Pulling up outside Butler House in the heart of historic Kilkenny on the first rainy day in about two weeks, we couldn’t wait to sample the delicacies that awaited us inside this Georgian residence.
As a history buff, I find myself constantly drawn to places of historical significance, and as the home of the infamous Earls of Ormonde, who also built Kilkenny Castle, Butler House definitely qualified.
Strolling through reception, I overheard an American guest inquiring as to the tourism offering in the medieval city. Lamenting the rain, she gladly took the umbrella offered to her.
The rain wasn’t going to disturb our afternoon however, and taking a seat by the window in Butler House’s tea rooms, we settled in for an afternoon of pure indulgence. Sure, what else would you be doing on a Sunday?
Afternoon Tea at Butler House is named after Lady Eleanor Butler, a former residence of the house and quite a scandalous figure for the time.
Along with fellow upper class woman, Sarah Ponsonby, Eleanor was known as one of the Ladies of Langollen, with poet William Wordsworth even composing a sonnet about the pair.
As I was mulling over the differences between what was considered a scandal in the 18th century and today, our bubbling glasses of Prosecco arrived, snapping me out of my daydream.
Clinking our glasses, myself and my mother happily sipped our drinks and chatted until our senses were distracted by not one, but too brimming trays.
With six layers in total between the two trays, not to mention the separate plate of scones, we weren’t quite sure where to begin.
Letting logic dictate, we began with the oak smoked salmon and crab with lemon aioli and topped with salmon roe, all perfectly placed on a brioche roll. Well-liked by mother and daughter alike, it was a great start to our dining experience.
Similarly quick to disappear off the plate were the savoury portions of Goatsbridge trout and egg salad. As we were munching away on tray number one, our teas arrived.
Recalling her recent trip to India, my mother chose the Darjeeling tea from a list of 16 options, but immediately became jealous of my choice as soon as the sweet scent wafted over to her side of the table.
Having tasted this tea many a time, I had never actually ordered a whiskey cream tea and I tell you, I’ll struggle to order anything different in future.
The sweet scent was immediately relaxing and after taking a bit of a food break, felt up to the challenge of continuing.
Moving to the next level and though we enjoyed everything immensely, we both had our distinct favourites. I devoured the truffled coronation chicken salad encased in a basil wafer basket and topped with a sprinkle of all too tempting crispy caramelised onions.
While we both enjoyed the goat’s cheese mousse which was topped with beetroot and carefully placed inside a sweet shortbread biscuit style casing, the honey baked ham with caramelised onions and sun-dried tomato relish caught my companion’s attention.
In a conquering mood, we plucked the smoked chicken caesar salad from the top tray of the savoury tier. Though it had a little too much dressing for my liking, the salad went down well and the delicately placed Parmesan crisp set the cheese lover inside swooning.
The confit duck leg spring roll was the last bite to sample in the savoury section and last certainly wasn’t least. Topped with juicy pieces of mango and a welcome kick of Caribbean salsa, this was a great finish to the savoury selection.
After enjoying the handmade scones, generously topped with jam and cream of course, we set our sights on the almost intimidating selection of sweet treats.
The chocoholic in me couldn’t resist starting with the chocolate fondant brownie. For such a small bitesized piece of cake, it was very heavy and I loved every mouthful. It was a little piece of chocolate heaven.
Next up was the homemade carrot cake and if you’re a fan of the cake I like to pretend is the healthy option, then you won’t be disappointed with this one.
Feeling as though Butler House and Executive Chef Gerard Dunne had an insight into my favourite sweet treats, the salted caramel madeleine hit all the right spots.
The Baileys and chocolate chip cheesecake was beautifully smooth and thankfully, they didn’t scrimp on the Baileys! However, the highlight of the dessert tray was the incredibly indulgent opera cake.
Just like Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, the opera cake was the masterpiece of the dessert section. A sinful combination of chocolate, coffee and Amaretto, it was a struggle to devour the layered cake, but I managed. There wasn’t going to be a crumb left for that one.
With our final drops of tea, we munched on the raspberry and almond bakewell tart and the zingy lemon meringue. By this point, we felt we might need to be rolled out of the room.
Following our Afternoon Tea experience, we took a short stroll in the walled gardens. Despite the dull day, the much-needed rain had given the flowers the boost they needed and you could almost hear them sing with delight.
Once again, I marvelled at the magnificence of this Georgian building and can’t wait to return for a visit once Hospitality Manager Deirdre and her team complete their restoration, something she has dubbed, “A labour of love”.
Afternoon Tea is served daily in the tea rooms at Butler House and is priced at just €29 per person. If you want to up your Afternoon Tea game, indulge in Prosecco Afternoon Tea for €35 per person.
Sarah has always had a great love of travel, food and photography. Following her journalism degree at DCU, she developed a passion for travel writing while living in Spain.
Named Best Break Out Travel Writer at the 2018 Travel Media Awards, Sarah loves exploring new places and sampling the local cuisine. Working with TheTaste.ie combines her love of food and travel.
A big people person, especially when it comes to hearing other people’s stories, Sarah loves interviewing chefs, food producers and more.