I love the hustle and bustle of the city coming up to Christmas but if I’m being honest I tend to avoid dining out during December. There are a number of reasons for this – firstly a lot of restaurants have festive themed menus geared towards groups and whilst this is understandable and I’m all for seasonal eating, there is a limit to the number of ‘innovative’ variations of turkey and ham that I can eat.
Secondly, I’m not a particularly patient person and I find it tedious having to battle through crowds and to queue for parking. It’s often easier to steer clear of the city centre or to wait until everything settles down in the New Year. With this in mind, I decided to broaden my horizons and visit somewhere new for lunch recently.
The Green Barn Restaurant is located just inside the front gates of Burtown House off the M9 near Athy, County Kildare and is set in lush parkland overlooking the walled kitchen garden of the main house.
The restaurant is located in a large open barn-style structure which has a rustic New England feel to it. I found the space immediately appealing and loved the high ceilings and exposed beams. Tables have a rough wooden texture which some people might find disconcerting but I loved the artsy feeling that they evoked. They are decorated with individual vegetable plants growing in pots – a nice touch and a reminder of the restaurant’s farm-to-fork philosophy.
The Green Barn aims to serve only the freshest seasonal produce which has almost always come straight from the organic gardens each morning. Whilst the sentiments are laudable, they can become a little hackneyed and aspirational if the food fails to deliver but during our meal we found that the produce spoke for itself and delivered with a bang on the flavour front.
Our meal started with a little tasting plate of Smoked Mackerel Pâté and Hummus which was served with a couple of crunchy croutons. I love smoked mackerel so this little preamble to our meal hit all the right notes with me. I loved the way that the pâté had not been over processed and retained some texture which contrasted nicely with the mealy and deeply satisfying to eat hummus.
I always seek out bread and immediately fell in love with the Homemade Breads served with Kale & Feta Dip, Hummus, Garden Pesto (€6.50) which we ordered along with our starters. This was some of the best bread that I have eaten in the past twelve months with a lovely chewy crumb and crusty exterior. The accompanying dips were each thoroughly delicious. The garden pesto in particular was the stuff that dreams are made of and I licked the bowl clean.
In one respect we probably didn’t need to order the homemade breads as my companion’s starter of Cabbage & Coconut Soup (€6.50) came served with crusty bread and a flavoured butter. It was served in a brown paper bag which I found charming. The soup itself was an unusual combination of flavours and along with the cabbage and coconut contained a good hint of fresh ginger acting as the flavouring backbone of the soup. This was a lovely wholesome dish.
My Baked St. Tola wrapped in Toasted Sourdough with Mushrooms & Winter Squash (€7) was another great dish where a generous portion of creamy St. Tola goat’s cheese was served wrapped thin slices of toasted sourdough which provided textural crunch against the soft cheese. Sweet squash and meaty mushrooms balanced the richness of the cheese to create a dish that was a pleasure to eat. In many ways this dish was simple in its conception but effectively illustrated the versatility of vegetables.
I chose the Free Range Chicken, Leek & Tarragon Pie served with Burtown Salad (€16) for main course and was delighted with the puff-pastry topped pie which arrived served in its own dish. Generous chunks of chicken were enrobed in a flavoursome sauce which contained a lovely gentle anise flavour courtesy of the tarragon that had been used.
Unfortunately the sauce had slightly split but the wonderful flavour was undeniable and in an overall sense I enjoyed the dish but felt that the pie didn’t sit well against the accompanying smear of beetroot purée which although tasty served to mess the outside of the pie dish. A rainbow coloured salad containing fantastically fresh vegetables and seeds completed the dish.
My companion’s Homemade Beef Burger with Fresh Herbs, Sautéed Onion in our Sourdough Bap, topped with Caramelised Red Onions & Parmesan served with Herbed Potatoes, Garden leaves & Aioli (€16) was a hugely successful dish containing flavoursome and meat. The burger was served slightly pink (as I prefer) and was succulent to eat. It was packed with the herbs with Rosemary to the fore but not overpowering the flavour of the beef. It was served in a burnished bronze brioche roll sitting on sticky sweet caramelised onions. Wisps of grated parmesan added some umami saltiness which complemented the beef perfectly. This was a great burger and one that I would travel to sample again.
After quite a substantial meal we decided to share a dessert between us. Desserts are laid out on a large table on attractive cake stands and together create an attractive gastronomic tableau. In the main baked goods including pies, cakes cheesecakes are offered.
Torn between the rather nice looking moist Carrot Cake €5.00 I eventually plumped for the Coconut & Lime Cake (€5.50) which was served with crème fraiche on the side. This gluten-free offering was moist, full of tropical flavours and in its simplicity looked extremely pretty.
I really enjoyed lunch in the Green Barn Restaurant. The setting is beautiful and the service is friendly and delivered with a cheeriness that is infectious and puts you in a good humour. The food is unpretentious and un-fussy but most importantly it is packed with flavour and leaves you with a sense of wellbeing. This is one to visit. The Green Barn is open for lunch during the week and for dinner on Saturday evenings.
The Green Barn Shop & Restaurant,
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.