Castle Hotel, has been in touch to tell us all about the latest honour for the 4 star hotel in Macroom:
"The Castle beat off stiff competition and was voted best bargain hotel by Trip Advisor this week in its annual Trip Advisor Travellers’ Choice Awards.
The Castle Hotel was ranked within the top twenty five hotels in Ireland in the “bargain” hotel award category by Trip Advisor. The Castle is no stranger to Trip Advisor and last year was awarded a Certificate of Excellence for 2011.
The prestigious awards are run on an annual basis by Trip Advisor, which is the world’s largest travel community, where millions of travellers seek information on all items travel related."
Owner, Don Buckley said “We are delighted to receive such an accolade and to be voted by the travellers themselves is what it’s all about at the end of the day. Our current rating with Trip Advisor stands at 94 % and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the team at The Castle for their continued hard work in achieving this. We strive for high standards at The Castle Hotel and we value our customers’ opinions at all times. This award is a fantastic boost as the hotel enters it’s sixty first year in business”
Marketing Manager, Rachael Kohler added “Given the current economic climate, we are conscious that customers are price sensitive and are always on the hunt for value for money, hence why we aim to be innovative when it comes to creating our packages. One of our current packages which are proving extremely popular amongst the public is our two hundred euro all in deal for two people for two nights with full Irish breakfast on both mornings. This package also includes one evening meal for two with a complimentary bottle of wine on an evening of your choice”
For further information on this exclusive deal contact The Castle Hotel on 026-41074.
Monday, August 22, 2011
FOLLÁIN: MO GRÁ MÓR
August in a sunny field picking blackberries. Boys and girls all around. Loads of mature briars growing, lots of black berries. Bees and wasps whizzing. Jar in hands as we push into the briars. A big can standing on the margins, probably the same can that is used to bring the milk from the farmer every evening.
Just a little reverie. Brought on after tasting the magical Blackberry jam made by Folláin in West Cork. It is the real thing. Gorgeous. Just like homemade. The only problem is that it could lead to eating too much bread.
And then I move on to the Blackcurrant in the sample box. That reminded me of the fields of blackcurrants and the gangs of us picking them at Dring’s Farm. And also all the more exotic fruit in the high walled garden.
Looking forward to eating more of the quality Folláin jams! Perhaps the strawberry will remind me of days at the Rathcooney Fruit Farm. The raspberry of visits to Carriganarra.
By the way, where have all the fruit farms gone? Are there any left in Cork? Well, at least we have Folláin and their marvellous range.
Folláin, the Irish for wholesome, was started close on thirty years ago by Peadar and Máirín O'Lionáird in Cuil Aodha. Didn't realise they have been around since 1983. But they have, and their products, widely available, have won many awards.
They have a smashing website at http://www.follain.ie. It is well worth a visit. It even contains a whole bunch of recipes with loads of ideas of how to use their jams, preserves and relishes.