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When you think of Barnabrow, I bet you think of weddings. They are good, very good, at weddings here. But they do much more besides, including a tremendous Sunday lunch, local produce superbly cooked and presented by Head Chef Stuart Bowes. At twenty four euro for two courses and twenty eight for three (with tea or coffee also included), it is also excellent value.
We were back there last Sunday, the first wet one in a long time, for a lovely leisurely lunch. Not so leisurely though for the chef and his crew. Barnabrow is getting quite a name for its breads. The preparation started on Saturday and the sourdough was finished off on Sunday. I can tell it was well worth the wait, as good as you’ll get anywhere. Though you may not get it exactly like this anywhere else as Chef Bowes, reckons local kitchen conditions play a part in the final outcome.
And local plays a big role here. When Stuart arrived here over six years ago from the Hayfield Manor, he began to revitalise the walled garden and that is now a key supply source for him. And he relieson local suppliers for much of the rest, including meat and fish.
As we sample the sourdough, we take a look at the menu. There is a choice of four starters, four mains and four desserts. There’s Whipped Ardsallagh Gloats Cheese listed and also a Potato and Leek Soup with truffled cream.
My pick though is the Oak smoked salmon with Garden Beetroot, caper and herb dressing and vegetable crisps. The salmon is top notch, moist and smooth and full of flavour and is enhanced by the dressing and also by the combination with the crunchy chips made locally by farmers Sandra and Joe Burns. A lovely dish.
The Clonakilty Black Pudding Salad, with crispy potatoes, Feta, apple and semi-dried tomato dressing is quite a plateful but OBC makes short work of it, enjoying the flavours and the textures. This dish is very popular at wedding dinners and we can see why!
Courgette are now in season and feature on the mains menu, served with new potatoes, sauce vierge,garden basil pesto and Parmesan cream. The fish option is Seared fillet of Seabass with Garden Courgettes, sauce vierge,garden basil pesto.
OBC goes for the Chargrilled Chicken Supreme, new potatoes, garden herbs, Ballyhoura wild mushrooms and Parmesan cream. Another delicious combination.
My pick is the Roast Sirloin of O’Connell’s beef, with horse-radish creamed kale, roast shallots and red wine jus. Magnificent. Cooked to perfection with unreal flavours and that creamed kale was something else.
And, speaking of something else, the side dishes were also superb, beautiful roast potatoes (nicely judged fat and salt applied) and outstanding vegetables (enhanced with a scatter of chopped almonds). Nothing went back, not even a sliver of an almond!
And dessert? We could have had Red Wine Poached Pear stuffed with Praline, Valrhona Chocolate Marquise with summer berry, or a selection of ice-cream and sorbet. But we could manage just one between us and enjoyed the Roast Peanut Parfait, with strawberry sauce and (very tasty) marshmallows.
Coffee followed as did some gorgeous rum and raisin petit fours. As we drove home, we were thinking that the excellent meal might have had one or the other nodding off during the World Cup final but no danger of that as France and Croatia served up a goal fest.
Thanks largely to the pioneering work of Arbutus Breads, many of us are used to getting high quality loaves at markets and shops. If I had to guess, I would say that sourdough is the most popular. This is an excellent example. It is made by Pana (who have a shop in Merchant's Quay) and has won at Blas na hEireann. I bought this at the Coal Quay Market last Saturday from the Clover Wholefood stall and it is Taste of the Week.