The Saddle Room at The Shelbourne Hotel is a natural choice when it comes to dining indulgence, and Head Chef Garry Hughes’ new summer menu is a celebration of seasonal Irish produce. Decadence comes as standard at The Shelbourne, and this latest offering reflects this in abundance.
It is impossible not to feel like a VIP strolling through the historic marble clad lobby and into The Saddle Room, where the aquamarine stools lined up at the bespoke Oyster Bar immediately catches your eye. Settling in to an intimate gold-gilded booth, dim lighting and sparkling silver create an ambiance of luxury, and that’s before you feast your eyes on the elegant new menu.
It is rare to find a list of choices that will tempt every palate, from those who savour the classics to the diner looking to broaden their culinary horizons, but first glance at the new summer menu reveals this trait immediately. With both vibrant, light dishes and indulgent options, this is a crowd pleasing menu while maintaining an air of something a little bit special.
Interesting starter creations like St Tola Feta Mousse with Compressed Watermelon and House Cured Castletownbere Salmon with Pickled Lusk Cucumber and Smoked Yoghurt lend a pleasing nod to the importance of provenance and sourcing the finest ingredients, as does the Shelbourne’s classic Lambay Lobster Cocktail.
A martini glass of sweet and succulent Irish lobster enrobed in classic Marie Rose could never be anything but delicious. This delectable dish was enjoyed thoroughly, alongside lively and fresh Vina Decana, a Macabeo and Sauvignon Blanc blend specially selected by The Shelbourne and recommended by our knowledgeable server Pauwel.
A tranche of Foie Gras Tourchon sliced and spread like butter, intensely gamey and rich on a similarly decadent brioche bun, still luxuriously warm from the oven. Delicately plated and contrasted beautifully with sweet but not cloying red onion marmalade, sharp, lithe pickled pear and toasty,candied hazelnuts, this was elegance on a plate.
For the main event, temptations ranged from light and summery Seared Atlantic Hake with Lime Beurre Blanc to eminently satisfying Garden Pea and Truffle Risotto dotted with artisan Hegarty’s smoked cheese, sourced from Whitechurch in Cork.
Summer is the time to enjoy Irish lamb, and an artfully presented dish of Wicklow Lamb, Sprouting Broccoli and Broad Beans sang of the season, unyielding to the knife in tenderness and enriched with a red wine jus of delicious depth. Undoubtedly one of the finest lamb dishes I have enjoyed in recent times, beautifully paired with a glass of brooding Chateaux Penin Bordeaux Superieur 2014.
Across the table, a striking celebration of Irish seafood – Seared Kilmore Quay Cod, Cauliflower and Squid Ink Purée with Monk’s Beard, with the saline sea vegetable adding a spike of umami to a very well thought-out dish. The crowning glory, a scattering of sweet, pickled Irish mussels cut through the richness of this seafood lovers’ delight.
Those of us with a sweet tooth are spoiled for choice with The Saddle Room’s summer menu listing classics like Shelbourne Pavlova, Rhubarb and Strawberry Crumble and Vanilla Creme Brulee, but chocolate fiends will be pleased to hear their cravings can be satiated with a stunning Chocolate Fondant.
Elevating the humble lava cake to new heights, an almond tuille shard and tart Irish raspberries cut across the molten dark chocolate, irresistible with the contrast of simple but well-made vanilla seed ice cream.
A final flourish of summer flavour came in the form of a Pineapple Carpaccio sitting beneath a towering crown of coconut sorbet spiked with gold leaf – a tempting taste of the tropics which ticked all the boxes – sticky, sweet, creamy and refreshing.
An evening in The Saddle Room draws to a close with a selection of hand-crafted petit fours, including stellar berry macarons, blackberry financiers and summer fruit-topped pistachio cakes – and an understandable reluctance to leave your magnificent surroundings.
If you have a celebration this summer or simply wish to celebrate fantastic Irish food in one of the most memorable of settings, The Saddle Room’s new summer menu is not to be missed. The Table d’Hote menu is offered for €38 for 2 courses and 3 courses for €45. There is also a Pre-Theatre offering between 5.30pm and 6.45pm, with 2 courses for €27 and 3 courses for €32.
For more information visit www.shelbournedining.ie.