Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Castlelough Restaurant

The Castlelough Restaurant is located in the Lake Hotel in Killarney on the western part of Ireland.  It has an impressive dining room, much of which was built as part of the original house in 1820. With has high ceilings, large ornate mirrors and cornice work which reminds one of the great country houses of the past when dinner was the highlight of the day and ballgowns and black tie were the usual attire, the restaurant's most eye catching feature is the vast windows which span the full room, from one end to the other, ensuring that all are reminded of the breathtaking scenery just beyond the hotel.

We stayed at this hotel for a couple nights and had the most gorgeous view of the Lough Lein, Killarney’s lower lake, with a unique backdrop of the mountains, islands, woodlands and the 12th century McCarthy Mór castle ruins. The Lake Hotel is a four star property run by the Huggard Family and has been welcoming guests since 1820.

On our first night, we decided to just dine at the hotel's restaurant.  A 2-course or 3-course prixe fix menu are available.  We started with fresh bread and butter and a palate cleanser of passion fruit gelee with black bread crumbles.

For my starter, I chose the St. Tola Goats Cheese Panna Cotta with beetroot textures, basil oil, pickled walnuts and walnut crumb.  Artfully plated, the goat cheese was very mild - almost like cream cheese - but was classically paired with the beets, and the walnuts added extra crunch.

Keith started with the Poached Stuffed Rabbit Saddle with Anascaul Pudding Mousse, fig puree, Parma ham, and pear chutney.  The dish was gamey, but not off putting.  So far, we were impressed and our expectations for the next course ran high.

Keith stuck with the wild game theme and ordered the Roast Breast of Aylesbury Duck with black cherry puree, shallot petals, pickled baby carrots with confit leg in brick pastry and pinot noir reduction.  The preparation was refined so that the meat was tender. He only wished to have more of the confit leg.

I ordered the Smoked Atlantic Salmon with Mussels, topped with fennel and apple slaw and apple gelee.  The salmon had such great smokey flavor that was not overpowering, rather addictive.  The sweet apple and fennel slaw cut the smokiness and added a brightness to each bite.  The mussels were also fresh and overall, I truly enjoyed this dish.

We ordered a separate dessert to share of Warm Chocolate Brownie with Irish Whiskey Ice Cream.  The cream is from local dairy farms and was very rich.

We returned the next morning for the full Irish Breakfast.  With a cold station of yogurts, fruit, and pastries and a warm station of various egg dishes, sausages, roasted potatoes, grilled mushrooms and tomatoes - this breakfast was one of the best we had in Ireland, and was a great way to fuel ourselves for a full day of sightseeing.  Plus, seeing the morning view of the lake was a bonus.

All in all, the Castlelough Restaurant provides refined dining in an elegant and mystical setting overlooking the lake and castle ruins.  The food was of high quality and not the typical hotel-fare, which was a pleasant surprise.

Total Rating: 4.2
Food: 4, Price: 4.5, Service: 4, Ambience: 5, Accessibility: 4

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