Pygmalion: Simply loverly
George Bernard Shaw loved Parknasilla and the Pygmalion Restaurant is worthy of the great man's name, says Lucinda O'Sullivan, who can Doolittle but sit back and enjoy everything on the menu
Parknasilla Resort on the Ring of Kerry has long been one of the jewels in the crown of Irish tourism.
Built in the mid-18th Century on a subtropical 500-acre estate, overlooking an inlet of the Kenmare River, with the Gulf Stream nibbling at its toes, it has enjoyed a special place in the hearts of many Irish families and international visitors. Parknasilla became a hotel in the 1850s and, with the advent of the railway, folk would travel to Killarney and be ferried on by horse and carriage to Parknasilla. It has been visited by everyone from George Bernard Shaw to Charles de Gaulle, and Princess Grace. I remember some years ago meeting an English lady who had travelled over for 50 years, religiously staying for 19 days with 19 ballgowns for dinner, after which she sat in the hall, regaling everyone with facinating tales of her ballroom- dancing days.
She was always so gently minded by hotelier and general manager extraordinaire Jim Feeney, and by the staff.
In recent years, while still retaining all its original charms in the great house, modern bedrooms and suites have been added, along with a superb spa. They also now have lodges and villas in the grounds. We were there recently, and dined in their famous Pygmalion Restaurant, with its ornate ceilings and palm trees.
The food is really good, with executive chef Peter Brennan, ex-Mount Juliet and the Conrad Hotel Dublin, in the kitchen. I have always liked Brennan's food with its classy tweaks, and this visit was no different.
Starters (€8.50/€12.50) included grilled fillet of mackerel with foie gras mascarpone, pickled cucumber, potato gateau and a dill vinaigrette. Home-made duck sausage comes with crispy leg, orange gremolata, and white truffle and Jerusalem artichoke veloute, while braised shoulder of lamb is paired with feta cheese panna cotta, sweet beetroot confit, potato mousseline and wild garlic oil. I had sublime pan-fried scallops (€12.50) with a fennel marmalade, cauliflower puree, and a great golden raisin and caper dressing, which added a really sharp/sweet/sour dimension. Brendan had a fine tranche of pressed ham hock terrine (€10) served with caramelised, crisp Granny Smith apple, pineapple puree, clove toast, and honey and mustard sauce, providing an aromatic symmetry of flavours.
Mains (€16.50/€28) included an interesting sounding "Pork Plate" which sported barbecue-flavoured pork cheek, confit pork belly, pork cutlet, pork rillette, Sneem black pudding, caramelised shallots, and an apple, Calvados and horseradish puree. Halibut was served with a potato and onion cake, olive tapenade, tomato petals, asparagus tips and a vanilla pod veloute, while monkfish tail was crumbed, baked and served with Parmesan mash, garlic, and saffron mayonnaise. I had delicious pink, tender Kerry lamb cutlets (€26) paired with soft and succulent braised shoulder, spiced aubergine caviar, minted pea puree and a wild garlic jus. Just superb. Pan-fried fillet of turbot (€27) proved a fine chunk, moist and meaty; it came with stem broccoli, scallops, broad beans and tomato, and a balsamic dressing: great.
A bountiful blackberry sponge (€7.20), tall and elegant, came with a shot glass to the side of aromatic ginger and chilli blancmange, and finally tweaked with a walnut tuile. Brendan had a lovely selection of Irish and Continental cheeses (€9.20) which came with cheese biscuits and an onion marmalade. With a bottle of a big fruity Veronese wine, Zeni, Costalago Ripasso 2008 (€33) our bill, with optional service, came to €139.90.
The Pygmalion man himself, George Bernard Shaw, said of Parknasilla: "I tell you this place does not belong to any world that you and I have ever worked or lived in. It is part of our dream world." So, go and fall in love with Parknasilla.
The Pygmalion Restaurant,
Sneem, County Kerry.
Tel: (064) 667-5600
Sunday Indo Life Magazine