The legendary French gastronome, Brillat-Savarin, described a top gastronomic experience thus: "Good food, cooked simply and eaten in surroundings in which everyone can feel at home." That's a statement which applies very well to Whitehorses Restaurant in the little Co Waterford seaside village of Ardmore.
Whitehorses is the family-run enterprise of three sisters, Christine Power and Geraldine and Angela Flavin, who have the place running like a dream.
Set in a former grocery shop on the main street, the sisters have created a very warm and vibrant ambience.
The old grocery counter is put to good use as the heart of the place, displaying a massive array of luscious, Cordon Bleu-style desserts, which catch the eye the minute you cross the doorstep. After dinner, all the boys congregate around this with their eyes popping out, as they say: "I'll have a little of this -- and a little of that!"
I have had dinner in Whitehorses on three or four occasions. It is always packed with regulars, and the food has always been ace. We visited recently with friends Michael and Margaret Browne -- aka Derek Mooney's domestic goddess-- and it was as good as ever.
Starters run from €5.50 to €13.50. Mags had three big fluffy rondelles of Clonakilty black pudding (€11.50), each topped with a slice of grilled apple, set around frisee lettuce and drizzled with a grainy mustard cream. Mike had a bowl of superb chunky seafood chowder (€9.50), which was totally rewarding and wholesome, while Brendan had a tossed salad with blue cheese and crispy bacon (€11.50), which he loved.
Coquilles Saint-Jacques (€13.50), for me, were rich, succulent scallops in a creamy cheese sauce, served in the shell, piped with mashed potato and baked under a hot grill. This was a perfectly executed classic dish, and absolutely sublime.
Mains run from €25 to €35, apart from lobster, priced at €50 when it's available.
Mike had crispy roast half-duckling (€26) -- what I call old-fashioned duck -- which had gorgeous, crispy, aromatic skin on the outside, complemented by rich, perfectly cooked, soft succulent meat on the inside. Bathed in a caramelised orange and kumquat sauce, it was topped with cherry slices, sprigs of rosemary and fresh coriander. This dish was so good, I took a picture of it and I am salivating as I write!
Mags had superb Dublin Bay prawns (€35) tossed in roast garlic butter, topped with a crunchy, toasted dill crumb, while Brendan had a glorious, golden-hued honey-roast fillet of chicken (€25), wrapped in prosciutto, then sliced diagonally and served in a rich, sun-coloured saffron and lemongrass sauce.
I had a superb grilled black sole on the bone (€32), perfectly cooked, with a beurre noisette, and topped with marinated, seared lemon slices, a sprig of rosemary and some flowering chives.
Main courses were accompanied by a delicious bowl of perfectly stir-fried peppers, broccoli, carrots, mangetout, chanterelle and shitake mushrooms, along with a whopping, scrumptious bowl of creamy gratin potatoes to drool for.
As to the aforementioned desserts (€6.50) -- Charlotte russe, Mississippi mud pie, chocolate roulade -- if you have a sweet tooth, you will be in heaven. We shared a selection plate, which was just the perfect round-off to a wonderful meal.
Brillat-Savarin may have long since gone to gourmet heaven, but the Whitehorses sisters are living proof that his observations are timeless. Our bill, including two bottles of St Hallett Faith Shiraz 2004 (€28) and optional service, came to
€244 for four.
Do check the opening hours before going, as the restaurant does not open every day at this time of the year.
Tel: (024) 94040