Showing posts with label River Lee Hotel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label River Lee Hotel. Show all posts

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Whiskey and Chocolate. Best of Taste Mates!

Whiskey and Chocolate
Best of Taste Mates!
On the banks of the Lee:
Frank (left) and Niall.

So there’s a guy drinking whiskey. Not just any whiskey. This is The Pogues, fruity, rich and round, which is being launched in the US next week. But what’s he eating? Is that chocolate? Yes, it is. It is Shana Wilkies Amazones. What? Whiskey and chocolate. Yes, indeed, the perfect pairing. This whiskey and that chocolate meet on the palate and both are enhanced. What more do you need from a food and drink pairing?

That guy isn't the only one indulging. A whole roomful is at it. The room is called the Lookout, part of the revamp at the River Lee Hotel, a lovely room to which the River Lee’s Paula Cogan has just warmly welcomed us (mainly media and bloggers) to this unusual Whiskey and Chocolate Tasting. The guys taking us through the enjoyable evening (24th Feb 16) are Frank McHardy (a very experienced Scottish consultant with West Cork Distillery in Skibbereen) and Niall Daly (proprietor of the Chocolate Shop in Cork’s English Market).

As Paula said, the hotel is always on the lookout for “new local products” and was delighted that the two this evening were amazing and taking their place in the hotel offering. The evening had started in The Hub, a nearby room, where we enjoyed the Rebel Pour, a cocktail by River Lee mixologist Finbarr Collins. Ingredients: 40mls West Cork whiskey, 20 mls Pimms, topped up with homemade Lemonade, garnished with fresh strawberry and mint, an easy-drinking delight.

As we started the tasting, Frank told us he came from the Mull of Kintyre, 12 miles from the coast of Northern Ireland. “I’ve been working for fifty years in whiskey,’ he said. As a consultant he travels widely, soon off to Australia. “Not bad for a 71 year old bugger,” he laughed.
Mixing a Rebel Pour

These were the headline pairings for the evening:
Whiskey Flavour Notes
Chocolate Flavour Notes
West Cork Original Blend Whiskey &
Michel Cluizel’s Mangaro Lait 50% – Madagascan Origin
Sweet citrus and vanilla, malt. Sweet nougat with hints of lemon zest.
Caramel, exotic fruits, gingerbread, honey with sultana on the finish.
West Cork 10 Year Old Single Malt & Domori Occumare 77 – 70% Venezuelan Origin
Malty, toffee, treacle notes. Hints of dairy milk chocolate
Apricot jam, cream and dried fruit. Excellent roundness & persistence, with low acidity and bitterness.
The Pogues Whiskey & Pralus Chuao 70% - Venezuelan Origin
Full-bodied, ripe fruits, nutmeg and sweet digestive biscuits
Earthy tones, muscovado sugar, lemon zest – Exceptionally smooth & a fine balance of bitter and acidity.

Sweet things to finish on.

And they were absolutely perfect. But Niall, assisted by Rose, had more than one pairing up his sleeve. When the English Market shop some fifteen years back, they were the first people to stock the famous Valrhona chocolate. But is was a hard sell and they moved very little of it for the first two years. Now their biggest selling bar is a 100%. His own favourite though is the 89% Wilkie's and indeed the Wilkies, made from bar to bean in Midleton, proved quite a favourite on the night.

There were also quite a few tips on the night. Frank cautioned against using ice in your whiskey. “Add a little water - it opens up the whiskey flavours. If you think it is a little cold, heat it up with your hand.” Niall warned us not to store chocolate in the fridge as “the cold damages the chocolate; heat will only change the shape. Store it at room temperature.” And then he had one more tip. You can start your day with it: Add some 100% to your porridge!

As I mentioned, the headline matches above all worked a treat. But there were one of two others worth mentioning, in particular the Vietnamese Marou 80% old plantation, a beautiful pairing with the West Cork Original Blend (75% grain, 25% malt).

River Lee Hotel (top left)
at sunset
Another star was the Akesson’s Single Plantation 75% from Bali, a great match with the 10 year old whiskey and then of course the Wilkies with the Pogues.

The Pogues (50% malt, 50% grain) is quite a whiskey, one that you could easily mistake for a much older drink. But is just the normal three years and one day. Frank: “It shows that whiskey doesn't have to be old to be good. You get those roasted nuts and vanilla aromas, fruity, rich and round on the palate. Quite malty, ginger-y. And don't forget, add a little water to enhance the flavours.”

West Cork Distillers was born from humble beginnings. From the coming together of a food and drinks engineer and his two fisherman friends it now has become a global business selling in over 35 countries worldwide.  John O’ Connell, Denis McCarthy and Ger McCarthy are the three pioneers. They reckon their use of local spring water (“from 3 kms down the road”) is a key factor as this natural soft water leads to a smoother whiskey. Nobody was arguing otherwise at the end of a very interesting and very enjoyable evening in the River Lee Hotel.

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Weir Rooms. Pay attention to simple things

The Weir Rooms

Pay attention to simple things
Tomatoes and Mozzarella
 Last weekend, I had lunch on the bank of the south channel of the river, in the Weir Rooms of the River Lee hotel.

By coincidence, that very evening I began reading Chef by Jaspreet Singh in which the senior chef advises his apprentice (the author): Pay attention to simple things… If one cannot deal with a simple dish properly, there is no way one will be able to handle the more sophisticated. Take a tomato, for instance….. give it the reverence it deserves and ask: Tomato, what would you like to become? Do you want to be alone? or do you prefer company? Apricot…. would you like to become more than yourself in the company of saffron?”

Tomatoes and Goat's Cheese

The humble tomato is the link with the Weir Rooms as it featured in our starters. They could, of course, have sent it out on its own, like the famous Alice Waters peach, on second thoughts maybe not! But the chefs in the River Lee decided it to roast it up and give it some company, mainly a soaking in sweet balsamic.

Pay attention to the simple things paid off big time as the tomatoes were one element of a superb starter that also included goat’s cheese wrapped in golden fried kataifi and a well dressed salad. We also got to taste a big ball of Toonsbridge Mozzarella with a similar accompaniment and glad to report that both were excellent.

Quite a choice of starters (some shared plates) and the day's special was a Spiced Butternut Squash Soup. I love Skeaghanore Duck and picked the Crispy Duck Spring Roll confit cucumber, pickled ginger hoisin sauce, another winner, and I loved every little tasty bit as the river flowed by in the sun shine, just outside, well not so much outside as the “shelter” at our side could be lifted to allow more of the the outside in.

No shortage of choice of mains. Included on the list were a selection of sandwiches (including a Slow Cooked BBQ pulled pork), salads (including a smoked salmon special), steaks and curries and so on and also a Fish Pie (from the Specials Board).

We both decided on the Pan fried fillets of Sea-Bass with sea asparagus and Seville oranges and pink grapefruit, acidulated fennel, and pommes noisette. This was a summer-time gem, full of colour, flavour and textures, a lovely little crunch coming via the samphire. Happy out, as we say around here. So happy in fact that we skipped the tempting array of desserts.

Two courses for two, including an aperitif of Campari on the rocks for me, came to €58.45.

The Weir Rooms is part pf the River Lee Hotel Western Road, Cork, Ireland.
Phone:+353 (21) 4252700,  Fax:+353 (21) 4274477

One corner of the Weir Rooms.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Dining On the Banks. Excellent River Lee Hotel Experience.

Dining On the Banks. Excellent River Lee Hotel Experience.
Friday evening and we are shown to our riverside table in the aptly named Weir Restaurant in the city centre River Lee Hotel. We are early but soon the large comfortable room fills up; the nearby bar is already full of groups, large and small, enjoying the food and the drinks. Our menu is promising, from regulars such as Roast Supreme of Skeaghanore Duck to specials like the Ballinwillin Wild Boar Chop.

We meet some of the team, including Head Chef Shane O’Sullivan (sometimes it pays to turn up early), and we are left to make our choices. A glass of ruby red fruity French Merlot (Croix des Vents) and CL’s vibrant New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (Ribbonwood) are sipped as the choices are made.

Great to see so much local produce on the menu and I go for the Panfried Castletownbere Scallops in Lemon foam with a seafood cracker. It is superb. The scallops are as fresh as can be and the Lemon foam, not just for show, plays a complementary role. The other starter, perhaps more substantial, is the Chicken Liver Pate, with Foie Gras and Rosemary Butter, pickled apple chutney and walnut bread crostini, quite an engaging mix of textures and flavours and is also very well received.

The sun gets low to the west and the restaurant team pick the right moment to drop the window shades and so diners continue in comfort. Service here is friendly and knowledgeable, all eager to help.

I get something of a surprise when my main course arrives. The day’s special, the Wild Boar Chop, is rather large! But not to worry, it is dispatched with some pleasure, aside from some of the opulent fat that is left on the plate. The chop is served with steamed asparagus, beetroot puree, sweet potato chips and an amazing warm rhubarb relish. Ballinwillin House is a country house, (with a Hungarian counterpart), near Mitchelstown. Check it out here .

CL often goes for seafood and her mains choice was no exception. Her Grilled Castletownbere Langoustines, the chef’s June Seasonal Signature Dish, was accompanied by a Pea, Asparagus and Seafood Risotto and finished with Iasc Seafood Butter. Another top notch dish.

They serve a great Cork cheese board here but we went for the sweet stuff! And enjoyed it, every bit. My dessert was the Raspberry Tiramisu. Raspberries also featured on the other dessert, the Baked Alaska, one that you don't see too often nowadays. Both were excellent and it was two happy diners that headed off down the sunny street.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

River Lee Hotel's authentic Cork tasting menu.

River Lee Hotel's
 authentic Cork tasting menu... 
This new ‘The Gathering Package' menu gives visitors to the Rebel County an opportunity to sample foods sourced from local producers in every corner and coast of Ireland’s largest county, without having to take on such an epic journey.  Instead you can take a culinary journey of the senses from scenic West Cork to the fishing villages of East Cork as you whet your appetite with starter options such as ‘Truffle & Honey Scented Ardsallagh Goat’s Cheese’, ‘Sugar Cured Skeaghanore’, and ‘Castletownbere Crab Brulee’. 
Sample a salivating taste of the famous English Market with fresh dishes such as ‘Grilled Fillet of Ballycotton Cod’ and get a sense of the character of Corkonians with the aptly named ‘Optimistic Salad’ - jam packed with superfoods, it provides a witty play on the Cork sense of humour.    And because The Weir Bistro has a policy of making good healthy food available to kids, they also have joined the Irish Heart Foundation's Food for Kids programme so it is focused on healthier options making it perfect break for families. Read more here including full detailed menu,