Clontarf Castle Hotel has recently been given a makeover. The 12th century castle, nestled in a leafy northside suburb of Dublin, has been sensitively refurbished with contemporary, boutique style interiors. They have managed a modern twist on contemporary elegance while managing to retain the classical and historical ambience of this 12th century residence. It is delightful.
We stayed in the castle recently and had the pleasure of dining in the newly renovated Fahrenheit restaurant. Under the leadership of executive chef, Stuart Heeney, Fahrenheit has recently been awarded a second AA Rosette. And well deserved it is, for chef Stuart is surely the culinary king of Clontarf Castle. Sourcing local produce is something we have all come to expect from chefs and you won’t be disappointed when you see this menu. We discovered very quickly however that, with these local ingredients, we were in for a thrilling voyage of flavour combinations throughout our evening…
We settled in to the cosy dining room and perused the menu over a whiskey sour and a gin and tonic. Our waiter was more than happy to help with our wine choices (2009 Chateau Laussac Bordeaux and a 2012 Louis Latour Mâcon Lugny) while we set about choosing dishes from a delightfully varied menu.
Our amuse bouche of a mini scallop with Parmesan foam set the scene for a most flavoursome evening.
To start, Mr Dillon enjoyed a crispy aromatic pork belly, white crab, sweetcorn panna cotta with a soy dressing. The combinations are inspired – the sweetness of the corn a perfect partner for the pork while the salty crab works splendidly with the panna cotta.
I opted for the sherry glazed wood pigeon served with parsnip cream, maple pickled baby onions and baby beets. The pigeon was cooked to perfection and I have to say that I would happily eat that parsnip cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner – this, you must try.
For mains himself had the freshest grilled North Atlantic halibut served with winter veg, chicken wings (not like you know them) and a chicken reduction. If you’re a lover of crispy chicken skin, you will love this take on the traditional ‘chicken wing’.
I chose the tea smoked duck breast which oozed earthy smokiness and was perfectly cooked. Dauphinoise potatoes and a carrot and anise cream were accompanied by a blackberry jus, and again, the flavours worked together to create another delightful dish.
We couldn’t resist sides of local rainbow carrots with honey and truffle butter and perfectly cooked Brussels sprouts with crispy bacon and chestnuts.
Pre-dessert included honey and figs and then we were on to the sweetest of sweet treats. Imagine this –, dark chocolate mousse, caramelized banana and a pecan tuile. This dish tastes every bit as good as it looks on the plate.
I chose a spiced ginger pudding served with a poached pear and salted caramel ice cream. Once again the flavours complimented each other perfectly. The menu also includes an excellent variety of artisan Irish cheeses served with pear chutney and water biscuits.
Over coffee we reflected on what made this menu so delightful. Yes it has great locally sourced ingredients. Yes it is beautifully presented. But what makes this menu really stand out is the flavour and texture combinations. Hot and cold, sweet and salty, smooth and crispy – this menu has it all. Each dish is interesting, each dish bringing you on a little flavour adventure. Indeed, chef Stuart takes you on a voyage of flavour combinations that is not to be missed. If you haven’t eaten in Fahrenheit or stayed in Clontarf Castle I recommend you do both. As well as enjoying dishes from the culinary king of the castle, you’ll get to enjoy the wonderful hospitality of all the staff. From the minute you walk through the door of this establishment you will be enveloped in warmth and thoughtfulness.
I can’t wait to return.
*We ate from the A La Carte menu.
Early Bird Menu runs Sunday-Friday until 7pm and is €23.95 for two courses and €27.95 for three courses.
Set menu is €33 for two courses including tea/coffee or €39 for three courses including tea/coffee.
T: (01) 853 4363
Author of “Food from an Irish Garden”, Fiona Dillon lives with her husband and four children at Hunters Lodge in Co Carlow. Her recently published “Freddy Buttons” series of food adventure books for children (Orpen Press 2015) were written so that Fiona could share the food provenance message amongst young children. Her Freddy Buttons food-themed garden at Bloom 2015 won Fiona a silver medal.
One of Ireland’s best known food bloggers, Fiona documents her back to basics lifestyle through her blog www.fionadillon.com. She is also a feature writer for the Irish Farmers Journal’s Irish Country magazine. As Food Correspondent for KCLR96FM’s The Saturday Show, Fiona shares the latest food news from around the country with her Carlow/Kilkenny listeners. When she’s not busy giving talks on topics such as sustainable living or blogging, Fiona can be found tending to her honeybees or writing the next epic adventure for Freddy Buttons.