Sunday, August 23, 2015

Park Hotel Kenmare In Ireland's County Kerry comes up only okay (8-14-15)

We arrived at the Relais et Chateaux park Hotel Kenmare which was to be our home for two nights in County Kerry in the southwest of Ireland. It is a beautiful old country home in a grand park right in the center of the town of Kenmare, which is quite wealthy and very high end.

We decided to take drinks in the lounge and enjoy the ambiance. It was quite nice as they brought in some tasty snacks with the alcohol (and Coke for Sam) such as Prawn Risotto Balls, Duck Liver Crisps, Beetroot meringue with Goat Cheese, and a Gnocchi-like/Potato Puff of Pea & Chorizo that we loved.

The dining room is very straight-laced, and a couple from the UK next to us were staring our family down for much of the meal in a quite snotty manner. We stood our ground as we had a nice table by the window overlooking the gardens and the lush hills and bay beyond. The meal is a 3 course prix fixe and Samuel said he only wanted one course; the manager was insistent there was no discount for small eaters, which was silly. The staff was mostly Eastern European and needed a bit more training for my taste in a high end destination; I felt we were back at Mt. Juliet where the staff had no cue which cheese was which.

One server arrived and presented the "bouche for today," leaving the word "amuse" off which made me giggle as that meant he was presenting the mouth for today! He said it  was an  Apricot Veloute with Truffle Oil, which I thought was odd as a warm creamy fruit soup is a bit on the unusual side. I inquired again and after three tries, we figured out his "apricot" was actually asparagus, and it was indeed tasty. Brioche, Poppyseed with Apricot  (not asparagus!) and Brown bread arrived and we ordered a bottle of 2012 Vernaccia di San Gimignano "Ponte a Rodoline" from Teruzzi & Puthod which we have always enjoyed and di here as well, but for a much higher price than we had been paying around the Emerald Isle.

The server returned to "present" our starters on a silver tray. I always laugh at this truly silly pretentiousness for two reasons:

1)Are we going to send them back after they are presented if we don't like the way they look?
2)Presenting things on a silver tray or salver always reminds me of Salome requesting the head of John the Baptist on a silver tray (or as in the Strauss opera "silber schussel")!

We stared at our Salad of Atlantic Crab with Heritage Radish & Wasabi Yogurt which Will ordered and we were told it hailed (the crab, that is) from nearby Castletownbere on the Beara Peninsula which had just visited that day.

Sam started with the Risotto of Wild Mushroom and Truffle with Aquerello Rice and Aged Parmesan and continued with the Wild Garlic Gnocchi with Billy Clifford (a local organic farmer) Vegetables, Nettle and St. Tola (Goat cheese) emulsion. Yes, this was carb intense, but he had to pay for two courses and indeed was beefed out the previous days and as you know won't eat fish!

While Sam did pasta, pasta; I went with duck,duck (read on)

Will and I moved on to an Antinori Badia A Passignano "Gran Selzione" DOCG Chianti which was truly delicious and paired sublimely with our main courses. I had the Terrine of Confit Duck & Foie Gras with Prune Puree which was truly delicious and moved on to the same main as me, the Breast of Thornhill Duck (oh, these mains were presented as well on a silber schussel!) with Swede (a carrot/turnip kind of veggie) & Honey and Hispi Cabbage. I found the swede cloyingly sweet, but the rest of the dish was delicious for sure. The sides that came were potatoes (yes, always in Ireland), snap peas, beans and carrots. All were blanched or boiled and truly tasteless in need of massive amounts of pepper and/or salt. What happened to the kitchen's inventiveness?

A pre-dessert came n the form of a Lemon Curd Blueberry Meringue that was also quite sweet.

Since dessert was included we indulged. Samuel ordered the Passion Fruit Souffle with Sauce Anglaise, Passion Fruit Curd and Passion Fruit Ice Cream which seemed to be a big hit. Cherry and Almond was the other choice which was an Almond & Olive Oil Cake with macerated Cherries and Cherry Ice Cream that was again just okay.

I am sad to say, some of the dishes were quite nice, many were just okay and the service was overly-Victorian, yet difficult to comprehend.