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The Cliff House Hotel is an amazing building on the cliffs at Ardmore but it is its House Restaurant that is the star attraction, a Michelin star at that. Re-opened in 2008, after a huge investment, the hotel and the restaurant, have been at the cutting edge since. We were looking forward to the experience and we will be talking about it for a long time to come.
On the edge.
The restaurant has great views over the bay, back to the village and out to the ocean, but darkness was falling as we were led to our table near the panoramic window. The food was now the focus. And the wine, of course. There is a multi-course tasting menu, a very famous one indeed, but on this occasion we choose from the A La Carte (three courses €70.00).
They have an “exciting, surprising wine list”. Lots of study needed so we took the easy way out and went for the matching option (€27.50). The Cliff House is a huge supporter of local food (farm and sea) and no surprise either that they have a beer list that highlights many of the local craft brewers (including Eight Degrees, Dungarvan and O’Hara’s) as well as the excellent Stonewell cidery.
A Cauliflower panna cotta, edible Clay stones, and Beetroot and Soft Goat Cheese Macaroons were some of the Amuse Bouches that arrived in rapid succession. And then there were the breads, three of them, each tempting and delicious in its own way: Brioche, Spelt, and a Multi-seeded Cornbread.
With the pleasant preliminaries completed, we were on to the real starters. Both of us went for the West Cork Scallops: Seared, Grilled, Ceviche, Crème, Celeriac Preparations, Black Garlic, Lettuce, Dutch Salad, Irish Caviar. Amazing dish, great presentation (included a side glass), beautiful textures and flavours.
You are probably familiar with Tokaji, the sweet Hungarian wine. From the same Furmint grape, they also make a dry white wine and our glass was an excellent example of this style (2011), quite dry but still luscious and aromatic. Well they did say the list was surprising!
Next there was a surprise sorbet, a little highlight to remember: a carrot and fennel sorbet with a Green tea foam. What a lovely combination of flavours and textures. If they take that kind of trouble with the small things, you can be confident of the big courses.
And that superb standard continued throughout. CL loved her mains, the McGrath's Black Angus Beef: Fillet, Sausage, Small Vegetables, Potato Fondant, Kilbeggan Whiskey, Beef Tea, Garden Herbs. The beef was just so, pink and tender. And then there was a small wow moment when the Beef Tea was made at the table, the stock poured over the herbs in a little cafetiere!
I didn't have any “tea” with mine but loved every little bit of the Irish Rose Veal: Strip Loin, Stuffed, Oven Roasted, Sweetbreads, Blue Foot Mushroom, Bread and Butter, Veal Jus. That mushroom by the way was out of this world.
The wines, both red as you'd expect, were top notch. CL’s Orzado Carignan 2011 came from the Maule Valley in Chile while mine, Chateau Bellevue Bordeaux, mainly Merlot, was from much closer to home.
The time was flying by and we were on the verge of dessert. All through, the service was highly efficient but always there was time for a quick chat, the patience, and more importantly the knowledge, to answer a question. Flawless and friendly.
Chocolate often catches my eye and so I ordered the Organic Chocolate 65%, Alto el Sol Peru - Vintage 2013 and the Garofolo Madagascar Vintage 2012: Mousse, Crème, Vanilla Semi Freddo, Olive Oil, Sea Salt, ‘White’ Coffee Ice Cream. The matching wine was the Grenache based Banyuls Rimage, Pietri-Gerard, France 2011. Could have had a Dungarvan Stout with it but then a visit to the bar later was on the cards! Would have liked to tried a Rasteau with it.
CL had a last minute change of mind and was delighted with her Rhubarb: Sphere, Compote, Poached, Consommé, Yoghurt Candy Floss, Almond, Ginger, Honey Ice Cream. And delighted too with her sparkling wine match, the Cremant D’Alsace, Meyer-Fonne NV. A classy end to a top class meal.