With the rise of coffee joints, hipster cafes and lots of exciting new openings you could easily think the death knell may be ringing for good old fashioned pub grub. In fairness the pub game has seen a turbulent time in recent years, with many rural bars having to diversify to survive.
The term Gastro Bar can often be abused with any old left over carvery being rolled out as the real deal. Thankfully on these lovely shores many spots around Ireland are quietly cooking up quite a storm and transforming our outlook of the Irish pub.
On the suggestion of one of our readers for our quest to find the best local food heroes on our #BMWTheTaste Tour we took a Sunday spin out to a county filled with a plethora of top quality Gastro bars and made a long overdue visit to Harte’s of Kildare.
Owned brother’s in-law Ronan Kinsella and Paul Lenehan, these boys know a thing or two about running a successful pub, we had previously visited another of their venues The Drew Drop Inn and were duly impressed, not just with their excellent craft beer selection but also the quality of the simple fare on offer.
Hartes is a similar proposition, well located in the “heart” (sorry of the pun) of Kildare town, its well maintained facade is hard to miss. Although fully renovated when it was bought over in 2009 it has managed to retain the cosiness that make the Irish pub unique, that and of course the welcoming barman who greeted us as we arrived.
Separated into a cosy snug style bar, complete with open fire to the right and roomy restaurant to the left Hartes is quite deceptive on first glance. Several large family bookings filled most of the covers as you would expect on a Sunday. In some ways this is the best day to review a bar as its always busy with people that are there for the food more than the beer but it does limits the menu options as we found out.
Perusing through their regular menu and knowing we couldn’t have any of it was a small torture as you can only order from the Sunday menu, fair enough as much of the weekly dishes that caught our eye were seafood and as fresh seafood is not as easy to come by on a Sunday we get where they are coming from.
There is however good value to be had with mains costing €17 or a two course for €23, with plenty of staple dishes such as Fish & Chips but in a Carrig Beer batter or a bit of a beast Beef Burger topped with Crozier Blue cheese. Supporting local artisan producers is something Head Chef Barry Liscombe is clearly passionate about judging by the litany of well known names dotted on the menu.
We kicked things off on a good note with an impressive St.Tola Goats Cheese and Beetroot dish laced with blackberries, pickled red cabbage and lentils, a refreshing take on these seriously over used ingredients.
Our second starter was equally as thrilling and certainly not your average pub grub, Seared Yellowfin Tuna with a soy dressing, wasabi mayo and pickled carrot and cucumber really made us stop and think that perhaps a lot more Gasto bars should be on our radar if the calibre is this good.
Unfortunately for us as with many great opening acts the main even can sometimes pale into insignificance. When our first main of Pigs on the Green Rack of Pork arrived we were slightly underwhelmed. The plating and creativity of our first two dishes made this tasty dish not as pleasing to the eye but the flavours were good and it certainty had the comforting factor that we associate with nostalgic pub grub.
Across the table was a similar scenario, the Roast leg of Lamb was absolutely delicious but the two side by side looked remarkably similar. Good gastro food has to have top class mash and here Hartes are smashing it, creamy, buttery and heart attack inducing as good mash should be!
After those hearty portions we settled on sharing a dessert of Raspberry Ripple, Meringue and Ice Cream, with little chunks of shortbread and a drizzle of lemon curd we an only describe it as a hug on a plate.
Hartes is everything a modern day bar should be, somewhere you can enjoy a good pint and the paper or somewhere you can go with all the family and enjoy a damn good feed. We’ll be back but next time not on a Sunday.
Dinner for two, including a bottle of Sparkling water, espresso and two glasses of wine came to €74.00.
Hartes of Kildare,
Market Square, Kildare Town,
T: (045) 53 3557