The Wild Munch: Samphire Restaurant, Garryvoe Hotel, Ballycotton Bay, Castlemartyr, East Cork
The game menu at the Garryvoe Hotel in East Cork leaves Lucinda O'Sullivan wildly enthusiastic and she is equally impressed by the contemporary style of Gilbert's in the shadow of Cobh's cathedral
We were in East Cork on a two-night break at the Garryvoe Hotel, which overlooks Ballycotton Bay -- stunning at any hour of the day or night.
A "Wild Night Out" was our mission. Well, it was a bit of a wild night all right -- but the real focus was a superb game menu by chef Kevin O'Sullivan, from Skibbereen in West Cork. Dinner kicked off with whole roast wood pigeon sitting on braised peas with Gubbeen bacon. This was paired with Beaumes De Venise Terrissimo Gigondas La Cave 2009. Next up was an intense, hearty, confit rabbit and shredded cabbage soup. Main courses offered a choice of superb, pink, tender pan-fried loin of venison, on a parsnip puree, with chestnuts and wild mushrooms, which Brendan loved, and the best ever, moist roast pheasant, served with curly kale, chestnuts and wild mushrooms, for me. These dishes were washed down enthusiastically with a Chateauneuf du Pape Roc-Epine Domaine Lafond 2006. Apple tarte Tatin with vanilla ice-cream finished off a great dinner, and it was followed by mature Cashel Blue cheese and Taylor Fladgate port. What a night!
Somewhat subdued on the second evening, we headed for Gilbert's Restaurant & Townhouse in Cobh. Now, Cobh is a really beautiful little town, with its neo-Gothic Pugin cathedral, and poignant nautical history. What it has lacked, until now, has been a decent restaurant. Gilbert's is a thoroughly contemporary restaurant set in a fine three-storey building in Pearse Square, in the shadow of the cathedral. A bucket of money has clearly been lavished on this historic building which, in the Fifties, the days of the big liners, was home to the Greek Line.
There is a cafe-bar area to the front, sporting a picture of Roy Keane, while two rooms to the rear feature cream, wood-panelled walls, and white-painted stone, with subtle Franco-Asian colourings and artefacts, and lovely parquet flooring throughout. The early bird, available from 5.30pm to 7pm, Wednesday to Saturday, at €20/€24 for 2/3 courses, was perfect for the occasion. Brendan had carpaccio of beetroot, fine rondelles and cubes centred on a plate topped with nut-crusted goat's cheese fritters: simple but nice. Smoked salmon, for me, was served on a slate with dots of avocado creme fraiche and a crispy apple salsa -- light and fresh.
Early bird mains included shoulder of lamb with boulangere potatoes; roasted butternut squash and sage risotto; and pan-fried sea bass. Brendan chose a chargrilled 8oz steak -- a decent chunky specimen and great value for an early bird menu. It came with a parsnip and carrot puree, thyme croquettes and mushroom gravy. Fries were an extra €3.50. I had a fine big pasta bowl of linguine with prawns and mussels, chilli, garlic and fresh herbs. Puddings were well worth forking out the extra €4 for the three-course menu, as each was prettily presented in three elements.
White chocolate mousse comprised a large teardrop -- chocolate on the outside with mousse in the centre -- a little dish of pink sorbet, and a shot glass of jelly topped with cream, tweaked with a sugar spiral. Vanilla creme brulee with pistachio biscotti had the same two elements.
The prices are good, and with a bottle of Marlborough Ta Moko Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (€26) and two coffees (€2.50 each) our bill with optional service came to €92.50.
Gilbert's has four beautiful bedrooms upstairs, and a lovely suite. By the way, the Garryvoe Hotel has a "Bollywood comes to Garryvoe" night on March 26, featuring food by their in-house Indian chefs, Togi and Abdul. Dinner with matching wines is €49.50 or €119 with a room and breakfast.
Castlemartyr, East Cork.
Tel: (021) 464-6718
Gilbert's Restaurant & Townhouse,
11 Pearse Square,
Cobh, County Cork.
Tel: (021) 481-1300
Sunday Indo Life Magazine