In an area exceptionally well-endowed with good eating places, Jim McCarthy's informal purpose-built restaurant in Dingle is one of the natural leaders.
It's attractively built in local stone to a low-key design that matches the proportions of the town well and there's a smart little bar just inside the door - where Jim McCarthy, the perfect host, always seems to be meeting, seating and seamlessly ensuring that everyone is well looked after and generally having a good time.
Jim has a good kitchen team to match his warm professionalism: while based mainly on local ingredients, notably seafood, well-judged menus are international in tone - a superb speciality starter of Annascaul black pudding, for example, is wrapped in filo pastry and served with pear chutney and mace gravy, while pan-roasted pork fillet - supplied by Ashe's butchers in Annascaul - is served with a sweet potato & Cashel Blue polenta cake and sage & cider sauce; high quality ingredients and accurate, confident cooking give these traditional foods a new character and a large selection - perhaps half a dozen or more - of simple, perfectly cooked side vegetables are the ideal complement.
Seafood is well represented, of course (oven roasted fillet of cod, perhaps, with fennel risotto, lemon chilli butter cream) and vegetarian dishes - possibly two or more on each course - offer mainstream contemporary cooking of the same high standard, and have wide appeal.
Desserts include classics like a basket of home-made ice creams or intriguing variations on familiar themes such as a ‘3-in-1' treat of lemongrass poached pears (perfectly cooked. luscious ...sliced at a dashing angle but kept whole), served with a raisin & nut brownie, butterscotch sauce & a pear sorbet: superb! But those with a savoury tooth will still feel that the smart money is on the Irish cheeses (Ardrahan, Gubbeen, Cashel Blue, all in perfect condition), which are cannily offered with a glass of vintage port and served with delicious home-made oat biscuits and two varieties of grapes.
Terrific hospitality, top class ingredients and gimmick-free creative cooking - great restaurant. GC
Text by Georgina Campbell, reproduced with kind permission.
Visit her website on http://www.ireland-guide.com/