. Restaurants .

Posted: Saturday, September 11, 2010 at 8:12 PM
Location: Mount Juliet, Lady Helen Restaurant, Mount Juliet, Kilkenny
Dining companions: My man

I can’t believe how long this has taken me to write up, nearly two months.  I am a disgrace!  Anyway, I am sitting here now with a glass of lovely white wine trying to lubricate my memories and cast my mind back to the loveliness of this wonderful place, which was actually an anniversary gift from my man. 
Before I get anywhere near the restaurant and the food, I just have to comment on Mount Juliet itself.  In my mind it was a real haven of tranquillity.  It’s well known as a golfing hotel, but with the Club house separate from the main house, the place served just as perfectly as a romantic getaway.

I’ll have to look up the heritage of the place, but it has the feel of a stately home.  We didn’t actually visit the Club house so all of my impressions are based on the main house alone.  We approached the house on foot as we accidentally parked the car at the Club house.  As the house gradually came into view, little butterflies started fluttering in my chest.  The house is obviously very well maintained, and it has a regal feel to it.  We approached from the back which I have to say is  nothing compared to the aspect from the front, but enough to get me excited none the less.

 

Inside, high ceilings, huge pieces of furniture and large paintings set the scene.  Despite the grandness it does still manage to retain a warmth that makes you want to explore further.  Much of that warmth I believe is generated by the staff, who couldn’t have been more friendly and helpful.  I immediately adored them all when some of the first words we heard were ‘you’ve been upgraded to a suite’.  Woo hoo!  Just what you dream of for a special occasion.

The suite was breath-taking.  What really bowled me over was lying on my four poster bed gazing out of the three large windows at the river, the fields, horses galloping around and trees as far as the eye could see.  I’ll be honest, on closer inspection parts of the rooms did feel a little shabby, but I just went with it and let it add to the charm of the place.

Unfortunately, as my fabulous man is just ever so slightly disorganised and only booked the hotel a few days before, the only dinner reservation we could get was 6.45pm.  As bit early, but as I had plans for the bar afterwards, no biggy.

So …. on to the main event.  We took our table at around 6.50pm - boldly arriving five minutes late.  We were lucky to be given one of the best tables in the house, next to a large window with more picturesque views of the rivers, fields etc.  If we hadn’t have been given the best table there might have been trouble though as we were the only people in the dining room for the next 50 minutes!  One thing is for sure – the service during this peaceful time was impeccable. Not even I could find fault, we were served by at least five different staff and I was starting to feel a bit like royalty.

I diligently made notes of what we ate during the meal but, damn it, I forgot to make notes on the rest of the menu and at this stage I can’t remember a thing.  Another one of those pesky lessons.

I do remember that there was a wine book, as you would expect in a restaurant of this standard, and that it had a wide range of wines by country, and a broad price range to suit all as well which I feel is very important.  I delighted in a crisp glass of bubblicious champagne which, I believe, was a match made in heaven with my starter.  I had crab ravioli with cauliflower puree and vermouth foam.  The texture of the pasta was perfect, with a slight bite to it.  I did feel the filling was a little heavy, but overall presentation and experience was spot on.
I’ve just realised, I’m getting carried away.  I did forget that we were served an amuse bouche first – a small sliver of roasted rabbit with a peppercorn crust and potato salad.  It was tasty, but maybe not as zingy as I would expect, and it didn’t quite get my mouth watering with anticipation.

We were also served breads – I had a blue cheese and something roll.  It was served warm and the butter melted in as I spread it.  Yum.

Okey doke, back to the starters.  My man had a tuna tartare with guacamole.  The tuna was perfect, BUT, shock horror, we both agreed that he makes a better guacamole at home.

A champagne sorbet was presented next, a great pallet cleanser, but really it was just too large and creamy to do the job.  I didn’t bother finishing it.

For the mains we both got stuck into some hearty red meat.  Roast lamb with a potato fondant and fried shoulder of lamb wrapped in bacon with chanterelles was served with a meaty, red wine jus.  The fried lamb was the best bit on the plate, bursting with flavour although it did get just a bit too salty.  Me, I had a venison wellington (medium rare), pickled red cabbage and a shiraz jus.  Now, I am a rare girl generally, but for some reason under the pressure of that empty dining room I went medium rare.  It was still a beautiful piece of meat, but not quite as tender as I had hoped.  It might have been my misconception, or maybe I just should just have stuck to rare.  The shiraz jus was rich, dark and heavy and brought the different elements of the dish together marvellously, elevated it to the next level.

Dessert for me was the piece de resistance, and that is unusual.  A mixed berry soufflĂ© with warm chocolate sauce just blew me away.  Every single mouthful was a pleasure – the soufflĂ© light and fluffy, the berries not overly sweet and the gooey chocolate sauce to combine it all together.

My man plumped for a duo of chocolate and strawberry mousse, with a rather random (potentially unnecessary) Guinness jelly which I thought was hideous.  The main thing to mention with this dish is the presentation – it had a proper wow factor.  Paper thin sheets of chocolate wrapped around the mousse to create a cube-like effect.

 

We really enjoyed our meal overall, as the dining room filled it had a nice, slightly formal, atmosphere, with the staff remaining very attentive.  My plans for the bar after dinner didn’t happen, we’d both eaten so much, we had to go for a lie down and sadly we didn’t resurface.  We were however, two very happy romantic campers!

Total bill: €200: 3 courses, 1 glass of champagne, 1 x bottle red, 2 x dessert wine, 1 x liqueur coffee, 1 x espresso.