It’s an area of Tipperary where I reckon nothing out of the ordinary ever happened: nothing that is, until a certain Mr. Kenneth O’Neill opened a restaurant there. It’s a smart unassuming dining room with lots of banquette seating, semi-exposed roof beams and polished hardwood floors.
Thomastown, Golden, Cashel, Co Tipperary
Food €83; Wine €22
There is also a busy open kitchen that delivers exquisite, highly devourable food inspired by top quality Irish produce. Although clearly influenced by classic bistro-style cooking, this is an Irish restaurant serving Irish food created by a crafty Irish chef who loves what he does. There’s nothing revolutionary happening here, nothing pretentious or incomprehensible. What you get is a delicious meal, in countryman-sized portions, that will knock your socks off.
The starters hint at the glories soon to follow. The pulled-chicken tortellini in gossamer thin pasta, served with a side of crispy chicken skin, sits in a lush pool of chicken consommé. It is as good as you’ll get anywhere in Italy. Ditto with the pan-fried scallops with nuggets of melt-in-the-mouth pork belly and baked shallots. Slivers of Granny Smith add an unexpected tasty bonus. The end result is an utterly scrumptious interplay of flavours. For mains we try the ‘special’ slow-baked featherblade of beef. It arrives with a rich glistening beefy jus, a side of steamed long stem broccoli, a blob of silky-smooth celeriac purée, creamed cabbage, pan-fried wild mushrooms and a superb wedge of potato gratin. The beef is juicy, fall-apart gorgeous, and mingled with those wonderful indulgent accessories, it is an uncompromisingly delicious serving of beef. For a restaurant so far from the sea, a large fillet of hake is soft-fleshed and surprisingly super fresh. A mild Mediterranean hit is added with a serving of robust ratatouille, for texture there’s a scattering of baby potatoes, and for added seafood-y flavour there is some crunchy prawn tempura. Finished with fresh dill and Pak Choi on the side, we are completely hooked. Both dishes are flawlessly cooked, arrive piping-hot, and are (as mentioned earlier) countryman-sized portions.
Desserts are also thumpingly good and like everything else, focus on quality ingredients and first-rate technique. There is a luscious crème brûlée with a proper crunchy caramel glaze, served with a pecan nut biscotti and a scoop of vanilla cream. Being a tiramisu fanatic, an interesting Pistachio version sounded just right. Regrettably, while constructed exceptionally well, and tasting right on the tiramisu button, throwing on a few whole pistachios adds nothing much.
I would describe the cooking here as supremely skilful, that would succeed anywhere in the country. It is rare indeed to come across such an excellent culinary outpost – and no disrespect intended, it is even rarer to find such a class act in the wild of Tipperary. Lucky indeed are the locals around Thomastown and Cashel, Golden and Tipp town. From the professional super-friendly well-informed staff to the finely-tuned kitchen, this is a bistro where everything is as it should be.