On a recent road trip to Mayo it suddenly dawned on us that there are big advantages to not having a motorway on your doorstep. Well one mainly, the fact you actually get to experience all the little gems hidden across the Irish landscape.
We decided to travel cross country on our return home, through the picture perfect town of Carrick on Shannon and bypass one of our favourite Leitrim haunts, the Oarsman, to make a 10 minute detour onto one of the most talked about venues in these parts – The Cottage Restaurant in Jamestown.
Set on the banks of the Shannon and tucked away from view it is hard to believe this quaint little spot has garnered such acclaim in recent years. The old saying “build it and they will come” certainly springs to mind, however the main attraction here is Chef Patron Shamzuri Hanifa‘s food.
Born in Malaysia but living in Ireland for almost half his life, “Sham” as everyone knows him has created a unique fusion of quality, contemporary Irish cuisine that is delicately laced with traces of his Asian origin.
We stopped by on a last minute booking on Sunday afternoon to a busy room with mixture of locals, families and “blow ins” like ourselves. Menus arrived and we were relieved to see a diverse mix of well priced choices before us.
We began with a starter of Honey Glazed Duck Leg (€10.50) from Thornhill farm, which had been slow cooked so it fell apart with the lightest of tickles and was propped up with a glass noodle salad drizzled in a deliciously sticky hoi sin sauce.
Across our little table was an impressive dish of Thai style Lime Corn fed Chicken (€9), with an asian slaw all resting in the most memorable coconut chilli cream imaginable. The perfect marriage of Irish food well complimented by asian nuances.
Our mini reviewer was equally impressed with the kid’s size options, which had just as much food provenance reflected in Sham’s options for the little ones as the adults, why can’t more venues take note of this and make the effort to provide nutritious options for kids.
Word had it that The Cottage Restaurant was responsible for some of the creamiest mash in the Midlands so our first main of Pan Seared Fillet of Cod had a bit to live up to. Served with a simple but accomplished creamed potato, fennel cream sauce and sautéed vegetables, it was hard to believe produce this good was a mere €15.
Our second dish was a little less traditional; consisting of a flavoursome Red Thai Curry (€13), packed with chunks of chicken from Gannon’s and Son farm in Carrick and pillowy steamed rice. Sometimes great dishes don’t need to have a tonne of elements just a tonne of great flavour which this had in spades.
We finished off with our sunny Sunday the perfect way, with a tasting plate of Seasonal Strawberry (€10) desserts which consisted of four little perfect creations utilising this much loved fruit to the full with a balsamic reduction and strawberry shortbread panna cotta, strawberry parfait, strawberry crumble and the pièce de résistance a strawberry brownie.
The Cottage Restaurant is quite the enigma, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of Carrick, Sham Hanifa has pulled off the impossible and created a diverse destination venue, with accomplished cooking, friendly staff and unbelievable value for money. No doubt there will be many more awards soon added to their impressive collection and duly so.
Dinner for three with two glasses of Elvaro Sauvignon Blanc, excluding service came to €88.70.
The Cottage Restaurant
Ph: +353 (071) 962 5933
Keith & Jules Mahon are the founders of TheTaste. We want TheTaste to be a culinary kaleidoscope to champion every taste, food, wine, cocktails, whiskey, etc. We are delighted to be part of such a creative and fast moving industry and are very passionate about sharing with you our unique journey around Ireland finding the best culinary hotspots.