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French chef Frédéric Desormeaux, well known from his days in Greene’s, is loving life in West Cork. And producing plates of fantastic food in the kitchen of the Mountain Bar in Ardfield. Fifty covers last Saturday night! One hundred and fifty the Sunday before. And the numbers will go up in the summer when Fred cooks outside with customers accommodated in two marquees.
When we arrive in this seemingly isolated country pub, we are presented with the specials board. We know we are in for a treat and, eventually pick the fish specials, as Fred is noted for his fish dishes.
At the bottom, there is a Buttermilk marinated Southern Fried Chicken Burger, Dubliner cheese and smoky bacon, Brioche bap, aioli, and Parmesan cheese and wedges. Fred likes this, maybe too much! “Never trust a skinny chef,” he laughs. We stick with the fish. I should mention, just in case that you don’t like fish, that the Mountain is also well known for its steak!
We’d never really heard of this pub until recently. But lots of people have, as you can guess by the numbers turning up. It is about ten minutes from Clonakilty, about fifteen from Rosscarbery. There are beaches nearby, some stunning ones, somefantastic scenery too, including Galley Head. So lots of visitors around and quite a few have holiday homes in the area.
And, for just over 12 months now, many of them have been flocking to Patrick and Carol O’Sullivan’s Mountain House. The O’Sullivan’s acquired the premises in 2010. Travel The Distance Taste The Difference, they say. We did, on both counts. Not that the distance is all that much: Ardfield is just about 45 minutes from Cork city.
There is a regular lunch menu here including soups, sandwiches, burgers, fish and chips and so on and also a Sunday Lunch. But we didn’t really go past the specials. There was a dish of Quail breasts, confit duck potato croquettes, Turmeric baby pear, broccoli sprout, yogurt and beetroot dressing, light jus. Also one of Chicken, Prawns, Gubbeen Chorizo Caesar salad, crispy potatoes, garlic brioche croutons and poached egg. Pub grub? I ask myself.
My pick is Seared Tuna on a smoked tuna potato salad, pea purée, roast garlic aioli, squid ink tuile (19.95) . A masterly and vivid rendition of the fruits of sea and the garden, the tuna so fresh and flavoursome, the salad a little masterpiece on its own, all topped off with the delicately wrought squid ink tuile. Very Highly Recommended if you get the chance!
Across the table, there was another hymn of praise being murmured as CL engaged with her Fresh Rigatoni Pasta with Salmon, Prawns, Mussels, Gubbeen chorizo cream, Parmesan and Garlic bread.A magnificent combination, another harmonious song of the sea with that Gubbeen too playing a key role, even the garlic bread was noteworthy. By the way, everything is fresh here, that beautiful pasta was made that morning.
We had a very friendly and helpful server and also a wee chat with a lady who I presume was one of the owners and both seem to be enthusiastic about the food, know the dishes well, always a good sign.
Another chat then with our chef, about old times and new. And what would we have for dessert? There was a choice of three or four. Fred recommended the Tiramisu (made fresh that morning) and I'd seen the Mango Creme Brûlée flying out to a group at a nearby table. So they were the two that we ordered and that we shared. Needless to say, both were superb.
After that excellent meal, we stepped from the restaurant room into the bar and there was Fred preparing a slightly raised section to accommodate the numbers expected that evening. You may also eat in the bar itself. An older gent was tucking in when we first entered and a threesome were eating at the counter as we said au revoir to Fred. Great to hear him say “I’m very happy here”. And many customers of the Mountain will be glad of that as well.
* By the way, if do get to Ardfield, and you should, check across the road from the bar; there is a plaque to a famous English musician, Noel Redding, who came and enjoyed life here. Also on this 24 hour trip: Celtic Ross dinner West Cork Farm Tours