Showing posts with label Ireland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ireland. Show all posts

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Mauritius to Mitchelstown. How a long trip pays off for Eight Degrees. Brains, brawn. Long hours and hard work too!


Mauritius to Mitchelstown.
How a long trip pays off for Eight Degrees.
Brains, brawn. Long hours and hard work too!
Scott (left) and Cam

It’s not eight degrees when we visit the brewery. It’s just hovering between two and three and the Galtee Mountains are looking well under a lace-cap of new snow. Reminds me of the Swiss town of Engleberg even if the Galtees are nowhere near as high as the Alps.

No danger of getting cold though for the founders and workers at Eight Degrees as they are mightily engaged in moving operations from the old brewery to their German giant from Mauritius. The giant has been asleep in Mitchelstown -he did after all have a long journey - but now there are signs of life as Cam, Caroline and Scott are bringing it all together in a large unit in an industrial park on the northern edge of the North Cork town.

The three principals, especially Scott and Cam (seeking to make good beer like they had enjoyed down under), had started off with a home brew kit (still in use!). They had some success with that and indeed won a prize at a “home-brew” competition. The cottage in Kildorrery was getting crowded so, having started on the serious side in 2010, they began brewing in 2011.
Caroline (left) with the two of us.

Their first real brewery, including a legendary forklift that could only reverse (work that one out), came from the Carlow Brewing Company and that too is still installed in a nearby unit on the estate and has much more work ahead of it.

The home-brewing was all very well and valuable experience was gained. But it was still a nervous group that prepared for their first public outing, a beer festival at the Franciscan Well. And a shock was in store for the rookies when that batch of ale turned out to be bad! They can laugh at it now. Then though the pressure was on, big time! And the relief was palpable when the second batch was spot on and ready for the festival.

But how would the public take to it? Cam and Scott waited nervously with their one beer, their one tap. An older guy (don’t think it was me!) came over and tried it, hummed and hawed for a moment or two and then gave the thumbs up. It proved quite a hit at the Well and there was no turning back for Howling Gale. It is still their top seller - just goes to show the importance of getting it right at the beginning. By the way, Bohemian Pilsner, another of their originals, is their number two.
Top seller.
Right from the start!

And where can you find the Eight Degrees beers? All over, basically. They’ve been exporting to Italy (their #1 export market) since 2012. France also takes the beers, indeed you can find them in most of Europe. The UK too of course (with that pesky Brexit question mark).  

Beirut in the Lebanon is a relatively new market for them and they had a very enjoyable promotion there last St Patrick’s Day. The beers also travel to Australia, Singapore, Macau, Hong Kong and they have just gone into Japan.

They find it hard to keep up with the amount of outlets themselves but you can get pretty up-to-date info here.

Showcases the best home grown barley
Caroline is our guide as we go through B2, their high quality, if secondhand (“there is a Done Deal for breweries” she tells us) brewery from Mauritius. By 2014, “things were looking good” for Eight Degrees, so good in fact that expansion was on the horizon though no-one thought the gate to it was lying unused on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

There was quite a buzz as “the lads headed off to Mauritius” and did the deal in September 2014. Apparently, there were two competing breweries on the island, one closed and that opened the door for the successful Eight Degrees bid. There was no delay in the delivery and it arrived in Mitchelstown in January 2015.
A work in progress.

But scarce resources meant they weren’t able to proceed with the project and B2 stayed in storage for two years or so. Progress was slow but their new base began to be adapted in August 2016 and it is still a hive of activity with brewing going on in what is something of an indoor construction site. 
A tank from their first brewery.
They thought it was big!

By the way, one of the important factors for the area is that there are ten full time employees in Eight Degrees and the commissioning of B2 has given employment to various contractors. Some going!

They have a bottling plant too of course as they like to keep full control of their beers from start to finish. They moved into canning about six months back. The canning is done on site by a visiting contractor and that means they can keep an eye on it. Only certain beers are canned while some are sold in a variety of formats. And Caroline told me the canning has worked out very well for them.

It’s been quite a year for the trio behind the firm. Last May, they sold Eight Degrees Brewing to Irish Distillers, Ireland’s leading supplier of spirits and wines and producer of the world’s most well-known and successful Irish whiskeys.

At the time, Caroline told me: When we set up the brewery in 2010, it was with the idea of brewing naturally adventurous, great tasting beers that were more exciting and innovative than anything else in the market. Becoming part of the Irish Distillers family means that we have the long-term capabilities to continue on this mission as well as being part of the very exciting Jameson Caskmates story.
A new limited edition Red IPA

The recent Blowhard Imperial Stout is the first result of the union; there'll be more so watch this space.

Caroline, who has a distinguished background in food writing, didn’t expect to be a factotum in a brewery. She is as enthusiastic as any of the lads. She loves the give and take between the various micro-brewers; they help one another and she is more than thankful for the help Eight Degrees got in the early days.

The enthusiasm comes through when she talks about the malted barley. “I love how it comes up the road to us from Togher, much of it grown in the fields around here. It is a high quality barley and we showcased it in the Full Irish which has those great rounded flavours.”

Looks as if we can expect a flavourful future from the hard-working team at Eight Degrees!



Monday, January 21, 2019

Pearse Lyons Whiskey Lifts Liberties. More than a distillery


Pearse Lyons Whiskey Lifts Liberties
More than a distillery

We begin our tour in the graveyard of the former church of St. James, now home to the Pearse Lyons Distillery. Here in the Golden Triangle in the heart of The Liberties we end with a sip of the golden Pearse Five-Year-Old Single Malt, the design and packaging inspired by the former church, now restored and with a unique blue glass spire. In addition, there is also a genuine old pub, McCann’s, on site and some of the tours end there for a drink. 

The late Pearse Lyons on video frame
When you have finished the tour, having heard how Deirdre and Pearse Lyons took over the rump of the old church and the overgrown graveyard (where up to 100,000 had been buried over the centuries) and transformed it, you realise that this is much more than just a business venture, more than a distillery.

We are here for the whiskey of course and our tour allows us quite a tasting, beginning with The Original. This has been raised in US barrels (from the Lyons Town Branch distillery in Lexington) and the vanilla shows. It is a lovely whiskey, citrus and smoke on the nose, sweet, light and a little smoky as you sip.

Our patient guide at this stage is James and he has all the answers telling us that our next whiskey, the Distiller’s Choice is a 3 to 9 year old blend of no less than seven Irish whiskies, 6 sourced by Mr Lyons plus their own malt whiskey (ex ale barrel, Lyons also have a brewery Alltech). 

The Lyons distillery is quite new (though they had set up their equipment in Carlow for a few years before opening here in St Jame’s), hence the sourcing. The blend is perfect, again a touch of fruit (including citrus) on the nose, smooth and sweet and very satisfying indeed.

James was quite enthusiastic about the third whiskey, the Founder’s Choice, a 12 year old single malt. Again fruity on the nose with herbal notes too, sweet, oaky, herbal and spicy on the silky palate and finish. No wonder it is James’s favourite!

Number four is the Cooper’s Select, 42% like all the previous drinks. This a blend of 80% Single Malt and 20% Grain and has spent four years in Sherry cask. Dried fruit and coffee on the nose and that rich combination continues on the palate. This is an after-dinner drink and a very nice one too! But if you fancy it, you’d better act quickly as they won’t be producing this exact drink again.  James: “When it’s gone, it’s gone”.

Yeast at work
The future is represented in more ways than one in our final Pearse tasting, the Single Malt. Its bottle shape is different to the previous four and will be standard for Pearse whiskey in the future. The standard within is exceptional. This by the way is all their own malt, raised in first and second fill Bourbon casks. 

“It is the first five-year age statement Irish whiskey to appear from a new distillery in the whole of Ireland in more than 25 years. Presented in 4,000 individually numbered bottles, this limited release 5-Year-Old Single Malt was produced on two small-batch copper pot stills, and aged in bourbon casks.”

It is sweet, oaky, peppery. Still  young, yet full of promise, all very encouraging indeed. And it was also a bottle that I bought before I left!
James, with the Single Malt

Had an enjoyable taste of their Ha’penny Dublin Dry Gin, a small-batch, pot distilled gin featuring 13 expertly selected botanicals including Geranium, Dandelion, Lavender and Blackberry – all of which would have been growing in the nearby Phoenix Park in Victorian times when the bridge was built. The Ha’penny series also features a whiskey.

The counter where we tasted is set up in the church under a stained glass representation of a cooper at work. The stained glass windows are amazing; one commemorates the area’s connection with the Camino to Santiago di Compostela, another depicts how Irish Whiskey is made; the fourth shows the natural ingredients grown for “uisce beatha”. Amazing how the warm amber light from the windows fills up the distillery interior, reflecting on the copper stills and the Caen stone pillars. 

Outside though, the work is continuing and will continue for a long while to come, as our excellent tour guide Bernard told us. Many a story has emerged from the graveyard and no doubt more to come, all exciting much interest locally and further afield.

The headstones shed light on the trades that The Liberties welcomed in the past. Tradesmen and women who worked as coopers, distillers, linen merchants, shoemakers, bakers, bishops and soldiers have all found a resting place here at St. James’ Church alongside many members of the Lyons family. 

The graveyard is next door to Guinness property and one of the more prominent graves, right up by the wall of the church, belongs to Sir Haldane Porter, an assistant managing director of Guinness at his death in 1944.

The oldest person buried here is Florence Walltropp, 105 years old at her death. They also found five leaded coffins, always a sign of a contagious disease; these five are of one family believed to have decimated by the 1832 cholera outbreak in Dublin.

And the Golden Triangle? At one time, close to 40 distilleries were in operation in Dublin, nestled in a one mile radius around here, better known as the “Golden Triangle.”
Cooper at work
The four big distillery players at the time were George Roe and Company, John Power and Son, William Jameson and Company and John Jameson and Son. Today, the Pearse Lyons Distillery is playing a leading role as the Golden Triangle in the heart of The Liberties makes a remarkable revival.

A visit here is Very Highly Recommended. For the whiskey yes but it is, after all, much more than a distillery. Read more here

* Pearse Lyons greets all visitors during an introductory video to the tour but sadly the great man died last year. He will be missed for a long time and will be remembered whenever a person from the Liberties, or indeed a visitor on his or her way to the distillery, spots the distinctive blue spire.
also on this Dublin trip:
The Little Museum of Dublin
Café en Seine

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Visit Courtmacsherry. Small Place. Lots to see and do.


Visit Courtmacsherry.
Small Place. Lots to see and do.



The West Cork village of Courtmacsherry, just about an hour from the city, is within easy reach for a break of a day or two. Here is what I got up to on a recent visit.

On the way down, I stopped in the lovely well kept village of Kilbrittain. Here they have on display the skeleton of a huge Fin Whale that got stranded on the nearby shore in 2009. 


The impressive skeleton is mounted near a playground. From here, you can take a short woodland walk and see the old Kilbrittain Castle  to your left on the way down. Cross the road to a peaceful spot near a small waterfall. If you feel like doing more walking, there is one through a forest here or you may just prefer to walk back up either via the path you originally took or on the road itself.

If it is dinner or lunch time, then you’ll be in Timoleague in a few minutes. There are a couple of good restaurants here and the one we most recently visited is the excellent Monk’s Lane just about a hundred yards away from the village’s ancient and famous abbey ruins.


Courtmacsherry is just four kilometres away and there is an easy flat walk between the two villages. Courtmac, as most people down here call it, is attractive whether you approach by car or on foot.

We came in by car on this occasion and booked ourselves into the ten room Courtmacsherry Hotel. Small it may be but it has a big hearty welcome for you.
Kilbrittain Walk

If it is Sunday, I’m told they do a amazing fish platter in the hotel. If you’d prefer something lighter at lunchtime, then try Diana Dudog’s Food Depot, a truck which parks up by the beach every Sunday.

Before lunch, or after, you might fancy a walk through the nearby woods. This is something you must do if you come in May as then the flowers of the bluebells and the wild garlic put on a big show here. If you are a “real” walker, then keep going - there’s over forty kilometres of the Seven Heads walk ahead of you!
Wild Garlic in Courtmac wood

Most people will head back to the village, I reckon. And recently quite a few are heading to the newly opened restaurant, The Lifeboat Inn. We enjoyed a lovely evening meal here and also a beer out on their new terrace overlooking the harbour.

if the sun shines, then you have a beach at your doorstep, just outside the hotel. Fancy something more dramatic? Then head over to the spectacular Dunworley beach.
Lunchbox from the Food Truck

Even though Courtmacsherry may not be the biggest place, I know you’ll find your own spots in which to wine and dine in the general area. And be sure to bring those walking shoes. And the camera - sunsets are spectacular down here but I was never up for the sunrise! 

And don’t forget the fishing rods - you can hire a boat and perhaps spot some of those sharks and whales that visit here. A year ago, we saw a basking shark but wouldn’t really have known what it was but for the shouts of some excited locals on the cliffs beyond the walk in the wood.
Donworley. Kids below. Cows above.

And, on the way home, you might fancy calling to the Farmers Market, held in nearby Bandon, every Saturday morning. Clonakilty has one on Fridays. Bandon’s not the biggest a round but the quality is high and you’ll find plenty of good food for dinner and that will save you having to go shopping when you get back home.
Courtmac sunset
See other recent posts from this area:
Courtmacsherry Hotel
The Lifeboat Inn
Monk's Lane



Thursday, April 26, 2018

Ichigo Ichie. Twelve Courses. Many Lessons.

Ichigo Ichie. Twelve Courses. Many Lessons.
Takashi Miyazaki

The outstanding menu at the Takashi Miyazaki’s newly opened Ichigo Ichie has twelve courses and many tasty lessons for the Irish customers and indeed for Irish chefs.

Take the Mukouzuke, the fifth course, for example. Here, I came across squid like never before (so different to how it is served up here), the 6 days aged turbot was another eye-opener as was the bonito. An amazing plateful.
Nigiri

Mukouzuke, by the way, in the Japanese haute cuisine system known as Kaiseki (the style that Miyazaki is serving here) means the plate for sashimi. 

Another course title, the 9th in our meal, is Sunomono and this is a serving of pickled vegetables. Here, Miyazaki relied on his granny's recipe; she was spot-on and the rice bran, with aubergine, purple ninja radish and cucumber may have been small but it was huge in flavour.

There were little surprises all through the multi-course meal, even with the opening Sakizuke. Here the humble rhubarb found a starring role with Tofu and white sesame. The clams in the 11th dish, the Tonewan, just became available on the day and so were skilfully placed with the red miso, tofu, chive and dashi.
The Hassun: Thornhill Duck, eel & cucumber, Asparagus & cured egg.

Moon Jar
This multi-course meal is meant to reflect the  seasons but “the seasons in Japan are different to those in Ireland”, said Takashi. Our four seasons in one day has him puzzled. But he did manage to get cherry blossom in Douglas for one element of the Hassun, a delightful combination of Asparagus, cured onsen egg yolk, whiting powder and salted cherry blossom.

It is a lovely calm room with a lovely calm crew, conversations bubbling nicely behind us; we were two of the lucky five that had managed to book counter seats. That got us the odd chat with the busy Miyazaki and the chance to admire the floral arrangement and the amazing pottery piece called the Moon Jar that he sourced in London.

One of our first decisions was on what to drink. There is an excellent list of organic and natural wines from Le Caveau and we each started with a glass of white. Some Asahi beer (including draught) also available. But we had spotted the sake list also and then moved on to that, enjoying a can of the delicious Honjozo (17% abv), fragrant and full and with an amazing persistence. I'm converted!
Mukouzuke

One of the highlights of the early part of the meal was the Oshinogi course, two pieces of nigiri (sushi) with soy foam. The yellow fin was high class and even the ginger was memorable. Daikon (winter radish) is a favourite of Takashi’s and appeared in at least two courses, most notably the Nimono where it accompanied the bamboo shoot and yuzu-miso.

Daikon, bamboo shoot
I don't want to go into all the details - leave you to discover some for yourself -  but other highlights for me were the Thornhill duck, the conger eel, the ox-tongue, and the chicken thigh and turbot fin (with a savoury custard). 

Dessert is not a big thing in Japan. The course name is Kanmi and set Takashi a problem but he came up with a neat response: soy milk, chocolate, mochi rice cake, mocha and Jameson Cask Whiskey. Small but packing quite a flavour punch!

Ichigo Ichie, as you may have heard, may be interpreted as “once in a lifetime”. “No once in a lifetime,’ said Takashi, as we left. “Come back soon.” We will. In the meantime, let us hope, his influence will be felt way beyond his Fenn’s Quay base.
Channelled wrack, carrot, burdock, shiitake, dashi = Gohanmono

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Miyazaki. Special Every Time


Miyazaki. Special Every Time

Buta Yanagawa Don
It was a cold and wet Tuesday and crossing the city at rush-hour wasn't appealing. But there was ample reward at the end, picked from the Specials Board of Miyazaki. And to make it even better, we managed to get two of the famous six high-stools with a view of the rain-drops on the window and the remnants of rush-hour traffic outside.

That specials board keeps changing. Had I been in before Christmas, I might well have had Salmon Zuke Don, maybe Kisu Ten Don (fried whiting). Though I do think I would have started with the Bora Aria with Karashi Susimo (Grey mullet).
Looking out the window
 at remnants of rush-hour

Tuesday's menu though was every bit as inviting. There is always the usual addition, on a separate board (watch out for it!), of Hot Soup Noodle (Soba or Udon) Dishes, all eat-in only. One, for example, is Beef Soba or Udon (thin beef dashi in warm broth with garnish).

My pick from the Specials was the very top one: Buta Yanagawa Don, thinly sliced pork belly with dashi broth, burdock, onion, shimeji mushrooms, simmered with egg and nori (14.50). A large bowl of deliciousness, a superb mix of flavours and textures, the oh so thinly spread egg, the pork, the greens, the little mushrooms and, of course, the broth. Not bothering too much with the view outside as I concentrated on that.

Ebi Curry Udon

And, to my left, CL, who had been reading all about Takashi Miyazaki in the current Food & Wine magazine, was now totally engaged with her Ebi Curry Udon (Udon noodles in Japanese curry,  with prawn tempura, age tofu, ginger and sesame, also 14.50). She loves those plumb noodles and the dish was further enhanced with a little side bowl of pickled ginger while the heat in the curry was perfect for a girl that grew up nearby when this premises bore the name Yangtze River and was indeed a very popular venue for southsiders making their way home.
Afterwards!

We could see a few customers gathering in the small space, some for takeaway, some waiting for a stool. So we moved on, but not before buying a box of the sushi. “Just a simple one,” our friendly server said. I think it may have been the last one also.

So we paid up and walked out into the cool night, the rain had stopped, and took the opportunity to check the location of Bau Boi (another soutside raid in the planning), picked up the car and headed home
.
The sushi immediately attracted the attention of the dog but, determined as he was, he would have to do without on this occasion. It may well have been a basic Miyazaki but it was well ahead of any other we’ve tried locally, outstanding flavour; ginger, wasabi and soya sauce were all included with the six rolls, all for a tenner. 

We took our time with that and a bottle of Lustau Puerto Fino, a Fino sherry aged  on the Atlantic Coast of southern Spain in a town called  El Puerto de Santa Maria, bought in Bradley’s (Cork) and just the job for sushi!

1A Evergreen Street
Cork
(021) 431 2716
Hours: Tue-Sun 1.00pm to 3.30pm; 5.00pm to 9.00pm. Mon - closed.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Glendalough Gin. The Wild One


Glendalough Gin. The Wild One
Gary (centre), with a St Kevin's pose, welcomes us to Glendalough

Glendalough Distillery who, like St Kevin, are soon (well maybe within a year or two) about to move to a permanent home with a great view over the area, use foraged botanicals in their core gin, the Wild Botanical Gin, know all about timing.

Whether in the wood or the mountain or in the distillery itself, timing and that personal know-how is crucial. Both their forager Geraldine Kavanagh and their still-man Rowdy Rooney have that know-how in spades as we found out during a mid-week visit.

One of the founders, Gary McLoughlin, greeted us and introduced us to Geraldine who already had a car load of foraged stuff. She would lead us on a walk through the wooded Glendalough estate and we filled our baskets. Soon, I knew I was in the “wild” when a doctor fly - haven't seen one in years - bit me. Saw quite a few after that but no more surprises.
The still-man

We passed a few beech trees and were interested having been earlier introduced to their Beech Leaf Gin. It is a limited edition with a “beautiful colour” said Gary. Geraldine: “There is just a small window between late Spring and early Summer when the leaf is at its best, when they are soft and good.” 

No point in adding them to our baskets now. But we did add wood sorrel, honey suckle also known as woodbine, and wild blueberries (also known as bilberries or fraughan). Timing again came in to with the latter as their season is just starting and we didn't get that many. On the other hand, the elderflowers are at the end of their season and the wait is on for the berries.

By the way, the sorrel is from the same family as the shamrock. And another note: the Booze Travellers, who visited Glendalough, had a lot of fun with the fraughan (with the word, that is) and you can see it on video here
Geraldine leads us out

Geraldine was “always an outdoor girl, always into wild food from the hedgerows. Wild plants have a better immune system.” After a wild food hunt in May 2011, a bountiful summer, she started doing tours in season and that led to her starting her wild food business. Soon she moved to alcohol finding it “a lazy though interesting way of preserving.

A few years later, Gary and his partners bought a still and started making poitín. “We always had whiskey in mind as well and gin of course. But we always wanted to do something different, something interesting. Why not use the bounty of Wicklow, we thought”. And that was how they linked up with Geraldine.

All four partners, though from differing business backgrounds, “have a great passion for the industry” and now all are full-time with the distillery. “It’s been an exciting journey,’ said Gary. “We are now into 36 countries and growing. Our Irish foraged gin opened doors and it’s just go, go, go.”

 One of the aims of the distillery is “staying true to the tradition and heritage of our ancestors”. The most famous of those was St Kevin who features on the bottle. Kathleen of the Spirits figures somewhere in the legends of Kevin and no surprise that distiller Rowdy named his still after her.


“It is a hybrid,” he told us. “It combines pot and column, a wonderful piece of kit, functional, versatile and pretty!” The initial spirit is made from Irish grain and most of the botanicals, including many of the foraged ones, are added as the process begins. The more delicate botanicals, such as rose petals, have their own later place in the process, and their aromas and flavours are gently extracted by vapour.

The main botanicals in gin are pretty well-known. Glendalough’s juniper is foraged and comes from Macedonia. Their high quality coriander is farmed in Bulgaria. The third main ingredient is Angelica Root from Poland; it has a flavour binding quality (not scientifically proven!) and adds its own natural earthy flavour. Orris root is another common ingredient, dried in the Morrocan sun for five years, and is “very expensive!”.
And as the process comes to an end, the importance of timing features. Rowdy uses his experience plus his smelling and tasting skills to determine when to divert the heads and the tails and leave the liquid he’ll use in the main receptor. “Unlike some, we don't reuse heads and tails. It’s a no brainer for a premium product.”

Rowdy told us he was looking forward to the day when they set up on their new site, a hillside that we would see after lunch. He can't wait for their new garden where himself and Geraldine will grow lots of wild things, “including juniper”. Garry and his partners have indeed very exciting plans for the site and the excitement is building even though its early days. But 2014 was early days too!


Before a lovely lunch at the Wicklow Heather, we enjoyed a gin tasting, going through the four seasonals. The refreshing Spring with gorse (lovely aromas and flavours) and other ingredients (including dandelion). Summer with elderflower predominant, pine, roses, woodruff, lemon verbena and fresh lemon. Get the picture!
Kathleen of the Spirit

In Autumn it is berries, heather, rose-hip, yarrow and crab apples. Seasonal for sure. Winter is earthier, sloes, haws and a little warming spice, a great cocktail gin!

And then we had the pride of Glendalough, the Wild Botanicals Gin, “a gin for all seasons” according to Gary. “Its nose has the freshness of spring, on the palate you have summer flowers and autumn fruits and then the winter spice. Try it with Poachers Tonic.” We did and we could see why it is going down so well at home and abroad. But Glendalough won't abandon the seasons series. “Seasons are brilliant and we will always do them.”
Tasting the seasons

St Kevin's gaff;
the small one!
Their gin range has a few more. I earlier mentioned the Beech Leaf but Gary obliged us also with tastings from their Dillisk Gin and their Sloe Gin. The sloe had remarkable aromas and Garry advised trying it with a little apple juice.

So lots of fun and enthusiasm at Glendalough but lots of know-how as well. Let the journey continue, the story spreading from the lovely hills and lakes of Wicklow to wherever the spirit leads them next. 

The picture on the left shows where St Kevin retreated when his original site became too crowded with fans. He lived in a cave here, the small one, not the large one. 


Monday, June 5, 2017

Calm, comfortable and courteous place. Carrig House Stay

Calm, Comfortable and Courteous Place

Carrig House Stay

It is breakfast time. Outside, there are blue skies and the lake water is blue as well. Caragh Lake is a big and beautiful body of water and I’m staying in Carrig House on the shore. Carrig, by the way, serves one of the best breakfasts in Ireland, so all in all it is rather a perfect morning. And would still be a very good one even if, as sometimes happens, the sun doesn't shine!


With breakfast behind us, we are well placed to take in the local sights of this part of south west Kerry, known as the Iveragh Peninsula. It is the largest peninsula in southwestern Ireland. The Macgillycuddy's Reeks, with Carrauntuohill the highest point, lies in the centre of the peninsula. And not too far away is Killorglin, Cahersiveen, Valentia Island, the Skelligs, the Skellig Ring, Ballinskelligs, Waterville and many other places worth a visit.
Good morning. What would you like for breakfast?
We were here for three nights. Carrig, with its 17 guest rooms, doesn't come cheap but a gift of a Blue Book Voucher eases the hit on the wallet as does everything else here: the comfort, the welcome, the gardens, the courtesy, the chat, the private pier onto the lake, and the food.


Fish of course is a regular on the menu and we concentrated on it for one of our dinners. Roasted West Coast Cod Fillet topped with fresh Dingle Bay crab and prawns, fresh tagliatelle, morel mushroom velouté was my choice and it was delicious all the way. Our other mains was the Steamed Atlantic Stone-bass with asparagus three ways (seared, marinated, and crumb-coated), vinaigrette on a Cooleeny crème swish, balsamic pearls.


After a lovely amuse bouche by the fire in one of the drawing rooms, we had each started with Warm Spice Infused Quail, Beluga lentil Mung Bean jus and pickled onions. Not the easiest meat to pick off the small bones but it came with a big flavour, enhanced no end by the lentils and the onions. 

My dessert was another Carrig House gem, Rich Vanilla Crème Brûlée, cherry and hazelnut financier, and fruit tuile while CL indulged in the Passionfruit Marshmallow with roasted pineapple chiboust, pineapple parcels, and liquorice caramel.
Not always blue here.
The rooms are superb here, spacious and ultra comfortable. Ours had a view of the gardens but you can also get some with lake views. Wi-Fi is pretty good but the network service for mobiles is not. 

And don’t be put off if you see a brown tint in the water - the reservoir is in bogland - and the water is perfectly safe for washing yourself. And they do provide bottled water in the rooms. The bathroom, at least in our case, was spacious and well equipped with toiletries and towels (best bring your own face cloths, a general rule) and you do have a full sized bath as well as the shower.

The decor is beautiful all through the house. Newspapers are in good supply too if you want to sit by the fire and take it easy until that shower passes. Then again, if the sun is out, you’ll find it hard to resist taking a stroll around the colourful gardens, maybe an amble down to the lake.

Amuse Bouche in the cosy drawing room
Then, when you (don’t mind those fishermen who headed off early) are good and ready, you can head out for the day. The coast? The mountains? The choice is yours. And remember you'll have a stunning dinner to come back to!


Carrig House was built originally about 1850 as a hunting lodge. Frank and Mary Slattery, the current owners, purchased Carrig in 1996. They are the first Irish owners since it was originally built and have renovated  and meticulously restored the Victorian residence to its former glory. The atmosphere, they say, is friendly, warm and one of total relaxation. It certainly is!
Cod

See also: Visiting Valentia Island

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Dinner and Movies. Great Views too. Montenotte Hotel's Panorama Bistro

Dinner and Movies. Great Views too.
Montenotte Hotel’s Panorama Bistro
Dine with Rosanna next month

The restaurant at the revamped Hotel Montenotte is called The Panorama and the spacious and comfortable bistro and bar certainly lives up to the name. From most of room and from the terrace outside you have a great view over the river and much of the city.

And the revamp isn't confined to the inside. Below the level of the restaurant and out in front, a lovely new “formal” garden is rapidly taking shape. The rectangular centrepiece is divided into quadrants and the matching plants in the four areas are about to burst into bloom. 

And a feature inside, an unusual one, is the hotel’s very own cinema, The Cameo. And it is quite a luxurious room as we found out after dinner in the bistro last week.

When you enter through the door your cinema experience immediately begins with curtained walls, cinema lighting, large projection screen, luxurious tiered seating, surround sound and the latest in cinema technology, you will not have an experience elsewhere like it. They offer themed film nights from Comedy to International; there is something for everyone. And the venue is for hire.

The hotel caters for quite a few events and next month will start a series called “An Evening With…”.  Author, model and nutritionist, Rosanna Davison, starts the ball rolling on June 14th. Among her accolades, Rosanna has been crowned Miss World, qualified as nutritionist, and is a successful top model and most recently she is author of two bestselling health, nutrition and fitness books ‘Eat Yourself Fit’ and ‘Eat Yourself Beautiful’. 

Ticket cost is €100 per person and includes the reception, evening meal with Rosanna, and a donation to the hotel’s charity the Daisy Chain Foundation More details here
Work in progress

There is a new chef Adrian Hillgrove in charge. He has wide experience including working at Rick Stein’s flagship eatery in Cornwall. He has a love of seafood and fish and you'll see some of his fishes dishes on the A La Carte for the Panorama here.  

Brian Bowler, General Manager at The Montenotte Hotel, is delighted that Hillgrove has joined them: “He has a wonderful way with flavours, and his creativity and use of only of the finest in-season produce from the region ensures that our menus will delight those who visit and who stay with us.”
Salmon

There is a separate three course menu for the Movie Evening and we enjoyed that the other night.   The place was busy but the staff were on the ball and there was no delay in getting us sorted, the menus, water and some very tasty bread on the table without fuss.

Having read the chef's background, I started with the Chowder. I wasn't disappointed. The creamy bowlful was chock-a-block with red, smoked and white fish and a few mussels lurking there too for good measure. And CL was well pleased with a Watermelon and Feta Salad with chicken and orange and rocket.

Off to a good start. And so it continued. Sirloin Steak and Traditional Fish and Chips were featured on the Mains but I liked the sound of the Fillet of Salmon with Asparagus and Rocket; this had a fresh herb crust pesto, parmesan cheese, pink peppercorns and beurre blanc sauce. I liked the look and flavours of this excellent combination, loved the cheese and the pesto. Fairly simple and nothing over the top but a nice way of presenting the salmon.

Across the table, the Pan Fried Chicken Supreme went down well. A highlight here was a lovely Jameson and Wild Mushroom Sauce. The celeriac mash was excellent too as were our side dishes of vegetables.

The dessert list was short, with the usual suspects. But I was in for a delightful surprise as my Tiramisu was one of the best that I've come across in a while.

It was billed as a classic Italian dish, layered soaked biscotti and mascarpone cream, chocolate shavings. Plenty of sponge there to soak up all the sweet stuff! CL’s wasn't quite of the same class but not bad either. She had the Lemon Posset, poached winter berries, white wine stock syrup, blackberries, raspberries and ginger-nut crust. The berries were a little scarce but overall the lemon came through well. Two generous desserts, by the way and, on the A La Carte, each costs €6.95.

After then it was time to head the Cameo, just a few steps away, and the movie! Lights out.

Sit back and relax!
Movie Latest: Agents & Heroes @ The Cameo Cinema for the Month of June.

2 course meal €24.95 per person, 3 course meal €29.95 per person.

For bookings, call us on 021 453 0050