Dining at Liss Ard

Dining at Liss Ard

Visited Liss Ard Estate near Skibbereen for the first time recently and decided to join a few of the other residents for dinner in the main house. Head Chef Cliona McCarthy uses lots of produce from local suppliers including Caherbeg, Gubbeen, Glenilen and Sally Barnes. The food on the table is, as they say themselves, “simple uncomplicated food bursting with freshness and flavours”.  It is also fairly priced.

We started off with two salads (7.50). My pick was the Caherbeg Crispy Bacon and Potato Salad. Some really fresh leaves here with excellent flavour from both the bacon and potato. It was much the same with CL’s Warm Chicken Salad with Glenilen Yoghurt and Mint Dressing, another very simple yet satisfactory plateful.

You don’t have a great choice here but there is no shortage of quality in the five starters and five main courses. We both settled on the same mains: Roast Union Hall Cod with Lemon Herb Butter and a Mussel Risotto (about 18/19 euro). This was as fresh as you’d expect and the risotto was really well executed.

The wine list is also rather short but appropriate to the demands on the restaurant and again there is quality there. We certainly enjoyed our Main a Main Chardonnay from the Pays d’Oc, unoaked with a gorgeous gold/yellow colour, fresh and fruity and a balancing citrus zest, all for €25.00.

The evening’s dessert was a New Season’s Rhubarb Fool with homemade shortbread (6.50). Again, quite a simple dish but delicious.

Service was excellent at dinner but more hit and miss at breakfast time (two bookable sittings 8.45 and 9.45). For instance, you do have to make your own toast. No big imposition but the toaster (and remember you can have maybe more than twenty people in the room) is your ordinary domestic two slice job and the bread slices are supplied in drips and drabs. So you may have to visit the hall more than once and then be lucky to have bread and access to the toaster at the same time.

Some of you might like to know that there is no bar here. But they do have an “honour bar” from which you may help yourself to a bottle of beer or wine and sign for it on the nearby blackboard!

The estate itself is huge with many woodlands paths that lead you to different features such as the Water Gardens and a Wild Flower Meadow, both of which will probably look better in another month or so. By the way, there is a unique long term approach at work here with the gardens as a whole  expected to reach maturity in thirty to fifty years time!

 The main feature of course is the Irish Sky Garden, also growing and developing, where you’ll experience the giant earth and stone works, The Crater, by famed artist James Turrell, with its contemplative 'Vault Purchase' or plinth (below) at its centre.
There is also a large lake in the grounds, used for various sports including canoeing and fishing. We stayed in the Lodge that overlooks this lake. So too did a ten strong group who had exclusive access to the lounge there. If we needed to lounge (we didn’t really), we'd have had to travel up to the main house (either by car or by a pleasant short walk through the woods). You also have to "travel" for breakfast and dinner but we knew that!
 One other handicap in the Lodge (some may not regard it as such) is the lack of a decent signal for your mobile phone – even our receptionist who showed us our splendid room there had to go back to the main house to check something out because she had no reception. Needless to say, the Wi-Fi, available in the main house, doesn’t extend to the lodge. Ideal, if you want to get away from it all!

There is a lot going on in Liss Ard even though driving up the bumpy main driveway, you might be wondering what you are letting yourself in for. But there is a philosophy at work here, allowing you to experience the “beauty, wonder and tranquillity of Irish Nature”. We did see a fox running along the same driveway!

See also Stunning West Cork in yesterday's sunshine.