Friday, August 21, 2015

Mt. Juliet's Lady Helen Restaurant;a Michelin star that shines, but needs some work (8-10-15)

We moved south from Ballyfin past Kilkenny to Thomastown and the Mt. Juliet Estate which is another large country house beautifully situated on a river with horse stud farms surrounding, not to mention the famous golf course. It has a main house which is very beautiful and other rooms in various buildings that are not as deluxe.
When we sat down there seemed to be some confusion on the part of the staff, and we realized that they were the problem for most of the night, as the food was quite delicious. It has maintained its rare Irish Michelin star for some years, but I pray they can upgrade the staff to keep that on.
Ballygowan sparkling water was used here and we found ourselves liking all of the Irish sparklings we had as they tend to be pretty mild. The bread was varied with white soda, brown Guiness ale soda, Onion bacon and white, but there was only one butter knife on the table in a wooden holder that seemed quite odd to us. When you are in a restaurant like this you also should not have to pour your own water.
Pre-amuse of gougeres with smoked cheddar were okay, but we loved the main amuses of White Onion Veloute Shooter and Smoked Haddock Arancini (well, Sam wouldn't touch the fish, even in the form of a fried risotto ball).
We ordered a Barolo and Antonio told us they were out and we switched to a Crianza, which he said was a magnum, so then he suggest a much younger Barolo which worried me, but in the end he discounted it and it was superb: 2008 Luigi Pira, smooth and superb with our food.
I started with the Quail Chromesquis oddly served on a soggy piece of bread, but still superb with a Confit of leg, Red Chicory (radicchio), apple, Truffle Aioli and Hazelnut Veloute. The amazing part was a fried breaded ball of confit with creamy sauce that exploded in my mouth. I would have thought there were too many things going on, but it all worked quite well. Will had the Goats Cheese with Pickled Beetroot, Golden Raisin, Apple Balsamic and Goats Cheese BonBon.
Samuel wasn't too hungry and went right for a main course of Linguini with Slow Cooked Duck Egg Yolk, Girolles and Truffles. He wasn't crazy about the gooey yolk, but still managed to enjoy the dish, yet still saying he won't go near fried or poached eggs.
I had Challan Duck with Bok Choy, Watermelon, Kalamni Orange and Nepalese Pepper which was a superb dish and combination of very different ingredients that worked. Will had the Suckling Pig with Pork Belly, Octopus, Soya Apple, Cabbage & Shitaki which came in the form of a puree. It too showed great thought to the various yet different ingredients. We switched halfway and agreed both dishes were perfect.
I must mention here that at one point they removed my appetizer knife and fork and almost put them back on the table to use for the next course, when I insisted on frdh cutlery; not a sign of good service. Also, the Laguiole knife for my duck had schmootz on it.
For dessert Samuel chose the Tonka & Caramel Souffle made from 70%Cacao Barry Chocolate with Banana Ice Cream and Chocolate Cremeaux while Will had the Brown Sugar Tart with Mandarin, Hazelnut, Chocolate Tuile and Mandarin Sorbet.
Eoin (pronounced Ian) arrived with the cheese trolley and I was in heaven when he allowed me to have them all, most of which came from a local cheesery down the road in Knocktrinna ( we went there the next day to buy more for our cheese picnics to come during the trip!). Sadly, Eoin didn't know most of the cheeses and we got a bit confused:
Lavissdown, Brewer's Gold, a goat unnamed, Knocktrinna Gold and Crozier Blue (the one not from Knocktrinna).
A plethora of Petits Fours arrived:
Pistachio Financiers, Black Lime Pastille Gelee, Lemon & Coffee Chocolates,
Poppyseed Tuilles, Canale Rhum Baba, Earl Grey & Citrus Macaroons, White Chocolate Nougat in Dark Chocolate coating and Honey/Hazelnut Nougat.
It was a fine finish to a tasty if confusing meal.
The room is yellow and light and overlooks the river and gardens, but is in sore need of a paint job and new carpet. It looks like Downtown Abbey after the end rather than a well kept estate.