About three years ago, my husband booked a table at Blairs Cove Restaurant as a surprise for my birthday. As far as meals go, I chalk it down as one of my favourites ever. As far as memories go, I’ve been wanting to go back and experience it all over again.
I’m not quite sure what has stopped us, but every now and again we’d utter that sentence “we really must go there again”, agree with each other and then never do anything about it! A few weeks ago, a dear friend of mine was visiting us for a few days from Bristol. Having not been over since our wedding, 6 years previous, I was keen as mustard to show her the best of the best available in West Cork and really show the place off to her so she could understand why it is that I am more than happy to head back west after a visit to the old town! Spotting a post on Facebook from Blairs Cove saying they had the last few tables available on the last night of the year that they would be open before closing for the season, I took it as a sign and quickly phoned and booked a table. To say I was excited was an understatement!
Arriving in the dark was the only shame about this visit, having visited before on a bright sunny June day, I was unable to show but was well able to wax lyrically about the view that really is there, overlooking the bay where there are mussel ropes growing beautiful and internationally renowned West Cork mussels in the pure clean waters of Dunmanus Bay. The entrance to the restaurant itself is so unassuming, you would overshoot it if you didn’t know it was there! Into the small front bar where a roaring fire greeted us along with the knowledgable and friendly staff. My husband had agreed to drive for the night, so celebrating as we were to a great visit from a great friend, we went with a seasonal aperitif of a Rhubabrd Kir Royale – a refereshingly zingy taste matched with a finely bubbled Prosecco which marked an impressive start to the evening ahead!
Photo courtesy of Blairs Cover website
As we supped, the menu was perused. I am a lover of game meats, and so I’ll openly admit my heart did a little leap when I spotted venison on the main course list. Our server confirmed, when asked, that it was indeed wild venison. Served up with a parsnip puree, ceps and a red wine jus I was sold and I couldn’t wait!
Blairs Cove is a special place. Most definitely a destination restaurant (it takes a little bit of effort to get there), there is ritual about the dining experience here, but there is no pretence. For example, starters are served from a central table in the heart of the restaurant. There is every possible concievable morsel laid out before you. Each table gets their own time at the starters table. Chef personally introduces you to every single item on the table, including the sauces. He will even help you slice some salmon or whatever you want. You get one visit and one plate and you can put as much on it as you like (decorum is a good look here of course) and then you go back to your table and indulge. This is purely for the comfort of the dinner guests. Not jostling for position with people you don’t know; no fighting over the last oyster with a random stranger; this is the classiest buffet you will ever have! The star on my starter plate without a doubt was the smoked eggs. The yolk scooped out and mixed into a light fluffy mousse and placed back into the egg half; the combination of this flavour with the smoked egg was a knockout for me. A first for me, and sometimes I feel I have been dreaming about smoked eggs ever since!
Photo courtesy of Blairs Cove website
For wine, we had chosen a Sancerre – a crisp white wine with lovely gooseberry fruits and a soft finish with very little acidity. A perfectly good drinkable wine to go with dinner. A robust dark cherry red would have been fantastic with my venison, but the Sancerre held it own against the woodland flavours on my plate.
When the mains did come out, it was all I could do not to start dribbling in public. Instantly, the smell of the venison hitting my nose as the plate came in front of me was heavenly. Cooked perfectly – I asked for medium rare, it was beautifully caramelised on the outisde and red, not bleeding, on the inside. And the taste…well, that’s the difference between wild and farmed (although I’d happily eat either), the flavour in the meat was devine; the cooking of it 100% en pointe and it melted in the mouth. With hits of sweet parsnip puree, the intense flavour of the ceps and the deep base notes of the jus, this was my heaven on a plate. If I had died that moment, I would have been insanely happy to go, just as soon as I had finished every last mouthful!
Desert: well, I can tell you, there wasn’t much room for deserts. I say deserts because, much like the starter table, you head up to the deserts table whenever you feel ready and help yourself to whatever you want! Yes, you heard me right! And not just one or two things to choose from. Oh no, I think I counted about twenty different deserts. Twenty. I had room for about three and a half, and that was pushing it. Oh the injustice of it all! I squeezed in a tiny china cup of decadent chocolate mousse; some red wine poached pears with whipped mascarpone and a piece of cake which itself was about 90% cream. Did I want any ice cream? No, when I last checked I don’t remember my health insurance covering me for medical complications associated with excessive gluttony. I’ll pass thanks, maybe next time. But an espresso so I don’t fall unconscious asleep on the way home would be fantastic.
Photo courtesy of my husband: me on the left, my gorgeous friend on the right!
And so the meal, which had been acoompanied throughout by a pianist tinkering away on the grand piano in the restaurant whilst the giant hanging chandlier glinted in the candlelight, came to a close. We didn’t want to leave. We wished we had bigger bellies and bigger appetites. No fear that we didn’t managed to have a munch on everything though, it just means we’ll definitely have to come back again….and again…and again….
Note: Blairs Cove is now closed for the winter and will reopen in March 2015 as is their usual custom. Accommodation in the house or in one of the apartments/houses in the grounds is beautiful and highly recommended. To find out more, go to their website: www.blairscove.ie
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