You know when you’re really looking forward to something, everything you’ve seen and read backs up the fact you think you’re going to have a fantastic evening and then the actual experience is so odd that you end up being confused and underwhelmed? Well thats how our evening at House went.
House is the Michelin Starred Restaurant within the Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore Ireland. The setting was lovely, with a table in from of the windows watching the sun go down in a cosy, but busy and bustling dining room. The staff couldn’t have been better and the atmosphere was relaxed.
We started off really well. The menus sounded fantastic, with interesting combinations and unusual ingredients. Bread arrived which was some of the best I’ve had recently, the sticky honey bread and seaweed brioche the standouts alongside whipped salted butter.
Then the canapés were served – a delicious Onion Soubise and Beetroot Macaron with Goats Cheese. If we’d have stopped there I would have declared the night a resounding success. But we didn’t. The other snacks were something made entirely of broccoli in different forms. Clever, but it was cold and grainy, and then a fake pebble which was infact a potato topped with a pea purée. It was a bit bland and I didn’t really get it.
We were opting for the 3 course menu at 75 euro pp, but a taster menu was also an option.
For my starter I chose Scallop: Seared, Ceviche, Corn, Sea Spinach, Black Garlic, Red Pepperberries, Dutch Salad, Irish Caviar.
This came on two separate plates. The flavours in the seared scallop plate were delicious and the ceviche on the separate plate light and delicate. But here’s where it’s odd, both plates would have worked as individual starters really well, but there were so many elements and flavours that it all got a bit lost and confusing for me.
The same was to be said of Lee’s starter. On paper, it sounds exciting and delicious. Pigeon: Breat, Leg , Foie Gras, Garden Beetroot, Girolles, Nasturtium, Blueberries, Black Rice, Pigeon Jus. Again it arrived in two parts with elaborate plates (one was a porcelain tree trunk) with so much going on that I felt I was Alice in Wonderland and had disappeared down the rabbit hole. Lee liked the flavours, particularly of the pigeon which was perfectly cooked and the foie gras, but again it could have easily been two starters rather than one and just left him bit overwhelmed!
For his main course Lee chose the Veal: Striploin, Stuffed and Oven Roated, Gnocchi, Green Asparagus, Sweetbreads, Thyme, Veal Jus. In this dish he very much enjoyed the gnocchi and the sweetbread but found the meat tough. There was a bit less going on which was good, and it was a decent main, but not memorable.
I decided on the Lamb: Rack & Striploin, Persillade, Pattison, Confit Garlic, Golden Carrot, Broadbeans, Goats Milk, Lamb Jus. Inkeeping with Lee’s main this was a gigantic plate of food. On the plus sides my rack was beautiful, but the striploin was stuffed with something that I really didn’t like and also bled all over the plate so can’t have been well rested. The little carrot was an intricate work of art but the pattison (which seemed like a tiny hollowed out squash) that was stuffed with saffron potatoes and olive petals I don’t think was needed and seemed out of place.
So far, the food had interesting flavours and some excellent bits of cooking (there was no doubt the chef knew what he was doing) but was in our opinions over complicated and trying too hard.
A crossover morsel was served next – Carrot Sorbet with Green Tea Foam. Loved the carrot – absolutely beautiful, disliked the foam, which was more like a sauce.
Moving on to the puddings. And what came next seemed like we had been transported back to the new nouvelle cuisine of the 80’s.
Peach: Poached and Roasted, Semi Dried, Sorbet, Meringue, Creme Caramel, Red Wine Pistachio. The meringue was chewy, peach remained quite hard and required some effort to cut it up with my spoon and the creme caramel was split.
Lee’s dessert was White Chocolate: Sphere, Raspberry Sorbet, Raw, Dried, Garden Basil, Blackwater Gin and Tonic Gel. The white chocolate didn’t snap well and seemed not well tempered and Lee found all the elements a bit too sharp, although he like the gin and tonic gel.
It pains me to write words that to some may seem harsh, but it’s important I’m 100% honest as always, and although we didn’t come away from this meal upset that we didn’t enjoy it, we felt more confused that they were trying too hard and going over the top which masked and detracted from some really good bits of cooking.
We adored the hotel as a whole, but would be careful about dining there again, especially at those prices.
Disclosure: Paid in Full