Tabletalk: Goddess gracious
A trip to Killarney set Lucinda O'Sullivan purring for all sorts of reasons, not least when a restaurant named after a deity served her some heavenly food
Danu was the first Celtic goddess, said to be the mother figure worshipped by the Tuatha De Danann, a race of people in Irish mythology.
Actually, it is a rather nice name, and it was chosen for the newly tweaked restaurant at The Brehon hotel in Killarney, Co Kerry. Operating now for five years, The Brehon is still one of the newer hotels in Killarney, located on the way out to Muckross and the National Park, and right beside the INEC venue, which is under the same ownership.
We were on a two-night break, so we made the most of relaxing in the Angsana Spa, the only one of its kind in Europe. All the Angsana Thai therapists have been trained at the famous Banyan Tree Academy in Phuket. They have all sorts of treatments and therapies which will set you purring.
Enough of that, anyway -- I was there for the food and the drink. The Brehon is a top-rated four-star hotel. I rather like its lack of pretentiousness, but it still has great comfort and luxury. The bar was relaxed and friendly, with a very good bar menu. On the night of our arrival, I had a delicious and substantial oriental beef and glass noodle salad (€8.50) with plenty of flavour, and Brendan had sweet Thai duck wings with a pineapple-and-raisin salsa (€8.50).
The restaurant, Danu at The Brehon, is in a beautiful room, cool and clear, with lots of dark-wood flooring, magnificent wallpaper and lovely lighting features. It exudes a slightly retro colonial-brasserie feel.
The menu is quite large and reasonably priced, with something for everyone, yet it retains some innovative luxury items and tweaks which certainly hit the spot. Starters were €6.50 to €12.50.
Their combinations and food pairings were excellent, including a duo of smoked salmon and gravadlax with caper berries, baby spinach, apple, celeriac and horseradish salad. A unique starter of braised oxtail pie is topped with a Parmesan mash and rocket salad; while a selection of tapas comes with a glass of Duvel beer.
I loved my perfectly executed trio of pan-seared scallops (€12) interspersed with cubes of caramelised pork belly and a ribbon of sweet potato purée piped down each side. Brendan, too, was very happy, with a delicious fresh crabmeat cheesecake (€10) on a savoury lemon-and-lime biscuit base with lamb's lettuce.
A dozen mains (€16 to €28) were interesting. Pork fillet had a walnut-and-fig stuffing with braised savoy cabbage and a cider jus. Pan-seared Silver Hill duck breast was served with pickled red cabbage, poached pear and a black cherry jus; while medallions of Dingle Bay monkfish with spiced tiger prawns were presented on chunky guacamole with a red pepper cream and coriander oil. Rump of Kerry lamb was there, as were fillet and sirloin steaks, and a fresh seafood pie. I chose turbot (€24), as it was on a fennel rosti, and it was beautifully served, topped with baby spinach and a piquillo pepper cream and coriander oil. Brendan's dish of chicken supreme (€18) was delicious too. It was artfully presented, laced with asparagus spears and buffalo mozzarella, and wrapped in Parma ham on a warm potato salad.
I finished, for both of us, with the iced pistachio nut cheesecake (€8). It was most stunningly dressed, topped with pistachio nuts and a sable 'flame' flaring up. It almost looked like a dragon, with a curling tail of chopped strawberries and a flourish of mango coulis. It was capped off with a little orange fruit and "Danu" traced on the plate in chocolate powder.
We washed all of this down with a delicious, light, fruity bottle of Cellier St Jacques, Pinot Noir 2004 (€35.50) from the Alsace, which was perfect with the chicken and turbot. Service was excellent, professional and helpful.
The Brehon is doing a two-night break to include one evening meal from €159pps midweek, and from €189pps at weekends.
Danu at The Brehon,
Muckross Road, Killarney,
Tel: (064) 663-0700