Restaurant review: Harte's of gold
Harte's, Market Square, Kildare Town. (045) 533557
It doesn't seem that long since we were all heading up north to do our shopping. I remember friends driving up to buy the drink for parties, and making the trip myself for our first flat-screen television.
I got to thinking about this when we stopped at Harte's Bar & Grill in Kildare Town for lunch on a Saturday a few weeks ago. Brothers-in-law Paul Lenehan and Ronan Kinsella opened Harte's in 2009, in the premises that had formerly been the Vatican pub on the town's market square, reverting to the name that the bar had been known by in the early 1900s. The pair is also behind The Dew Drop in Kill and Ashton's in Clonskeagh, so it's safe to say that they know a thing or two about the gastropub business.
Just after we were seated, a group of women was shown to the adjacent table. Judging by their accents they were from Northern Ireland, and it soon became clear that they had repaired to Harte's for sustenance after a strenuous morning's shopping at Kildare Village, down the road.
The menu at Harte's is big on provenance, and espouses a desire to support local artisan producers and to source only Irish ingredients, which gets an enthusiastic thumbs up from this quarter. There's also a terrific selection of Irish craft beers, with pairing suggestions for many of the dishes on the menu, and a great gin menu.
A starter of robustly flavoured organic chicken liver pate came with sourdough toast and a fig jam, while a substantial salad of Clonakilty black pudding, bacon and a perfectly poached free-range egg on organic leaves was served with a fine soda bread.
I envisaged 'Goatsbridge smoked trout and fresh crab, sushi rolls, apple and sourdough toast' as different to how it was presented, and would have preferred the trout and crab to be separate rather than combined, to appreciate their distinct flavours. I'm also not a fan of sweet and savoury juxtapositions, and the apple purée element here was just too sweet. I had been expecting the tart sharpness of raw apple which would have worked better in terms of both texture and taste.
That one dish was almost the only blip in an otherwise successful meal though. Fish and chips appeared as haddock in an excellent Carrig beer batter with mushy peas, tartare sauce and good, crisp chips, while Clare Island organic salmon with peas and pancetta, courgettes and heritage carrots was marred only by the whiff of vanilla I detected in the hollandaise, an unnecessary complication. Braised featherblade is something of a Harte's signature dish, and on this occasion it was available in sandwich form - great value at €9. It's a small steak that packs a lot of rich sweet flavour and should be cooked either very fast and served rare, or braised slowly until it is on the verge of falling apart. At Harte's it gets the low and slow treatment, and it's superb.
We fell at the final fence and couldn't muster up an appetite for dessert, but the offering includes such popular favourites as bread and butter pudding, and apple tarte tatin, and there's an option to try a bit of everything on a sharing plate for two priced at €12.
Lunch for three, with one Diet Coke and a bottle of Maximo Limited Edition Tempranillo (€25) - light, bright and a good lunchtime choice - came to €97.50 before service.
On a budget
The early bird deal is €19 for two courses and €23 for three. There's a three course lunch deal for €16.95.
On a blowout
Beetroot-cured organic salmon with wasabi, apple, soy, ginger and honey dressing, followed by fillet steak with mushroom, Crozier Blue bearnaise, onion rings and chips, with a dessert selection and a bottle of O'Dwyer cabernet sauvignon from Australia would cost €154 for two before service.
The high point
The signature braised featherblade.
The low point
Having to listen to the blow by blow account of the neighbouring table's purchases at Kildare Village and witness the display of same.
8/10 value for money
The doors of Il Primo on Dublin's Montague Street closed back in June and calls to the restaurant went unanswered at the time of going to press, so it's unclear whether there are plans for it to reopen. Chef Anita Thoma has left, but she'll be teaching a Winter in Italy course with Paul Flynn at The Tannery cookery school in Dungarvan on October 24th. It's a full day practical course, and students will learn how to cook 'robust traditional and not so traditional Italian food'. The fee is €165, with the option to stay in the Tannery Townhouse at an additional cost. email@example.com.