Powerscourt was awarded Hotel of the Year at the 2015 AA Hospitality Awards last October and is considered one of Ireland’s premier five-star hotels. Housed in a stunning Palladian-style building in the grounds of the Powerscourt Estate, the hotel is renowned for its luxurious surroundings and exemplary service. The hotel’s Sika Restaurant currently holds two AA Rosettes which reflects its excellent, precise cooking and use of quality ingredients.
As you approach Powerscourt Hotel, you know that you are going somewhere special and I was really looking forward to meeting the other invited guests and to our meal at the Chef’s Table. On the night we visited, we were treated to an outstanding six-course, truffle-themed tasting menu devised by Head Chef Peter Byrne with accompanying wines selected by George, the hotel’s resident sommelier.
The Chef’s Table is located in the restaurant’s kitchen facing the pass so we had an unfettered view of Peter Byrne and his brigade of chefs at work preparing our meal. The most astonishing thing was that, despite the common portrayal of restaurant kitchens as places where tempers are short and voices are raised, the atmosphere in Sika was noticeably calm albeit everyone was working away with a sense of focused purpose.
Before proceedings kicked off, Peter passed around a black wooden box containing a number of truffles. With a heady aroma that was irresistible, I still found it hard to believe that these dozen or so squash-ball sized delights were valued at over €900. Some of these truffles were to find their way on to our plates of food as the night progressed.
In addition to the truffles, most of the ingredients used during our meal were sourced locally with an emphasis on their seasonality. As each course was served, AA Inspector Declan Connors highlighted aspects of the food that would be assessed if an inspection was taking place. This was hugely interesting and extremely informative and made each of us really think about and consider the food that we were eating rather than just wolfing it down. The meal was truly wonderful with each dish managing to showcase the many ways in which truffles could be used.
After nibbling on some delicious breads and Gruyère and Truffle Gougères, we were presented with a Truffled Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Toasted Hazelnuts which arrived piping hot in a small but beautiful glass bowl. This was easily one of the best soups that I have ever eaten as it managed to taste rich and indulgent but was also silky and light on the palate at the same time. The flavour of the truffles came through wonderfully but didn’t overpower the artichokes with their underlying earthy-sweetness. Toasted hazelnuts and an artichoke crisp completed the dish. The accompanying wine, a Crios de Susana Baldo Torrontes from Argentina, was fresh and aromatic with a smooth texture in the mouth which made it an ideal pairing for the soup.
The next two courses were also excellent and were both beautifully presented. The Knockdrinna Goat’s Cheese, Blood Orange Jelly, Beetroot & Charred Cucumber was delicate to look at and packed full of interesting ingredient combinations whilst the Terrine of Foie Gras, Radish, Herb Salad with Toasted Brioche was rich and indulgent and included an excellent slice of brioche. It may sound strange to specifically highlight the toast but it was exceptional.
My Wild Halibut, Savoy Cabbage, Stuffed Chicken Wing & Truffled Cream was perfectly cooked with clean distinct flavours. I particularly liked the restrained treatment of the cabbage which had been finely shredded and cooked with just a hint of butter. I thought the Endrizzi Masetto Bianco from Italy with its complex bouquet and aromas of exotic fruits was an interesting wine pairing which ultimately worked well.
Our final savoury course, the Sirloin of Irish Rose Veal, Buttered Leek, Chanterelle Mushroom, Artichoke & Truffled Potato Purée was delightful and included the most decadent potato purée ever to pass my lips. If I ever win the lottery that mash is the type of food that I will eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner! It was superb.
The meal finished on a high with a dessert of White Chocolate Mousse, Orange & Truffle Ice-Cream. In many respects this was the most controversial dish of the night and we all spent ages debating whether truffles worked in a dessert or not. I loved the truffle ice-cream and thought that it was lovely against the sweetness of the white chocolate mousse and the slight acidity of the orange. Others weren’t as convinced but we all agreed that it was an interesting use of the truffles.
This was one of the most thought provoking meals that I ever eaten and a dining experience that I don’t think I will ever forget. I feel truly privileged to have been invited along by the AA and I enjoyed every single moment.
Powerscourt Hotel Resort & Spa
T: 01 274 9313
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.