Superb Dining in “Garden Restaurant”
at Liss Ard Estate
We hadn’t been here for a few years and then the meals were based on local produce. And glad to realise, as we read the menu, that the new owners and the new chef have continued on that trail, with top West Cork producers such as Gubbeen, Skeaghanore and Woodcock featured, along with quite a bit of produce from their own walled garden.
Good to see some local beers on the drinks menu even if the only craft beer on draught was the Lagunitas IPA but then the new owners are American, I’m told. I went on to enjoy a bottle of the West Cork Brewery's “The Rapids” Rye IPA and also the Inchydoney Blonde Belgian Style Wit by Clonakilty Brewery.
We had a choice of five starters or Small Plates as they’re called here. The Wild Atlantic Mackerel (with gooseberry jam, pickled radishes, seaweed and Walled Garden potato salad, and dill oil) was eye-catching and palate pleasing. And the West Cork Beef (12 hours braised beef croquette, smoked aubergine yogurt, charred Walled Garden courgette, chimichurri dressing) was another excellent opener. Other starters on the night were Skeaghanore Duck, West Coast Scallops and the vegetarian Walled Garden Offerings.
They say: “All dishes are inspired by the seasons, harvested from the garden, coupled with the best of local meat, fish & game to bring you the most authentic West Cork flavours. Garden’s ethos combines; supporting small producers, locally sourced ingredients & farm to fork lifestyle.”
And that’s the way it turned out over the enjoyable evening. Five main courses were reduced to four from early in the evening as the Bantry Bay Lamb had sold out. My pick was the Free Range Rosscarbery Pork Belly (Thai spices, roasted turnips, peanut rayu, and fresh apple salsa) a flavoursome and slightly spicy combination and enhanced by a shared side dish of really excellent potatoes.
CL meanwhile was delighted with her Wild Atlantic John Dory. The quality of the fish was certainly respected here by the kitchen and, cooked over charcoal, with Walled Garden beets, dukkha crumb, saffron aioli and on Woodcock smoked mackerel and tomato purée, it proved to be a gem of a dish. West Cork Fillet of Beef and the vegetarian Walled Garden Carrots were other mains available.
There was a hiccup with the service but the faux pas was quickly acknowledged and corrected and indeed, free desserts and coffee were offered. Just room for one dessert though and that was their own strawberries (white chocolate parfait, caramelised pecan nuts, edible flowers, lemongrass and lime leaf syrup). Smooth and sweet and all’s well that ends well. Other desserts on offer were Dark Chocolate Crèmeux, Walled Garden Rhubarb, Café Gourmand, and West Cork Cheeseboard.
|Woodland shortcut back to rooms,
lit up after dinner
After that, we resisted a call to the splendid and comfortable bar and headed off on our 8-minute spotlit walk through the woods to our room at the Lake Lodge. As the name suggests it is at the edge of the lake and has great views over it. It includes six of the estate’s “ 25 oversized guest rooms”. Our room was not one of them; we knew that as it is named “Cozy”.
Quite a lot of money is being spent at Liss Ard and I’m sure some will find its way to the lodge. If you can’t do without your mobile, this lodge is not for you; the signal is bad, sometimes non existent and the Wi-Fi is not great either, certainly not in Cozy!
The main building, where the restaurant and bar is situated, is quite impressive and here the Wi-fi is fine. You have 163 acres of pristine nature and manicured gardens to explore, a 40 acre private lake to paddle on and it is also home to James Turrell’s renowned Irish Sky Garden.
|Breakfast in The Garden
We visited the Sky Garden after breakfast which was taken in the Garden Restaurant. Again, Covid regulations were adhered to, which wasn’t the case in a 5-star hotel in Kerry last summer. There was no buffet but a good mix of cereals and juice and breads was brought to the table on a sharing board and there was a decent choice of cooked dishes to order from.
|Weather wasn't the best this June,
so I've pulled out this pic of the lake from Spring 2013 visit.
We were both inclined to go for the pancakes but they were off. Still, I absolutely enjoyed my second choice of Eggs Benedict, perfectly cooked and presented. CL, who picked the Real Beans on Toast (slowly cooked beans in a rich tomato sauce, avocado & tomato salsa, poached West Cork egg, herb oil) was also very well pleased indeed. Other dishes listed included Creamy Porridge, Gubbeen Continental Plate, Union Hall Smoked Kippers and the Full Irish (of course!).
We had visited the Sky Garden eight years back but it still managed to surprise us. After that stroll, we packed the cases, settled up and headed a little deeper into the misty west on the search for Ron D’s Food Truck in Ballydehob!
|Swing seat at The Lodge overlooks the lake.
Also on this trip: