Interesting Restaurants in Ireland
May, 2007 (updated November, 2009) - Joanne White

We traveled around Ireland extensively in May of 2007 and visited a number of interesting restaurants along the way. Here are some quick reviews of a number of those restaurants.
Ballymaloe House & restaurant Co Cork, IrelandBallymaloe House Restaurant
Shanagarry, Co. Cork, Ireland
May 11-13, 2007

You will love the food, but you are very likely to gain weight eating at Ballymaloe, unless you take long walks before and after dinner. There is lots of butter, cream and fat used in the food to delicious results. Don’t miss having dinner here! We stayed at Ballymaloe House on the trip, but next time would stay elsewhere and just have a dinner or lunch here. (We didn't like our room in the annex next to the main house.) Special note: Rory Allen, one of the Allen family who are the owners of Ballymaloe (he runs the farm), plays music at the Saturday night gathering after dinner and is worth lingering for.

The multi-course menu changes nightly. Dinner is a long affair.

On the first night (a Friday) we had:
Ballymaloe House Restaurant Seafood BuffetSeafood Buffet: A changeable selection offered one night a week. Tonight we were offered Ballycotton shrimp, Oysters on the half-shell from West Cork, smoked fish and eel, smoked salmon, tiny vol-au-vent, smoked mussels, 4 housemade pates, and a variety of marinated vegetables and salads (including potato salad).

Onion & Thyme Soup: Unexpectedly won Jack over. Potato-based with some added cream, it offers a deep woodsy taste but not heavy on the thyme.  Flavors are very well integrated into the stock. Very smooth.

Consommé with Vegetables: Lovely clear soup with julienne of courgettes and carrots. Very nice.

Cucumber, Lettuce and Mint Soup: Warm and creamy, with hints of the elements. Well meshed flavors, made the soup sing.

Ballymaloe House Buttered LobsterButtered Lobster: The best lobster of this trip. I still dream of it. Loaded in chunks into the tail, it came lightly buttered with extra clarified butter on the side. Yum! Highly recommended.

John Dory: Good.

Cheese Cart: An Assortment of Local Cheeses: St. Tola, Ardrahan, Gubbeen, Cooleeney, a fresh cheese from Limerick and Crozier Blue.

Dessert Cart: Strawberry roulade, Tiramisu, praline ice cream, cantaloupe sections and whole strawberries, rhubarb tart with cream.

Night #2
The regular menu of six courses (including coffee and petit fours)

Lemon Verbena Sorbet
Asparagus Tart with Hollandaise
Slaney Beef with Bearnaise

Roast Duck with Bramley Apple Sauce
Cheese Cart: A fresh selection of  local cheeses including Cooleeney goat, a fresh cheese, Ardrahan, some Wexford cheddars and some Cooleney Brie.
Dessert Cart: Chocolate Roulade, Fruit Salad, Vanilla Ice Cream with Chocolate Sauce

Night #3: Cold Sunday Dinner

French Peasant Soup with Bacon: A nice stock-based soup with a hint of tomato. The smokiness of the bacon made it delicious. I’ll be making this when we get home.

Onion & Thyme Soup: Nice but not as g ood as the peasant soup.

The buffet was set up for two trips. The first of starters; oysters on the half shell, smoked fish (salmon, eel, etc.), salads, marinated vegetables, steamed artichokes and a selection of patés. The mousse paté was so good with the egg bread offered that we had a hard time stopping ourselves from getting thirds. The main plate section of the buffet offered cold meats and sauces to accompany them: turkey, duck, roast pork and ham.

No cheese cart on Sunday but the dessert cart offered a coffee roulade, strawberry ice cream, carrageen, rhubarb compote and Tiramisu. The carrageen was wonderful and fluffy with a definite infusion of vanilla. The roulade was again well done. Ballymaloe seems to offer meringue liberally and they are very good at it so don’t pass up anything with a meringue base.


Aherne's Yougal Co. CorkAherne’s
163 N. Main St, Yougal, Co. Cork, Ireland
Visited May 12, 2007 – Lunch

This little town on the coast has two main streets and Aherne’s sits near the end of one of them. Aherne’s is also a small hotel. At night they have a restaurant which offers a full dinner, but during the day they serve a nice bar menu that features fresh, local seafood, fish, meat and cheese (and they state this on the menu). We would happily return and would recommend the bar pub/food. Next time, we would come for dinner.

Chicken Liver Paté: On the sweeter side, with a pickley element that was really nice. It was very smooth and lovely on the accompanying toast. Comes with a tiny side salad of nice lettuce, with hothouse tomato chunks and red onion (but the dressing was too heavy on the oil). Recommended.

Seafood Chowder
Lots of cream but still not too heavy. Lots of chunks of white fish and salmon and beautiful potatoes (some of the best ever in soup), but no “seafood” although it may be different on other days. Should have been called Fish Chowder but still a very nice soup.

½ Dozen Rock Oysters
Very fresh, cleanly presented with wedges of lemon. The oysters had wonderful flavor. I would happily order them again, but Jack only liked, not loved them.
Aherner's Yougal Co. Cork, Open Smoked Salmon on Brown Bread
Open Smoked Salmon on Brown Bread
The brown bread here is memorable as it has a bit of molasses or barley malt, which makes the flavor deeper and richer. Thick slices were lightly buttered and topped with a good amount of the most wonderful smoked salmon. The salmon is very balanced between smoke/salt/sweet, and is also available on the menu as plate with likely a larger quantity. The sandwich had also a side salad, like the paté, with the addition of vinegared cucumbers. Highly recommended.

Three Fish with Champ
Today’s offering was: Cod, Salmon and Monkfish
Not the best champ ever, but for pub food this dish was great.

An above average wine list for an Irish pub.
We had a ½ bottle of Hugel ‘Hugel’ Gewurztraminer (their massively produced one) – it’s Gewurtz-like, but not a very good wine. 15 euros


Packie's in Kenmare, Co. KerryPackie’s Restaurant
Kenmare, Co. Kerry, Ireland
May 9, 2007 - Dinner

A really small and quaint restaurant on one of the main streets of Kenmare, with a loyal following - and we can see why. The restaurant is charming and warm. The tables are close together, the chairs are not all that comfortable, but the feel of the room makes you want to linger a bit longer. The menu has lots of local fish and shellfish, and that’s what we went for on this visit.
Packie's in Kenmare Co. Kerry
The brown bread is light and fluffy while retaining its wholemeal origin. Sunflower seeds on top are a nice touch.

Crab cakes
Tasted like they were fried in butter. Flatter pancake style with a very crisp exterior and moist interior. Didn’t have intense crab flavor but the marriage of the textures was great and the slightly salty tartar sauce which accompanied was wonderful with it. The salad was fresh greens with a nice, light dressing.

Crab & Shrimp at Packie's in Kenmare, Co. Kerry Ireland
Crab and Shrimp
Lots of both and very fresh. A lovely sauce.

Lobster from Castletown at Packie's in Kenmare, Co. Kerry
Lobster
From Castletown. A small lobster with a speckled orange and white shell. The grilling was distinct in the flavor but it was perfectly cooked and had just enough butter to enhance it. The body of the lobster held some surprises with tiny bits of meat between the cartilage to pick out like that of a crab. The claws were small but sweet. Not a big lobster and milder than its Atlantic counterpart but very nice. Recommended.

Scallops
Just enough curry to make them interesting. They were served with the roe and tiny pile of pasta. Really good

Colcannon – perfect mashed potatoes enhanced by the light addition of cabbage. Really well done.

Vegetables – slightly caramelized carrot and parsnips. Very good.

Cheese:
Wexford Cheddar, Durrus, Crozier Blue and (Gort na Mona)
Fresh and nicely presented with the some apple slices, brown bread and crackers.

Fruit crisp – rhubarb
Comes with a ramekin of whipped cream. Really nicely done, with a topping of slivered roasted almonds and the crumble-to-fruit-ratio perfect. Served warm. Next time, I would order the great ice cream, so that it would cool the crisp faster.

Pot au Chocolat – really good intense chocolate flavor. It came with ice cream in a separate ramekin, with whipped cream and sugared orange peel on top. I don’t think it really needed the ice cream – it's great on its own.


St. Cleran's Galways
St. Cleran's
Craughwell, Co. Galway, Ireland
Visited: May 2007

The lovely house (former residence of Merv Griffin and before him, John Huston) was a nice start to our trip. We loved our room.

The food is very good but is sometimes strange (the chef mixes Irish, Asian and French influences) and breakfast was a nice start to the day. We generally enjoyed our meals and would return. The staff was extremely accommodating. Recommended.


St. Cleran's Galway
Dunbrody House in Arthurstown, Co. WexfordDunbrody House
Arthurstown, Co. Wexford, Ireland
May 15, 2007 – Dinner
Neil McEvoy, Restaurant Chef


The restaurant is lovely at Dunbrody House (a chic hotel and cookery school). The walls are a deep raspberry red with crisp white to contrast. Huge vases hold a single tall delphinium making a dramatic statement. The menu is Seasonal (Spring) with a choice of two courses or a full menu. Next time we would stay in their hotel and might try a cookery class.

Interior of Dunbrody House Restaurant
A selection of four breads to choose from were all really nice. Butter came as a pyramid with a swash of pesto.

Amuse: Cauliflower Soup or Smoked Salmon
The soup was nice. Served in little espresso cups.

Starter: Roasted Leg of Rabbit stuffed with Sage & Morel Mousse on a Parsnip and Thyme Puree
While the rabbit was tender, it was near flavorless. The sage and morel mousse stuffing was nowhere to be seen; the parsnip and thyme puree was lovely but this dish needed more tying together. The skin around the leg meat was tough and hardly edible.

Asparagus Soup - Good. No notes.

Confit of Barbary Duck Leg on a Celeriac & Thyme Puree with a Red Wine & Star Anise Jus
A big meaty leg but a little on the dry side. Good flavor. The chef substituted vegetables and mashed potatoes to accompany it.

Pithver of Forest Mushrooms and Smoked Gubbeen Cheese with Caviar of Aubergine and parmesan Infusion
Pithiver of Forest Mushrooms and Smoked Gubbeen Cheese with  Caviar of Aubergine and Parmesan Infusion.

Encased in a pastry round, the succulent selection of wild mushrooms were divine. The sauce with the smokey cheese, with the pastry and mushroom, was just right. Caviar of aubergine (tiny chopped pieces) brought it together. A really wonderful surprise!

Pan Seared Fillet of Turbot with Confit of Sweet Potato and Glazed Asparagus Tips and a Smoked Cod Froth

The froth was very lightly flavored – more of a salty marine essence. The skin on the turbot was memorable, really crispy with a succulent fish underlying. The sweet potato was lovely.

Toffee Crunch & Pineapple Baked Alaska with a Malibu & Vanilla Reduction
Interesting version with mini-daubs of soft meringue and a nice ice cream underneath. The pineapple and Malibu & vanilla reduction were separate elements. Fun to eat. Good ice cream.


Menu Part One
Menu Part Two
Dessert Menu


New Forge House, Magherlin Co Down
New Forge House
Magheralin, Craigavon, Northern Ireland
Visited: May 2007

By far the best hotel experience of the trip; we would return in a heartbeat. The food and hospitality at this small boutique hotel near Belfast, way exceeded our expectations. The owners, John & Louise Mathers, treat their guests like family in their lovely Georgian House (which is in fact the family's home). The decor is lovely and the hospitality exceedingly gracious.

John is the chef and sources the best local, organic and good quality ingredients. The cheese course is a must. Don't miss dinner and don't hesitate to book a room. We had the best cheese here during our trip to Ireland and Northern Island:


Cheese Plate at New Forge House

Ard Bia in Galway CityArd Bia
Galway, Co. Galway, Ireland
May 8, 2007 - Lunch

A quick lunch at this noted eatery above a pub in Galway left us to wonder what the hype was about. If you go - order from the specials board.

Miso soup: Slightly bitter and on the sour side. The rice and vegetables were fine but it was unpleasant to eat. Pass next time.

Duck Confit salad (Special): Duck was good. Salad ok too.

Mussel and Smoked Haddock Chowder:
I should have known to order something else when the waitress had to double check the menu to see what I had ordered. Mussel and Smoked Haddock Chowder was gluey and came to the table with a slight skin. The live mussels were difficult to extract from their shells because of the gluey nature of the chowder and their flavor was completely lost. Pass on this dish.

The brown bread, which accompanied it, was a heavier style, with a molasses bent and lots of grain showing, but good.

Hazelnut Hot Chocolate: Made with milk. Not quite enough flavoring. The hazelnut was a very subtle element.

Avoca PowerscourtAvoca Powerscourt
Terrace Cafe

Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow, Ireland
Visited May, 2007 - Lunch

Avoca Powerscourt
Recommended by the Good Food Guide, (their website is here) we gave this a shot for lunch. The café is cafeteria-style, with hot food options, and bright and airy rooms to sit and eat. The hot food, however, did not excite us. Dessert well-exceeded our expectations. This is a great stop for a cup of tea and piece of cake, but not recommended for lunch.

Wine choices looked promising but the wine we wanted was out of stock.
Food at Avoca Powerscourt Co. Wicklow
Quiche: Okay but the crust wasn’t worth eating.


Bangers & Mash - Ditto. Not worth eating.

The Salads were by far the best choices.

Mulcahey' s Restaurant
Kenmare, Co Kerry, Ireland
Visited May 10, 2007 – Dinner

Mulcahey’s sits next door to Packie’s on one of Kenmare’s main streets. The décor is more modern, with tones of red and black, with tables much farther apart. The menu is more formal and there is a hint of modern there, too. We were annoyed that the “jug of table water” we were offered cost 3 euros (they said it was mineral water). The wine list has some incomplete selections and often wines will not be available. Both ours and another table received our second choice.

Asparagus Soup

Very little asparagus taste. A creamy soup poured tableside, from a pitcher. Jack sent it back to the kitchen.

Sushi/Sashimi
It’s a surprise to see sushi/sashimi on a menu in Ireland and with all the fresh seafood and fish, we thought we would have a go. The menu states its scallop and salmon but the plate arrives with white fish and tiny piece of scallop (the waitress informs us on our inquiry that they were out of salmon). A pretty presentation, but we were disappointed that the plate offered more maki than sashimi. The maki were tightly rolled, but the sushi rice needs some work; it's undercooked and not quite right. The fish was fresh. A weird presentation of little piles of wasabi and ginger were sprinkled around the plate.

Vegetable Plate
A nice assortment of almost all of the vegetables, with no real main element to pull it together. Approached like a tasting plate, it was a fine choice. Vegetables were nicely cooked and a wide variety including tempura-battered sugar snap peas and cauliflower.

Marques de Riscal Cava
A rosé cava which was pleasant, albeit on the fizzier side, but without a lot of character to denote it.


Out of the Blue Restaurant in  Dingle  County Kerry IrelandOut of the Blue
Dingle, Co. Kerry, Ireland
Visited: May 10, 2007 – Lunch

Across from the docks is a tiny restaurant which sports a sign of “fresh fish, no chips”. The fish is indeed fresh and lots of options are offered. Entrees come with small towers of various cold vegetables and lentils or grains. The plates are decorated with a basil oil puree and a small salad.

Out of the Blue is sort of a quirky place. The food is solid, but it has a definite slant towards vegetarian cuisine, with the plating of the dishes. The walls are painted bright blue, with bright, vivid paintings. It’s a casual spot, with wooden tables and floors. Tables have fish cookbooks on them for patrons to look over while they wait for the meal. The menu is on a chalkboard.

I overheard someone talking about the restaurant and they said “they were not impressed”. I can imagine that “fresh fish restaurant” could be taken in many ways. The idea of “no chips” might impart the restaurant is fancier or more elegant than it is. Go prepared to adapt and enjoy the fresh fish. If you want an elegant and quiet dinner, look elsewhere.

Yes, we liked Out of the Blue despite the odd accompaniments. It is a fine choice for lunch in Dingle and we would return.

Oysters
Local oysters from Inch, Co. Kerry. Nice flavor.

Grilled Lobster at Out of the Blue Co. Kerry in Dingle
Grilled Lobster
Very good. We would order again.

Fish Chowder
Good with lots of fish chunks including some salmon
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