Often we are so busy looking for the next rising star in Irish food that we forget the ones that have blossomed a long time ago and continue to be as popular as ever. These are far and few between, one that always stands out for us is The Saddle Room in The Shelbourne hotel. Often the only time many people we have spoken to have experienced the food at the Shelbourne is at a wedding or banquet of some kind, those who have dined in The Saddle Room however have enjoyed a totally different culinary experience. Sometimes when you have a landmark building with the history and reputation like The Shelbourne you may be forgiven in thinking that dining here may be out of your budget, well you’d be wrong.
We popped along last Saturday and had reserved one of their very coveted “golden booths” which are probably the most comfortable and private seating you can get. No fear of sharing your neighbours woes or deepest secrets here. One of the things we believe people love about the Saddle Room is the service, we can’t think of any other venue that has such a warmth on arrival. On the night we dined there it was interesting to see the mix of diners from girl’s nights out, and romantic couples to a communion party with the main little man having a fantastic time, it was heart warming to watch the staff making him feel so special. This to us is what separates the Saddle Room into a unique destination, with some of the best trained staff in the business.
You can always tell when someone in hospitality loves what they do and we were fortunate enough on the night to have a real character looking after us on the evening. Sandor our server, guided us through the many different menus on offer from surprise tasting ones, to the a la carte, to one of the most popular options the set Table D’Hote priced at €45pp for three courses. We recently had an amazing dinner in Luna (who just won Best Restaurant in Ireland) and the pricing is very similar to the Saddle Rooms, so leave your perceptions at the door and venture in.
When faced with a lot of choice decisions can be a lot harder to make, thankfully we got some excellent recommendations on the night from Sandor who has worked in the restaurant for over 9 years.
The Saddle Room is a more than a little famous for its legendary oyster bar, as a couple who are quite divided over these marmite delicacies (one who can’t get enough and the other who would gladly pass) we decided to compromise and began with a small platter of hot signature “Shelbourne Oysters” (€27) which consist of Liscannor crab meat, melted gruyére cheese and little chunks of lobster glazed in hollandaise sauce. We say small but six of these between two is more than enough and we guarantee even the most adverse will be converted.
After a little chat with their charismatic, resident sommelier Nisea Doddy, we put our wine choice in her hands and were pleasantly surprised when she arrived back with one of our current favourites New World Chardonnays a rich Deloach 2014, which as it turned out was a superb pairing for our seafood dishes on the night.
Leading on from the oysters we sampled some Seared Bantry Bay Scallops, you have to commend executive Chef Gary Hughes on his use of high quality Irish produce and how prominent each individual producer is on the menu. The addition of a lightly crisped, smoked Kilmore Quay cod added a moreish texture against the velvety scallops which were surrounded by a solar system of buttermilk gel and corn purée.
Sticking with our seafood voyage our second starter consisted of a simple dish of Pan Seared Dublin Bay Prawns with artichoke stems, which they say improves the taste of everything and in this instance that was certainly true. As a starter with the slightest hint of lemon preserve, it was perfection.
Mains are where The Saddle Room really shines, there is no shortage of choice from Rump of Curragh Lamb, Braised Daube of Charleville Beef to the understated class that is Dover Sole. For us it had to be the Lambay Island Lobster; cooked in a “Thermidor Style”, it is one of those dishes that always has a wow factor when the plate arrives and the team here have this luxurious French classic down to a fine art. Generously stuffed with creamy deliciousness and delectable chunks of lobster, it was pure indulgement but let’s be honest we all need a little indulgence every now and again and there’s no shame in that!
We can’t recall the last review where we ordered entirely seafood but when it’s this good it can be hard to resist. That said the Roast Kilmore Quay Monkfish was the final contestant in our “Finding Nemo” contest. Delicately plated it’s hard to believe this seriously ugly fish can be transformed into such a thing of beauty; slightly crusted outside but still creamily tender within, it hid a treasure trove of shellfish delights beneath, all surrounded by a subtly fragrant consommé.
You can’t come to The Saddle Room and not sample some of executive pastry chef Katie McLoughlin’s dreamy desserts. After our seafood extravaganza we could only manage one dessert, luckily we made it a good one, a decadent Warm Chocolate and Raspberry Tart with a sublime pistachio ice-cream, washed down with a Warres Otima 10yr old Tawny Port it made a pretty successful pairing, which we luckily still has some of remaining for our complimentary petit fours.
As we nibbled away on our apricot jellies we both agreed that even for a revered institution such as The Shelboure we were both beyond impressed with the consistent individuality and high standard of every dish we enjoyed.
The Saddle Room breaks all the moulds of what you would expect from a hotel restaurant, it’s got style, top class food, great service and most importantly…atmosphere.
This is an exquisite Taste we cannot recommend enough.
The Saddle Room
The Shelbourne Dublin, A Renaissance Hotel
27 St. Stephen’s Green
T: +353-1-663 4500