Sunday Lunch at Ballymaloe House is one to experience time and again.
Sunday’s lunch in Ballymaloe House showed how well loved the local food produce is by the kitchen staff and by us, the customers. The food on the plate speaks for itself. It is indeed all on plates (no flowerpots), no nitro show, no foams, no coloured dots.
Still, the food here is very well presented. It looks appetising. And it is. That is soon confirmed. The experience - and even without the dots, the flowerpots, the nitro and the foams - this is quite the experience, aided in no small way by the culture of calm courtesy and quiet efficiency of the reception and serving staff.
So we are seated in one of the high-ceilinged rooms, not the only such room in use on the day. We have ordered. Soon, our server is back with an offering of delicious cheese croquettes (not mentioned on the menu!) which we enjoy while we wait for our starters.
And that’s when it began to get serious, seriously enjoyable. For this is a comfortable experience (not just the chair) - you won’t be left wondering what you have on your plate, nothing is deconstructed here.
My starter is Sesame Crusted Fritto Misto di Mare with Roast Garlic Aioli and Parsley oil while CL has the Ruby Beetroot Fritters with Preserved Lemon Salsa and Farm Yogurt.
The fish (soft and white) on my plate are squid and ray wing, the aioli and oil a key part of a deftly crusted dish that you don’t come across everyday, really really excellent. And as is often the case it is the little things on the plate that can make the difference, that Salsa and Yogurt lifting the local beetroot to a different level.
Other starters available included Cannellini Bean & Chorizo Broth; Spinach Gnocchi with Roast Cherry Tomatoes; and Pâté Maison.
Virtually everything is local here, much of it ultra-local as it comes from their own walled garden and farm.
They don’t have their own wine but they are trying! There is a quite a list presented to us and we pick the delicious Picpoul de Pinet, Château Petit Roubié, one of the house whites, at €8.50 a glass or €30.00 a bottle, and one that we know and love from the Mary Pawle portfolio.While this list is quite large, there is also the fuller list, one that you may need to start studying before you travel!
I did notice quite a few local drinks on the house drinks list, including their own gin, beers from the Cotton Ball and Blacks of Kinsale. As the designated driver, I was very happy to see the Stonewell Non Alcoholic available (€5.00 a bottle), one of the best of its type in the country and one that I enjoyed again.
Time now for the main event and soon CL was tucking into the Pan-seared Ballycotton Cod and Scallop with Bretonne Sauce and Braised Florence Fennel. A superb piece of well cooked fish, well teamed with the fennel and the Bretonne. Perfection on the plate.
I was every bit as pleased with the Roast East Cork Leg of Lamb with salsa verde and crushed Swede Turnips. Another highlight, again not mentioned on the menu, was the redcurrant jelly (that came in the most attractive spouted mini serving boat) and the jelly made the already toothsome lamb even more so. Our main courses were served with Scallion champ along with seasonal Roast Carrots and Parsnips.
Other choices on the day were Clancy’s free-range chicken with Tarragon stuffing, Kilmacahill Beef Cheeks Braised with shallots and Marsala jus, and Gently spiced aubergine, St Tola Cheese.
|Ballymaloe in January 2022|
Over the decades, Ballymaloe has become loved for its ultra tempting Sweet Trolley, a tradition within the tradition of the house hospitality. Between us, we came close to getting a little bit of everything including individual Blackberry and Apple tarts, Raspberry Compote (perhaps my favourite), a power-packed Tiramisu, and other melt-in-the-mouth treats.
And still we weren’t finished. Ballymaloe Fudge, more melt-in-the-mouth, was served with Golden Bean Coffee (roasted just across the road that runs between the old house and Grainstore). Tea lovers had the pick of Herb Tea or Barry’s Tea.
A little “ramble”, past a few busy dining rooms, took us to the desk to pay up and, as is often the case here, another friendly chat. Never a rush in Ballymaloe House. After all, you are made to feel “at home” in this comfortable place with its engaging staff and magnificent food.