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The setting is unusual for Robbie and Shirley Millar's restaurant, which was designed by Sir Terence Conran's company. The first floor is taken up by the bar and reception area, with some tables in use for extra-busy sittings, and a balcony for al fresco eating, the main restaurant is downstairs.
The interior is attractive, in soft mauves and greys upstairs with plush leather and suede furniture, and warm blue and dove grey walls downstairs with deep red leather banquette seating, lightwood chairs and smart table settings.
The windowed kitchen at one end allows you to watch chef-patron Robbie Millar and his team of chefs at work, while Shirley or restaurant manager Julie Bell supervise the front-of-house team with quietly attentive efficiency. Robbie's contemporary cooking brings together the best local ingredients in really creative combinations, often demonstrating Mediterranean influences and some from Asia - and, judging by a recent visit, he is currently in top form.
Both the 2/3-course Supper Menu and the more extensive Seasonal Menu are elegant and well-conceived - and also very good value, although some dishes carry a supplement (mostly £2-3). Robbie's menus are wide-ranging but not over-elaborate, offering a choice of three dishes on each course at Lunch and Supper Menus, six or seven dishes on Seasonal Menus - which include the luxurious ingredients expected at this level: a gratin of local scallops with shallot puree, spinach, gruyere and chives, for example (which is a speciality), or seared foie gras with toasted brioche, carrot purée & Sauternes jus (£3 supplement).
Accomplished fish cooking is a strength, and also local meats - as in a speciality "assiette of spring lamb" with pea purée, green beans, crispy artichokes & red wine, or local venison in season. Delicious desserts might include Dunleath Estate strawberry "soup" with strawberry ice cream & vanilla shortbread and cheese is always a good choice (although it also attracts a £2 supplement).
Shanks is undoubtedly one of the country's finest restaurants - food here is based on the highest quality ingredients and dishes conceived with imagination are skilfully executed; ambience and service are excellent too and, for the quality, Shanks offers outstandingly good value. This is particularly true of the lunch and supper menus, which are virtually supplement-free, offer the same exceptional standard of cooking and are not restricted to a time. Very good wine list too. Children welcome. GC
Text by Georgina Campbell, reproduced with kind permission.
Visit her website on http://www.ireland-guide.com/