Grub Spy: Swede dreams

With interesting dishes, the finest quality ingredients and a warm atmosphere, this stylish Scandi eatery in Kerry gets it just right, writes Grub Spy Alan Kelly

Lagom’s elegant interior

Owners Brendan and Liz Byrne

The Iceberger

Sunday World

I really love Kerry, Ireland’s Shangri-La for foreign tourists, especially wealthy Americans and Germans. And who can blame them? Once seen, never forgotten. For rugged scenery, pastoral beauty and communion with nature on a grand scale, few places can match it.

GOM 36 Henry St, Kenmare, Co Kerry Five star Food: €92; Drinks: €26

My own first encounter, as a craic-hungry teenager on a camping weekend in Ballybunion, hooked me forever. Mind you, it had little to do with experiencing picture-perfect bucolic splendour — it was a trip entirely centred around packed bars and merriment with bells on. Since then, any chance I get to wax lyrical about the temptations of the county, I grab it. And Lagom Restaurant & Townhouse in Kenmare is a temptation easily surrendered to.

As soon as we enter the Scandi- influenced dining room filled with clean lines, functional beauty and natural light, we are mightily impressed and know we are in safe hands. Equally impressive, throughout our entire stay, is the genuine warmth and friendliness of the staff. In fact, in my opinion, it is what Irish hospitality is all about.

Owners Brendan and Liz Byrne

From an interesting menu, we go for the crispy smoked ham-hock and cabbage croquette, on mildly pickled kohlrabi, a splash of house hot sauce (and I do mean hot) and some parsley pesto. There’s also a gorgeous leafy salad with chunks of Sneem black pudding and a baked cheese crisp, all neatly tossed in a smoked tomato dressing. Simple dishes using the finest quality ingredients are assembled with style and precision that will please the fussiest of eaters.

The Boss loves her vegetarian main course of roasted garlic and pesto gnocchi with smoked cauliflower steak, king oyster mushrooms and dabs of buttermilk curd. And while the well-cooked nicely arranged herby gnocchi are delicious, they might look even more appealing if shaped like traditional gnocchi. Still, it’s a clever take on a classic Italian dish.

The Iceberger

It would take a cranky old so-and-so not to love Lagom’s pan-fried Dover sole with smoked mussels, garlic-caper butter, leek fondue (which works amazingly well with the fish) and a grilled lemon wedge on the side. Supremely fresh, cooked to perfection and prettily arranged; it’s one of those dishes that will always work.

Unexpectedly it’s the desserts that are the stars of the evening. I could not resist the Iceberger. With its syrupy dressing and super-creamy filling, not only does it taste amazing, it really does look like an Iceberger. I seriously doubt I’ll be lucky enough to bag a better dessert anywhere else in the country. The Boss likes the look of the cheese board so much on the next table, she gives it a go. A soft blue, a nutty cheddar and a semi-soft Durrus, with wafer-thin sourdough and a tart relish. Both dishes are simple and blissful.

According to the web, Lagom is a Swedish word that means “just the right amount.” Lagom in Kerry is exactly that with a pleasant bit of Irish thrown in. It’s one of those restaurants that helps you forget life’s annoying little problems — for an evening at least. The rooms too in the Townhouse are especially relaxing, and the breakfast also hits all the right notes. In short, close to perfect.

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