Grub Spy: Thatch of the day

Grub Spy Alan Kelly dishes the goods on Ireland’s tastiest dining destinations
The pretty exterior

The pretty exterior

The crispy fried oysters

The crispy fried oysters

Fish pie

Fish pie

Being around for a long time certainly helps when it comes to getting things right.

For instance, when you consider how long Guinness has been making stout, and how long the Bushmills Distillery has been making whiskey, words such as ‘iconic’ and ‘celebrated’ can be bandied about with ease. They didn’t get those reputations by being lucky, they earned them by being around long enough and making their products often enough to iron-out all the bad bits.

Of course being around for ages doesn’t necessarily guarantee eminence or charm, think Trump and Piers Morgan, and you’ll know what I mean.

1826 ADARE Church View, Blackabbey, Adare, Co Limerick Three Stars Food:€109.25; Drinks: €51.50

Old buildings can also be characterised as ‘iconic’ and ‘celebrated’. If you need proof, just check out the 1826 restaurant in Adare. Built in 1826 (hence the name) this pretty-as-a-picture thatched cottage is what picturesque is all about. I’ve seen photos and paintings of the cottage from days of yore, and aside from a few modish changes, like trees and shrubs, not much has changed.

When it comes a restaurant being successful, quite a few things are involved. History can play a part, but ultimately it’s what comes out of a kitchen that butters the parsnips.

And so what about the food. I would describe it as fine Irish, pleasantly influenced by a mix of French brasserie and trendy Mediterranean, much like the stylish dining room. Ditto with my starter, three delectable crispy fried oysters with mildly spiced dressing served on a seaside-y platter. At €13.95, could perhaps have done with three more. But there you go. The reverse is true with the beer battered monkfish scampi and roasted garlic & chive aïoli. Big on flavour and big on quantity. Our main courses too are nods to the Med with quality Irish ingredients. We are a little let down with the fish pie. Flavour-wise, with chunks of salmon, mussels and cod (I think) the dish is right on the button.

For our taste, however, the sauce is a little too ‘soupy’ and we definitely would have preferred some proper old-fashioned mash instead of the almost wafer-light cheesy crumb. Finally, adding a poached egg, we feel, brought nothing of note to the party. I order the halibut with cauliflower purée and raisin/caper butter. The raisin and caper butter is a magnificent topping for any fish, the cauliflower purée is a whipped blob of deliciousness, and the sides of chunky fries with roasted carrots and parsnips are done to perfection.

Regrettably, although cooked properly and as seriously fresh as could possibly be, the halibut is served cold – and I do mean cold.

My sticky toffee puddling is not totally right either. The pudding itself, though cleverly presented, is (to my taste) dry and bland, and except for that gorgeous splash of salted caramel sauce mixed with crushed nuts, it might have failed completely.

A crème brûlée, wonderfully light and luscious, does not in the least require the zing of a clementine sorbet.

We have an especially nice evening at the 1826, and depart, light of wallet, with a promise to return again, and we surely will.

Our overall verdict has to be a less-than-historic mixture of hit-and-miss and elegant toothsomeness.

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