Thursday, 28 April 2016

Review: Ladurée Dublin, South William Street, Dublin 2

Stepping through the doors of Ladurée Dublin is like being suddenly transported to the most elegant of Parisian salons where every little stylish touch has been considered for your comfort and enjoyment. Passing by the colourful and tempting displays of macarons, I was shown to my table in the chic and beautifully decorated tea/dining room.

I had been invited along to try out some of the brunch/lunch dishes and on reading the menu which contained a nicely selected classic French fare was really looking forward to it.

Ladurée Dublin
As a devoted tea-lover, I was impressed by the interesting range of teas which included  a good number of classic teas (Darjeeling, Earl Grey, Lapsang Souchong etc.) and an enticing selection of tea blends. I tried two; the Marie Antoinette which was aromatic with a fresh finish and also the Chéri, which I would appeal to anyone who is a fan of chocolate as it had a lovely cocoa nose on it. Both of these were black teas but green tea and herbal options are also available.

I then tried some of the French Toast. Two options are offered - one served with maple syrup, jam or chantilly cream and another, the Le Pain Perdu Rose Framboise Ladurée (€9.50) which I had. I have eaten French toast in numerous establishments around the city and this was amongst the best. I loved the presentation of the dish which used generous slices of a well-flavoured and buttery disc-shaped brioche. I also enjoyed the pomp and ceremony as my waiter drizzled the toast with the intensely flavoured raspberry coulis. Little touches like this make the  diner feel special and was in keeping with the chic surroundings.

Croque Monsieur
The French toast was incredibly light and without a hint of stodginess. Too often the custard used to make it is over-sweetened but this was perfectly judged. The raspberry coulis had a nice tartness to it which refreshed the palate. Fresh raspberries and light chantilly cream, subtly flavoured with rosewater were perfect accompaniments.

Next up, I sampled both Les Croque Monsieur Ladurée offered on the menu; one with ham (€16) and one without (€15). The presentation of this dish was an unexpected but welcome surprise. I am more used to this classic  French dish being made with two slices of bread sandwiched together. Here they were creatively presented in a ‘swiss roll’ fashion which was very appealing and looked stunning.

Croque Monsieur
All the ingredients used were top-notch; a slightly salty ham, creamy emmental with an assertive flavour and a decent béchamel and all were combined together to make a delicious tasting dish. I particularly liked the accompanying salad which had been simply dressed with an outstanding olive oil/lemon vinaigrette. This would make a filling and very satisfying lunch, but this is not to suggest that I found the dish heavy as the outstanding Croques Monsieurs were surprising light.

To finish I was treated to one of the simplest and most delicious things that I have eaten in a long time. The Omelette a la Truffe Noir - Black Truffle Omelette (€16) was the perfect example of how the most delicious things are often the most simple. I really liked the fact that I was asked how I would like my Omelette cooked (I opted for still slightly runny on the inside) and when it arrived it had been cooked to perfection.

Truffle Omelette
The first thing that hit me was the heady aroma of truffles but when I bit into it I was astounded by how such simple ingredients could pack such a big flavour punch. I particularly liked the subtle background notes of olive and gherkin which had been delicately included in the filling and which served to  emphasize the flavour of the truffle.

This omelette, a simply dressed salad and a glass of wine (from the small but nice selection on offer) would make the perfect lunch. At €16 the Omelette isn't cheap but for a simple and elegant lunch you couldn't find anything to surpass it.

There are great plans for the future with more cakes and patisserie being introduced shortly along with an Ice-Cream Bar, but in the short-term I was hugely impressed by my lunch in Ladurée Dublin and would highly recommend it.
Ladurée Dublin
1-3 South William Street
Dublin 2
Telephone: 016798828
This article first appeared in

Ladurée Salon

Monday, 25 April 2016

Review: Shortcross Gin Club Event at Galgorm Resort & Spa, Antrim

Much can be achieved in a relatively short time if you have passion, belief and a determination to succeed. These are all qualities possessed by husband and wife team David and Fiona Boyd-Armstrong of Rademon Estate Distillery in Northern Ireland which produces Shortcross Gin.

I was delighted to be invited along to the Shortcross Gin Club Event which was held in the stunning surroundings of Galgorm Resort & Spa at the beginning of the month and to learn more about the award-winning distillery and its unique gin from the Boyd-Armstrongs themselves. Hosted in the River Room & Conservatory at Galgorm, we happily sipped on Shortcross French 75 cocktails while we nibbled delicious Canapés and listened to David explain to us how Shortcross came into existence.

Shortcross Botanicals
The distillery was set up by the duo in 2012 with Fiona as Managing Director and David as Head-Distiller. Giving up good jobs - as a quantity surveyor and an engineer respectively - was not something that they did on a whim but rather because they both fundamentally believed that re-kindling the distilling tradition that goes back centuries in Ireland and also re-defining what an Irish gin should be was something that they could achieve together.

From the outset they instinctively knew that they wanted their gin to reflect the flavours and aromas of the woodlands and landscape of Rademon Estate. David explained how he and Fiona carried out extensive research before embarking on their venture. Together they foraged wild clover, elderflowers and berries from the locale and used them with homegrown apples to create uplifting floral notes, smooth sweet flavours and fresh aromas. These native botanicals were then combined with juniper, coriander seeds, citrus peels and cassia to a wheat spirit base in order to produce their gin. Cut with pure fresh water drawn from the Estate’s historic well, Shortcross Gin is bottled at 46% ABV in small batches of 200-300 bottles at a time.

Wild Duck Ham
Our first formal gin tasting of the evening was a Deconstructed Shortcross Gin & Tonic which David talked us through highlighting the gin’s key features. With a subtle sweetness that I particularly liked, Shortcross is long on the palate with a smooth finish. Coriander and cassia give it a nice bouquet and spice whilst the overall feeling is lively and clean-tasting. With this we ate a dish of Wild Duck Ham, Salt-Baked Beetroot, Blood Orange which worked remarkably well with the drink. I found that the freshness of the Gin & Tonic cut through the richness of the meat whilst the blood orange mimicked the drink’s citrus notes.

Deconstructed Shortcross G&T
David then described how, after months of research and visiting other craft distilleries, the pair took the plunge and commissioned a 450 litre copper pot still which was custom-made - combining the best of old and new technologies - to their specification by German still makers Carl. The still also comprises two enrichment columns which each house seven individual bubble plates that enables them to set various levels of reflux during the distillation process to create a smooth and aromatic spirit. We were fascinated to learn that distillation isn’t a process without its dangers and how, because of the presence of alcohol vapours, there is always a small risk of explosions! This, we were reassured, was a situation that was closely monitored.

Cask-Aged Shortcross Gin Negroni
The distillery’s small batch philosophy, where everything including bottling and labelling is crafted and perfected by hand, means that producing each bottle is quite labour-intensive. However, David and Fiona have embraced the long hours and effort required with an enthusiasm that has seen Shortcross Gin win many awards including a Silver Medal at the prestigious San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2015.

Keen to build on these successes the pair recently introduced a limited edition Cask-Aged Shortcross Gin which we then sampled. In order to produce it, the gin was rested in French Oak Casks from the Chateau de la Ligne in Bordeaux which had previously contained the Chateau Cuvée Prestige wine. The cask-aged gin was recently exclusively launched through Fortnum & Mason in London where it was the Spirit of the Month for February.

Wild Sea Trout
I loved the Negroni which was made with the gin, vermouth, Campari and garnished with a twist of orange peel. With assertive juniper on the nose and a velvety smooth finish the cask-aged gin gives this classic cocktail a contemporary twist. To accompany the Negroni we feasted on Ceviche of Wild Sea Trout, Fermented Cucumber and Radish - another fabulous dish from the kitchens at Galgorm.

Moving on we were shown how versatile Shortcross Gin can be. The G&T with Frozen Grapefruit and Basil Garnish was very different to the earlier gin and tonic we had tried. Here, the frozen fruit intensified and really highlighted the delightful floral qualities of the gin. I loved it. It was served with Lamb, Sweet Carrot & Wild Pea Shoots which I found also brought out and complemented the underlying sweetness of the gin.

Lamb, Carrot, Pea Shoots
We were then treated to a ‘Sensory Experience’ which involved serving hot and cold versions of a Shortcross Punch. This really demonstrated the profound effect that temperature can have on our sense of taste. Although both drinks were the same, but one was served hot and the other cold, I could have sworn that they were completely different. With this we enjoyed a dessert of Buttermilk Panna Cotta, Grapefruit & Pink Peppercorn which was full zingy flavours that further tantalised the tastebuds.

There are many exciting developments on the horizon for Fiona and David and all at Rademon Estate with plans to launch a new Irish Malt Whiskey onto the market in 2018. The whiskey will be matured in a variety of casks which Fiona and David hope will allow new and innovative flavours and aromas to be created.

Shortcross Gin Cocktails
We finished a most enjoyable evening with another cocktail each. I had the Lemon & Caraway Gin Fizz – a fabulous blend made with Shortcross, caraway infused syrup, fresh lemon and was topped with soda for some fizz whilst my companions had an Cask-Aged Classic Martini and a  Cask-Aged Shortcross Sour. These we savoured as we chatted and listened to the live entertainment by Galgorm’s resident swing singer Danny Conlon.

Rademon Estate Distillery
County Down
Northern Ireland

For further information on stockists see:
This article first appeared in
Buttermilk Panna Cotta

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Restaurant Review: Camden Kitchen, Grantham Street, Dublin 8

Styled as a ‘neighbourhood bistro’ Camden Kitchen is exactly that; - a restaurant frequented by locals living in the nearby residential areas of Dublin 8 but within easy reach of the city centre which serves to attract a wider clientele. With its laid-back, welcoming atmosphere, Camden Kitchen is the perfect place to pop into for a glass of wine and something to eat on your way home from work but it is also somewhere to visit if you fancy some top-notch nosh in unpretentious surroundings.
The ground-floor dining room is small but cosy and provided perfect refuge from the storm that was raging outside on the cold and very wet Tuesday night on which I recently visited. The restaurant normally spans two floors, both of which are used on busy nights, but we suspected that the severe weather conditions had deterred potential diners so only the downstairs dining room was in use. Despite this, most of the tables were occupied and once we stripped off our rain-drenched jackets we sat down at our table near the open kitchen and immediately ordered a couple of restorative Kir Royale cocktails made with Prosecco (€8.00 each).
We devoured slices of a crusty batch-style white bread which were served with endearing petal-shaped pats of butter as we decided on what to order. An Early Evening menu and a Dinner menu are offered and we quickly elected to make our selections from the latter. Fresh seasonal produce is to the fore on the brief but considered menu and we were looking forward to tasting the food.

Pork Neck Ballotine
Both starters were beautifully presented on vibrantly coloured plates which set off the food to great effect. My Natural Smoked Haddock Croquettes, Chorizo & Tartare Sauce (€11.00) kicked off the meal with a bang and was delicious. The croquettes were excellent and generously packed full of large flakes of smoked haddock. The accompanying ribbons of lightly pickled cucumber and a piquant celeriac remoulade cut through the richness of the croquettes preventing this sizeable starter from feeling heavy. Little nubbins of chorizo added an extra layer of spicy heat. These croquettes were little fishy golf balls of delight and I loved them.
Wild Pheasant
Similarly, Eithne’s Pork Neck Ballotine, Black Pudding Croquette, Green Apple Purée, Pickles & Toast (€9.50) was a perfectly balanced dish where the flavours worked well together. Discs of a well-made pork terrine were presented along with a refreshing apple purée and spear-shaped ‘leaves’ of pickled red onion. We both loved the black pudding croquette and felt that it added an extra porky dimension and further texture to the dish.
It had been a while since I last ate pheasant so I  was thrilled to see Wild Pheasant, Potato Gnocchi, Spiced Butternut, Wild Mushrooms, & York Cabbage (€24.00) on the menu and promptly ordered it. Wild pheasant is very lean and requires sensitive cooking to prevent it drying out. As such it can be a hit-or-miss choice but here the breast meat was perfectly cooked and succulent to eat. The leg meat was slightly chewier but none-the-less flavourful and I enjoyed it. Surprisingly delicate potato gnocchi, sautéed mushrooms, slightly peppery York cabbage and a velvety smooth butternut squash purée completed this accomplished dish.
Potato Gnocchi, Mushroom, Egg
Eithne’s choice of Handmade Potato Gnocchi, Greens, Wild Mushroom & Free Range Egg (€16.50) was like a meat-free version of my main course but with the substitution of a flawlessly cooked poached egg for the pheasant. Some purple-sprouting broccoli was also included along with the cabbage and a generous amount of the wild mushrooms. Keen to try a broad range of dishes from the menu, Eithne was slightly disappointed with her choice which inadvertently resulted in her selecting a dish that was so similar to mine but this was not to take away from the wonderful cooking on display.
Green Beans, Sauté Potatoes and Potato Purée are offered as side dishes and we both agreed to share a portion of the most fabulous Green Beans (€3.50). I love eating simple food  with punchy flavours and these beans with their wholegrain mustard dressing were heavenly and ideal with both mains.
Mustard Green Beans
My dessert of Apple & Cinnamon Crumble with Vanilla Ice-Cream (€7.00) was sweet, hot and full of fruity apple flavours. I particularly liked the oaty crumble which contrasted nicely against the soft, sticky apples and the cool intensely flavoured vanilla ice-cream. This was comfort food of the highest order and a suitable dessert choice on a cold and miserable night.
Panna cottas are ubiquitous and found on many menus but excellent panna cottas are elusive and rarely chanced upon. Eithne’s Vanilla Panna Cotta with Passion Fruit Sorbet (€7.00) was  outstanding and I’m embarrassed to admit that I tucked in enthusiastically only relinquishing my spoon on noticing my dining companion’s thunderous expression!
Apple Crumble
To finish we shared some Milleens Cheese, Crackers, Quince Paste & Grape Chutney (€10.00)
Milleens is a washed-rind whole milk cheese from the Beara Peninsula in West Cork with real depth of flavour and body. It has an underlying sweetness on the palate and is said to reflect the tastes of the pastures on which the cows who supply the milk to make it graze. We both felt that the sweet/sour elements of the grape chutney accentuated the cheese’s natural floral qualities and we happily nibbled away and sipped on our dessert wines - a glass of a 2008 Quady Elysium Black Muscat for me and an 2010 Essencia Orange Muscat for Eithne (€8.00 each). Sweet and viscous, both wines were delicious and an indulgent way to end our meal.
Panna Cotta
Service throughout our meal reflected the ambiance of the restaurant and was relaxed but friendly and efficient.Too often food is designed to impress but the food in Camden Kitchen is food you want to savour and enjoy and I thoroughly enjoyed my meal. Since first opening in 2010, at the height of the recession under Chef/Proprietor Padraic Hayden, Camden Kitchen has steadily built up a loyal customer base and it is not difficult to see why. This is competitively priced casual dining but with a fine-dining edge where the main aim is to showcase and maximise the potential of all the ingredients that are used. Hayden’s food is confident, his cooking purposeful and full of coherent flavours. I will be back.
Camden Kitchen
3 Camden Market
Grantham Street
Dublin 8
Opening Hours:
Tuesday:  5.30pm – 10pm
Wednesday to Friday: Lunch: 12pm – 2.30pm; Dinner: 5.30pm -10pm
Saturday: 5.30pm – 10pm
Telephone: 014760125
This review first appeared in

Friday, 22 April 2016

Review: Afternoon Tea in Lough Erne Resort, Belleek Road, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh

Once you drive through the entrance gates of Lough Erne Resort, you know that you have arrived somewhere really special. Opened in 2007, the luxury 5-star resort played host to a G8 Summit of world leaders in 2013, seen as one of the most successful events of its kind, and in 2017 the Irish Open will be played on the Resort’s Championship Golf Course.

Lough Erne
The Resort is located just outside Enniskillen in County Fermanagh overlooking Castle Hume Lough, one of two connected lakes that makes up Lough Erne which is one of the largest lake-systems in Northern Ireland. I have been keen to visit for quite a while, so decided to make a slight detour on my recent trip to Derry and to stop by for a spot of afternoon tea. What better way could there be to while away a couple of hours on a beautifully sunny and unseasonably warm spring day?

For me, a truly great afternoon tea starts and ends with the tea itself. In Lough Erne, teas are supplied by master tea-makers Ronnefeldt, so I knew I was in for a treat. There is something so magical about a really good cup of tea and I was spoilt for choice here. We often forget that tea is the world’s most popular drink; that it is a beverage that spans the boundaries of history, nation, culture and class. We Irish are one of the highest per capita consumers of tea in the world and it is a drink that that we regularly rely on in times of celebration and also in times of stress because let’s be honest everything feels better with a good cup of hot tea!

Cosy Peatfire Tea
From my seat on a large, comfortable couch in the Garden Hall, I had a perfect view of the lake and the surrounding landscape and I sat back and relaxed while I looked through the afternoon tea menu and decided on what to order. A range of afternoon teas is available including Traditional Afternoon Tea (£19.50 per person) which is offered throughout the week and a Chocolate Afternoon Tea (£23 per person) which is available at the weekends. Vegetarian and Coeliac options are also available on request and children can indulge in some specially tailored treats from the Cygnet’s Afternoon Tea (£12 per child aged 3-11) menu. There is definitely something to suit all tastes.

Cake Stand
I quickly decided on the Champagne Afternoon Tea (£25 per person) which  includes a glass of Billecart-Salmon - the resort’s preferred Champagne - which quickly arrived along with a little platter of strawberries.

From the large selection of speciality teas on offer which includes old favourites like Irish Breakfast and Irish Afternoon Gold Blend but also includes the rather evocatively entitled Irish Whiskey Cream, Royal Gunpowder and Morgentau, I chose the Cosy Peatfire Mulled Wine Spice tea. This arrived with its own special timer which indicated when the tea was ready for optimum enjoyment. This lively fruit infusion with its gentle spicing and a hint of smoke on the palate managed to be both refreshing and comforting to drink. I was delighted with my choice.

Cucumber and Coronation Chicken Sandwiches
The tiered cake-stand containing three plates laden with goodies then arrived. This is my favourite moment during any afternoon tea and I was mesmerised by the selection of assorted finger sandwiches, scones and pastries that were presented.

The sandwiches were made with a range of different breads and generously filled with a variety of fillings including an excellent Coronation Chicken. This with its gentle fruity spiciness and tender chunks of chicken was delicious to eat whilst an equally well made Cucumber & Cream Cheese sandwich was refreshing and full of crisp cucumber and creamy cheese.

Egg & Onion Brioche Roll
I also loved the Open Smoked Salmon Sandwich served on a rather good brown soda bread using superior smoked salmon. This was simply presented to showcase the quality of the ingredients used and I savoured every mouthful.  However, my favourite sandwich of the day was a flavoursome Egg & Onion offering served in a well made sweet and buttery brioche roll which was incredibly satisfying to eat.

Pausing to drink more of the wonderful tea, I then moved on to the next tier of the cake-stand which held an array of delicate looking Pastries and Sweet Fancies. Unable to restrain myself I immediately popped the White Chocolate Dipped Strawberry into my mouth and let out a contented sigh as the fruity juices were released into my mouth. Feeling like a child let loose in a sweetshop, I then made light work of the bite-sized Homemade Custard Cream and Chocolate Profiterole which were also fantastic.

Sweet Treats
A luscious Fruit Tart was next up containing a crème pâtissière filling topped with soft fruit. This was daintily presented and packed full of flavour. A Raspberry & Almond Fancy was another fruity offering but here glazed raspberries sat atop a moist but incredibly light base of almond cake. A flawlessly made Lemon Macaron filled with a suitably tart lemon curd completed this part of my leisurely afternoon tea.

The afternoon tea finished with a Homemade Currant Scone which I split and filled with butter, Raspberry Jam AND whipped cream! The scone was served warm and had a light and airy texture. This was the perfect way to end a notable afternoon tea in a stunning location.

Service was warm and welcoming throughout my visit to Lough Erne Resort. Special mention must go to Anna my wonderful waitress, whose knowledge of the teas on offer was second-to-none. Lough Erne’s Traditional Afternoon Tea has all the important ingredients from finger sandwiches, light scones with a selection of jams and preserves to delicate bite-sized cakes and pastries and everything is carried out extremely well. This was an afternoon tea to linger over and I enjoyed every single moment and was sorry to leave.
Lough Erne Resort
Beleek Road
BT93 7ED
Northern Ireland

Telephone: 0044 28 8663 2320

This article first appeared in
Currant Scone, Raspberry Jam, Butter & Cream