We would like to say a big thank you to Jenny Linford, well respected Freelance food writer, author of 15 books and member of the Guild of Food Writers (www.jennylinford.co.uk) for our entry in a new book she is General Editor of '1001 Restaurants You Must Experience Before You Die'
There is an incomparable warmth to the welcome at the dining room of the first family of Irish food, where sprightly matriarch Myrtle Allen, high goddess of Irish slow food and artisanal producers, still dines regularly.
It is her home, after all, and her great passion for baking is evident in the exceptional Irish soda bread offered at the beginning of the meal with beautiful farmhouse-churned butter. And—joy of joys—there is genuine encouragement to try a little of everything you like from a bountiful dessert trolley.
The feel of dining in a much-cherished family dining room, surrounded by fantastic Irish art and polished wood furniture in keeping with the Georgian surroundings, is increased by there being a set menu.
There is generally a soup (maybe vibrant spinach and rosemary), or an unusual salad, warm with lamb’s kidney and caramelized shallots. Invariably there is fish, landed locally at Ballycotton: poached gray mullet, with definitive Hollandaise sauce and champ (here, potato mashed with peas and parsley); or plaice goujons with superlative, tangy tartare sauce. There may be a roast or game (in season, roast woodcock served with their innards, and sweet geranium jelly).
Always bear in mind both the mesmerizing array of desserts—temptations such as blood orange tart, profiteroles, raspberry jelly with fresh mint cream, and carragreen moss (a local seaweed) pudding—and the carefully selected cheeseboard, with fare from small artisanal producers that is unlikely to be available beyond the local farmer’s market.
On Friday evenings, there is an hors d’oevres buffet specializing in shellfish from Kenmore Bay: lobster, prawns, and mussels, plus homemade pâtés and salads. Foodies and local families come to savor what is tantamount to an Irish gastro-pilgrimage, a truly memorable and thoroughly unstuffy event. SP
“If someone came to my door with fresh fish, I took it. I would never send them away . . .” - Myrtle Allen, founder of Ballymaloe