Ever since I first visited Tankardstown House back in 2011, I have been waiting to return. I had fallen in love with the 18th century manor house and the old stables which had been converted into self-catering cottages. On our first visit, we really enjoyed our dinner in Brabazon restaurant, but since then Chef Rob Krawczyk has reputedly turned up the heat in the Brabazon kitchen and I was keen to investigate.
We arrived on a bright Sunday afternoon and following check-in, we immediately headed to the honour bar to watch the Irish Six Nations match. We weren't alone in this idea as several other couples were also in the bar, pouring their own drinks and cheering on the men in green. Following the match, we walked outside to our stableyard cottage to relax before dinner. The cottages are really finished to the highest standards with lovely sofas and chairs, fitted kitchens with Belfast sinks, a Nespresso machine and the loveliest bedrooms tucked in under the eaves. For a few extra Euro, we could have upgraded to a room in the main house, which I'm sure would have been just beautiful, but I was delighted with our cosy cottage.
|Interior of our cottage at Tankardstown|
|Kitchen area in our Tankardstown cottage|
|Having a pre-dinner drink|
|Drawing room at Tankardstown House|
Our stay at Tankardstown was courtesy of a Pigsback.com voucher which included a 5 course dinner at Brabazon. This turned out to be based on the 7 course Tasting Menu from Land & Sea, so we definitely got to experience a wide range of the cooking on offer. We started with an amuse bouche of light-as-air pork crackling, followed by crusty mini-loaves of home-made bread with smoked butter.
|Amuse of crackling at Brabazon|
|Selection of breads|
A starter of scallops, sand, seaweed and gold oxtail vinaigrette was beautiful to behold and exquisite to eat. The scallops were cooked to absolute perfection and were the star of the show, supported by the delicate flavour of the oxtail. Beef tartar was innovatively flavoured with smoky, mineral charcoal and served with pickled shallots, hen's egg and watercress.
|Scallops, sand, seaweed and gold oxtail vinaigrette|
|Beef tartar with pickled shallots, hens egg, charcoal and watercress|
Both our main courses featured pastry in one form or another and both were perfectly suited to a menu that was waving goodbye to the end of winter. A perfectly pink piece of trimmed hay-smoked duck breast came with a Wellington, charred leeks, parsnip and a plentiful drift of artistic snow. My only complaint was that I would have liked the duck fat to have been slightly more rendered. His pork loin was gently spiced and served with a little pithivier, burnt apple and sunchoke (also known as Jerusalem artichoke) and some fermented cabbage.
|Hay smoked duck breast with Wellington, parsnip, leeks and duck jus|
|Spiced pork loin, pork pie, burnt apple and sunchoke, fermented cabbage and granola|
A chocolate parfait and crispy chocolate lattice was restrained from too much sweetness by the use of 70% chocolate, olive oil and yogurt. If you haven't already tried it, the pairing of dark chocolate, salt and olive oil is one of life's treasures. I really enjoyed the use of textures in this dessert, making it about more than sweetness and taste. A 20 minute wait was required for the creme fraiche soufflé which came served in the now-mandatory tea-cup. It was a perfectly made soufflé, with the typical buttery sugar crust, but the creme fraiche flavour just didn't really come through for me. The preserved blackberry sorbet was the highlight. A little plate of petits fours followed, with my favourite being the toffee in a clever edible cellophane wrapper.
|Parfait and lattice of chocolate, yogurt, honey, olive oil, rose petals and pistachio crumb|
|Creme fraiche soufflé with preserved blackberry sorbet|
The next morning, we woke up to a light scattering of snow, which made the Tankardstown grounds look even more beautiful. Breakfast is served in Brabazon, but this time it was full of bright daylight, rather than the intimate atmosphere of the previous night. A buffet offering is available, and this is supplemented by a selection of fresh-cooked items. A portion of scrambled eggs and smoked salmon was perfect for a Monday morning before we packed up and headed back to Dublin for a late working start.
|Morning sunlight in Brabazon restaurant|
|Smoked salmon and scrambled eggs|
Chef Robbie Krawczyk smokes his own meats and makes charcuterie to be served at Tankardstown, (his father is an experienced charcutier making it a family tradition), so I must admit that I was a little disappointed not to get some charcuterie in our meal or at breakfast. It seems a bit of an omission to leave out something that is individual to to Krawczyk and Brabazon.
Tankardstown House was every bit as charming and gracious as I remember from our first visit. Every aspect of the main house has been beautifully restored and the tempting honour bar ensures that guests feel relaxed and at ease. Robbie Krawczyk's clever and artistic food definitely merits a visit to Tankardstown, and the Brabazon gin bar will ensure that you float to sleep in your comfortable bed.
Absolutely recommended for a gourmet break and relaxation.
Tel: +353 (0)41 982 4621