Our first stop outside of Dublin was at the venerable Ballyfin Demesne which is a Relais et Chateau experience not to be missed; add it to your bucket list as one of the top hotels on earth.
On arrival we were whisked into the monstrous estate about an hour from Dublin in Country Laois (pronounced leash) through an electronic gate and met by a team of staff at the front door of this 15 room country home restored in all its 19th century splendour.
At dinner time we came down from our magnificent room to the grand hall for pre-dinner drinks and some tasty treats:Mushroom Arancini Balls, Chicken Liver Pate and Cheese Straws.
We were ushered into the gorgeous dining room overlooking the rear of the manse and its gardens with waterfalls. As we sat down a tasty amuse of gazpacho and the breads arrived:
Whole meal with cumin/sugar/grain crust
Baguette and a to-die-for Basil Focaccia that was more like a popover, warm and with a gooey pesto vein running through it. The butter was in small silver chiller dishes shaped like pans or more like double boilers, which were so cute I wanted to steal them:-))
Samuel started with Fettuccine Alfredo and Will and I were immediately drawn to the Duncannon Smoked Haddock Cannelloni with New Season Leek Veloute, Spring Onion, Spinach and Exmoor Caviar. It was divine and oh so rich. Each piece of fish we have had here has been superb, but this was a novel set of Irish ingredients gone Italian/French crazy.
Chateauneuf du Pape "La Lionne" Comte de Rocoval 2011 was our white and then for the main course Will moved to an Anthony Barton 2012 Merlot from St. Emilion that was smooth and drinking superbly despite its youth.
The main course for Samuel and I was the Kilkenny (not even an hour down the road) Veal Fillet with Braised Gem (lettuce) and Veal Sweetbreads which were battered and fried. This all came with mashed potatoes, Girolles, and a Mushroom Puree in a White Wine Sauce.
Will had the Loin of Roscommon Lamb with Pea Puree, Roast Garlic, Shallots and Lamb Jus. If this was not enough it came with a huge side of Lamb Steak & Kidney Pie in a miniature cast iron pan. It was a modern take however, as the potato topping was a foam. We all tasted it and raved. Needless to say every bite of everything was superb.
Dessert was the only course that came up short with Ballyfin Garden Raspberry Souffle with Raspberry Sorbet & Coulis coming out a bit underdone and hence too runny.
The cheeses were magnificent and Irish Farm House and with homemade chutneys.
Coolatin Mature Red Cheddar from Country Wicklow
Gubeen from Cork with a wine washed tind
St. Tolla Goat from Tipperary with an edible ash coating
Durrus from Cork with wine wash rind
Millintz (which I think the server misspelled as it should be Milleens) also from Cork and our regular Crozier Blue
Candied Hazelnuts, Gooseberry Chutney and Quince were in evidence and Will and I enjoyed our newest favorite Irish Whiskey (we had a VIP tour and tasting that afternoon at Kilbeggan Distillery nearby) as we shared a Connemara Single Malt and Connemara 22 Year Old side by side. YUM...we have it in our bags now as we wait at Shannon Airport to head home!
This was indeed a very special experience all three of us shall remember forever and we are so very grateful to those who were able to make it happen as Ballyfin is so small and so special. If you want to go, be sure to book with me as our clients will all receive very special VIP treatment and extras as well!