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Over the last decade Neven Maguire's cooking has put this little border town firmly on the culinary map. Now that the small family restaurant has been refurbished, with elegant high-backed chairs, immaculate linen and restrained creamy white crockery, it makes a more appropriate setting for some of the best cooking in Ireland.
Neven, who is a popular TV chef, shows no sign of being distracted from the restaurant and his cooking is better than ever: exact, perfectly judged food, that makes the most of meticulously sourced ingredients from the local and artisan producers he so strongly advocates, is an experience to treasure. Menus, which are admirably simply worded, include an 8-course "surprise" tasting menu and a vegetarian menu, as well as a Sunday lunch which draws admirers from all over the country.
Your meal begins with an absolutely gorgeous assortment of warm yeast breads and dipping oil, then a luscious little pre-starter soup before you launch into starters such as an exquisitely presented ravioli of West Coast lobster with creamed Savoy cabbage & lobster vinaigrette caramelised pork belly with foie gras, celeriac remoulade and apple sorbet: an accomplished dish, marrying a Cinderella cut of meat with the richness of foie gras - the lightly spiced apple sorbet is a stroke of genius; then perhaps a refreshing salad of Eden plants (supplied by the Eden Organic Centre at Rossinver), before a melt-in-the-mouth main course of confit leg of Thornhill duckling served with sauteed breast, creamy Savoy cabbage & ginger jus, perhaps, or a lightly caramelised dish of halibut with asparagus, lobster tortellini and a fashionably frothy smoked haddock veloute - perhaps a little elaborate dish, but perfectly cooked and well flavoured.
Desserts have always been a particular passion for Neven and it's a must to leave a little room for one of his skilfully crafted confections - the grand finale is just that in this case, and a tasting plate allows for a little taste of everything. This is outstanding cooking, served with charm and generosity of spirit - and it is exceptionally good value too, especially for Sunday lunch which combines elements of the traditional meal with more typical choices from other menus. GC
Text by Georgina Campbell, reproduced with kind permission.
Visit her website on http://www.ireland-guide.com/