Set in mature gardens, Roganstown Hotel & Country Club is an elegant country house hotel which is located on the outskirts of Swords, close to the airport in North County Dublin and within easy reach of the city centre. I am always on the lookout for new restaurants to try and having heard good reports about the food on offer in Roganstown, I decided that a visit was in order. The hotel offers two dining options, bar food and a more formal dining experience in McLoughlin’s Restaurant under Head Chef Tom Walsh.
The high ceilinged dining room is extremely spacious and manages to avoid feeling like a hotel function room by the clever use of colourful art works on the walls. The tables are beautifully dressed with white table linen and stylish cutlery whilst ambient lighting creates a relaxed and comfortable ambiance.
We decided to kick off our meal with an aperitif from the cocktail menu which contained a small selection of the classics. I decided on a Pina Colada (€8.50) which was made with rum, Malibu, fresh cream and pineapple juice whilst John, my dining companion for the evening, chose a Long Island Iced Tea (€10.50). Both drinks were mixed well but John’s, with its boozy hit of vodka, gin, rum, Cointreau, tequila and fresh lime juice, topped with Coke, was – quite understandably – particularly good.
The restaurant offers a dinner menu at €35 for three courses but a five-course tasting menu is also available for €45. This allows the diner choose a starter, main and dessert from the dinner menu and is supplemented with an amuse bouche and pre-dessert. Although unusual, this format worked well for us and offered an element of choice that you don’t normally get with tasting menus.
Breads – a White and a Brown Soda were first to arrive and were accompanied by a generous amount of butter. This was followed by an amuse bouche of intensely flavoured Minestrone with Truffle Oil. Served in a small espresso cup the soup was packed full of complex, feisty flavours that lingered in a most satisfying way. Soups are often a way of using up vegetables and other bits and pieces that are hanging around but this was well considered and tasted delicious. We both loved it.
My starter of Tortellini of Salted Cod & Lobster, Cauliflower Purée and Spinach with a Champagne Sauce was a beautiful looking dish. The pasta had been expertly made with an unusual filling of salt cod and lobster which sounded like it shouldn’t work but was excellent. Once again, punchy flavours were to the fore but they had been handled in a sensitive and measured fashion to create a plate of food that pleased on many levels. A perfectly seared scallop completed the dish and was a nice touch.
John’s Parfait of Goat’s Cheese, Pine Nut & Basil, Pear & Mustard Purée and Poached Baby Pear was also attractively presented with a lovely combination of ingredients that came together harmoniously on the plate. The parfait was surprisingly light with a lovely tangy freshness that paired well with the pear and mustard purée whilst the slivers of poached pear provided juiciness that brought everything together. This dish appeared simple but revealed hidden delights with each mouthful.
My next course – Saddle of Venison, Pistachio, Purple Potato Purée, Trumpettes, Potato Maxim, and Chocolate Sauce was insanely good. Granted, I found the appearance of the purple potato purée a little disconcerting but it tasted wonderful and was a perfect partner for the venison with its almost cheeky coating of bright green pistachio nuts. The venison was cooked medium rare and had a gentle gamey flavour which is often sadly lacking in much of the venison served up in restaurants these days. A sauce made using dark, bitter chocolate complemented the venison, highlighting its subtle taste. The inclusion of lightly pickled mushrooms and sweet caramelised onions helped to mitigate the overall richness of this dish and I had no complaints. This was clever, experimental cooking and I loved it.
John’s Braised Daube of Beef, Baby Irish Carrots & Leeks and Forest Mushroom Purée was comfort food heaven. Classically made with the ‘daube’ which comes from the shoulder/back of the animal and is an inexpensive cut which benefits from long, slow cooking until the meat is meltingly tender. Carrots gently roasted until lightly caramelised and wonderfully sweet were the ideal partner for the beef with its rich sticky sauce whilst the mushroom purée grounded everything with its earthiness. I couldn’t have loved this dish more if I had tried.
A pre-dessert of White Chocolate Ganache with Pistachio Mousse came simply presented in a shot glass and was creamy and as light as a feather. It dissolved in the mouth in a most agreeable way and was a lovely way to lead into the final course.
Both desserts were excellent and, by way of contrast to the courses that they followed, were presented simply. My Frozen Hazelnut Parfait, Frosted Berries with Caramel Reduction is a new item on the menu and was light after the intensely flavoured food we had already eaten. John’s Pear Tarte Tatin and Buttermilk Sorbet was simply superb! Here crisp puff pastry was topped with flawlessly cooked pears in a sweet and buttery caramel sauce. The accompanying sorbet was incredibly refreshing and somehow managed to intensify the flavour of the pears. I was impressed to learn that the puff pastry had been made in-house and I could tell that a good amount of butter had gone into making it. This was the dessert of dreams and I found it deeply satisfying.
I was very taken with my meal in McLoughlin’s restaurant. Tom Walsh’s food is self-assured and he is obviously a chef who likes to push boundaries but this is never at the expense of food itself and he instinctively seems to know when to stop. Flavours are robust and ingredients are often combined in a creative and interesting way.
Service throughout our meal was delivered enthusiastically and added to our enjoyment of the meal.
Roganstown Hotel & County Club
Telephone: 01 843 3118
I’m simply someone who loves cooking and experimenting with food and different ingredients. From my early childhood spent in Zambia and Australia before returning home to Ireland I was fascinated with cookbooks and reading recipes. I would spend many hours reading my grandmother’s cookbooks and watching her preparing food in the kitchen.
Although I studied to become a graphic designer and spent a few years working in advertising before then becoming a civil servant, the one thing I always wanted to be was a food writer – sharing my enthusiasm for cooking with others, but I lacked the confidence to do the thing I wanted to do most in case I failed. I finally decided to take a risk and applied for MasterChef Ireland 2014 and was one of the three finalists.
For me, food and cooking is about family, friendship, sharing and conviviality. As a mother of three, I want my children to grow up with a love and appreciation of how lucky we are to live in a country like Ireland with such great produce and so many wonderful food producers. I continue to write and share my enthusiasm for food on my food and recipe blog The Game Bird Food Chronicles.