Thursday, May 2, 2013

[Review] Kilkieran Cottage, Castletown, Co, Kilkenny

I've been visiting Portlaw in Waterford and the surrounding area for over 13 years now. I thought that I knew the area reasonably well, but this is the Irish countryside where nothing is ever certain. When the name of Kilkieran Cottage popped up on Twitter, I was intrigued. Google Maps showed me that it was located in the middle of the countryside and when I asked Mr. & Mrs. H., they were not familiar with the venue. Asking the same question down in the local pub on Saturday night also drew blanks. Anyway, the night continued on the in the pub with much merriment, which meant that on the following day we were all in the mood for a good hearty Sunday lunch.

The drive from Portlaw through Owning was beautiful, reminding us how stunning the Irish countryside can be when there is even just the tiniest bit of sunshine. The terrible spring weather so far has meant that farmers haven't been able to let their animals out from winter housing. However, on this bright Sunday, we could see cattle grazing in fields. It seemed as if spring was finally here, albeit a few months behind schedule.

Kilkieran Cottage sits perched in the middle of the countryside with a valley opening away below and an old walled cemetery just a field over. From outside,  the restaurant appears small and cute with it's red half-door, but looks can be deceptive and once inside, the dining room open up with high ceilings and a modern interior. It's smart enough for us city slickers, yet still comfortable enough for all the grans. We were seated in the conservatory area where we had panoramic views of the valley sweeping away from us. Over the course of our meal, the view varied from bright sunshine, to sleeting rain and back again, often all within several minutes. Welcome to an Irish spring. 
The half-door entrance to Kilkieran Cottage
Sunday lunch is well priced with two courses for €20, or three for €25, including tea/coffee. My Ardsallagh goats cheese panna cotta shivered most delicately on the plate, but deter me one iota from enjoying it's smooth creaminess, which still retained a nice tang from the goats cheese. Perhaps the beetroot puree could have packed a little more bite to counteract the creaminess, but that's picking at fine points. His (also ordered by Mrs. H.) home-cured salmon with pickled cucumber and wasabi mayonnaise was really exceptional, with sweet and salty flavours from the curing process lingering on the tongue. Mr. H. went for the soup, which was somewhat over-salted, but very flavoursome and solid with vegetables.
Ardsallagh goats cheese panna cotta with dried cherry tomatoes and beetroot puree
Home-cured salmon with pickled cucumber and wasabi mayonnaise
Given that this was a Sunday lunch sitting, the main courses are designed for this audience. Himself and Mr. H. both opted for traditional roast beef, which arrived cut in thick slices, coated with a rich, meaty gravy along with a not-very traditional (if you're Irish) Yorkshire pudding. Mrs. H.'s grilled breast of chicken was served atop some sauteed wild mushrooms and another rich gravy. Being served dreary mixed diced vegetables often causes a little piece of me to die inside, but there was no cause for concern here. Bowls of smooth mashed potatoes and crunchy sugarsnap peas provided the required vegetable accompaniments.

I chose a somewhat non-traditional Sunday lunch dish of pea and leek risotto which was beautifully cooked, retaining a nice crunchy nub in the rice. Fresh peas and crisp leeks added texture to the smooth, creamy rice.
Traditional roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and delicious gravy
Pea and leek risotto
Accompanying vegetables and mashed potato
We declined dessert as we were driving back to Dublin, and didn't want to run the risk of the post-Sunday dinner snooze while on the motorway. As we left, all were in agreement about the quality of the food,  and several mentions were made about returning for an evening meal when we could enjoy a broader range of dishes from the a la carte menus. 

I found out later on Twitter that the head chef at Kilkieran Cottage is Neil McEvoy, a former winner of the Euro-Toques Young Chef of the Year award. Neil has previously held the post of Head Chef at Kevin Dundon's Dunbrody House Hotel & Cookery School (as well as stints at L'Ecrivain & Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud). A native of Piltown, he is close to home in Kilkieran Cottage, but his flair and style shines through, even at Sunday lunchtime. It's really is quite something to find such a lovely  venue and quality cooking deep in the countryside.
Ireland of a thousand seasons - wet and sunny all in one day
A picturesque setting, very good food and the most incredibly pleasant young staff combine to make something a little special. I'd be delighted to eat food of this standard anywhere in Dublin. To find it in the countryside, all on its lonesome, is something special. If you ever find yourself down in that little triangle where Tipperary, Kilkenny and Waterford meet, then make the effort to detour to Kilkieran Cottage.

Kilkieran Cottage, Castletown, Carrick-on-Suir, Co. Kilkenny
Tel: +353 (0)51 645 110
URL: www.kilkierancottage.ie
Twitter: @kilkierancottag
Kilkieran Cottage on Urbanspoon

No comments: