Hotel restaurants face a number of unique challenges. Firstly, they have to provide food that will appeal to a diverse range of customers, which can include hotel guests but also those who are visiting only to eat in the restaurant.
As such, the menus must be carefully designed so that they are enticing to a variety of clients, such as families with young children, corporate/business travellers and those enjoying leisure breaks away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
These restaurants also have to provide multiple meals each day throughout the year alongside catering for banquets and wedding receptions that take place in the hotel. Sometimes these competing demands result in food that feels institutional and uninspiring.
However, it’s great to see how many Irish hotel restaurants have really embraced these challenges and are now offering food that is innovative and exciting but still accessible to the average diner. Often you forget that you are dining in a restaurant attached to a hotel. My visit to the recently opened Herald and Devoy Restaurant was a great example of this.
Our first impressions of Herald and Devoy were very good. The 130-seat restaurant is located in the stylish 4-star Osprey Hotel in Naas. Hugh Wallace, star of RTE’s Home of the Year who has over 30 years’ experience in the interior design and architecture industries was enlisted to transform the Osprey’s former brasserie into a sleek but comfortable contemporary restaurant. The results are fantastic.
The dining room is decorated in sophisticated but soothing colours, with dark wooden tables and chairs upholstered in an attractive smoky blue fabric. The same colour is used on the leather couches in booths lining the far wall of the restaurant. A mirrored bar at the entrance to the dining room has a 1920’s Art Deco feel and overall, the spacious room is classy and inviting.
Many of the tables were full on the Wednesday night we visited and there was a lively atmosphere in the dining room. This wouldn’t be the mid-week norm in many restaurants and as such, despite the fact that Herald and Devoy is part of the Osprey Hotel, it feels like a restaurant in its own right…and a stylish one at that.
In addition to its breakfast menu, Herald and Devoy offers Afternoon Tea along with reasonably-priced Day and Evening Menus.
Younger guests are also well catered for with a Kids Menu. Separately a Cocktail Menu lists a number of classic cocktails including Long Island Iced Teas, Mojitos and Daiquiris and my choice a Bramble (€10) made with gin, lemon juice, Crème de Cassis, simple syrup was fruity and refreshing and everything you would want as a pre-dinner aperitif.
My guest’s Whiskey Sour (€10) made with Jameson, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, bitters and egg white also went down a treat and had a smooth but noticeable alcoholic kick.
Feeling rather hungry we decided to kick off our meal with some Bread, Butter, Hummus, Tapenade (€5.50) as a pre-cursor to the starters that we also ordered.
The trio of mini-soda breads and sliced wheaten loaf that we were presented with were wonderful – each possessing a nutty crust and a soft, slightly chewy crumb – everything that good soda bread should be.
The accompanying chilli hummus had a nice spicy kick and I felt that the flavoursome classic-style tapenade worked particularly well with the soda breads.
My Grilled Scallops (€12.50) was a beautiful looking dish and although it seemed slightly expensive, was worth every penny. The plump scallops were expertly cooked with a charred exterior, which gave them a slightly smoky taste that was offset by the accompanying salty bacon lardons and sweet broad beans.
Hidden under the scallops was a piquant caper and raisin purée which accentuated the inherent sweetness of the scallops. This was an inventive dish that would not look out of place in any fine-dining restaurant and I enjoyed the unusual flavour combinations.
We both agreed that the Thai Beef (€7.50) starter was a generously sized dish, but this didn’t stop us from polishing off the lot. Strips of beef were tender to eat and the contrasting slippery noodles were well-cooked, retaining some bite.
This was a plate of food that punched way above its weight on the flavour front which is to be expected with Thai inspired food. This was a lovely dish.
I regularly eat chicken at home but for some reason rarely order it when eating out. However, I found the description of the Roast Chicken two ways (€15.50) immediately appealing so ordered it.
Again, this was a fine-dining version of the Sunday roast chicken that I regularly serve to my family at home. Here, roasted breast and leg of chicken was served along with a rolled ballotine that was stuffed with a well-flavoured chicken mousse.
The meat was succulent whilst the chicken skin (arguably my favourite part of the bird) was well-seasoned and very crispy. Food as good as this always pleases and leaves a warm feeling in the belly and also in the heart. The chicken was served with traditional accompaniments in the form of baby carrots, a velvety smooth cauliflower purée and meaty thyme jus.
By way of contrast, my guest’s vegetarian Falafel Burger (€12.50), served on a wooden board, was a more casual dish but one that was packed full of interesting middle-eastern spices and herbs.
It was served with some excellent pickled cucumber and a yoghurt dip that included freshly chopped mint that complimented the spicy burger perfectly. A small ‘bucket’ of crispy sweet potato fries completed the dish.
Portion sizes at Herald and Devoy are generous and we feared that we would not be able for desserts. After a quick glance at the menu we decided that despite feeling rather full, we would try one each. I approach retro desserts with an enthusiasm that is probably unseemly in a woman of my age and the Knickerbocker Glory(€5.50) definitely ticked all the right boxes for me.
This is such a simple concept; layered ice-cream, fruit, nuts and cream and when, as in Herald and Devoy, quality ingredients are used it is so much more than the sum-of-its-parts. This is a dessert to be attacked and enjoyed with gleeful abandon… which I did, relishing every mouthful.
The Lemon Tart (€5.95) was also another fine dessert and was simple and elegant in its presentation. It was served with fresh raspberries, raspberry sorbet with a lightly whipped cream and some crushed meringues. The lemon had not been over-sweetened and was nicely tart, which contrasted well with the buttery pastry.
Special mention must be made of the wonderful service throughout our meal. Front of house staff are personable and attentive. Their enthusiasm for the menu and eagerness to please definitely added to our enjoyment of the meal. I really liked Herald and Devoy and I feel that in many ways, it stands out from the crowd.
The restaurant is beautifully designed and it is clear that a lot of thought has gone into the food that is served. I am hugely envious of the people of Naas, because this is a restaurant that I would love to have on my doorstep.
The total cost of our dinner at Herald and Devoy came to €84.95.
Niamh believes Ireland produces some of the best food in the world, and travels around the country; seeking out the best food producers, and places to eat.
An accomplished cook and baker, Niamh is also a previous MasterChef Ireland finalist. During the competition she had the opportunity to cook in some of Ireland’s top restaurants and experience life on the other side of the kitchen pass.
Working with TheTaste allows Niamh to write about her experiences and to share her passion for food and cooking with a wide audience.
Visit Niamh’s blog The Game Bird Food Chronicles.