The surroundings are superb, but our critic found the food expensive and some dishes underwhelming on her visit to The Duck at Marlfield House
The sun wasn’t exactly splitting the treetops a few Saturdays ago as we drove through the gates of Marlfield House in Gorey, Co Wexford. I was on my way from the sunny south-east with my friend Rena, and a spot of light lunch at Marlfield’s more casual option, The Duck Terrace Restaurant, seemed a good idea.
Founded by Mary Bowe some 40 or so years ago, the plush Marlfield House, set on gorgeous gardens and grounds, has long been a popular spot for weekends, weddings and occasions. I remember staying there way back when they had a Siamese cat roaming around and, of course, being a lifelong Siamese cat aficionado, I’ve always loved the fact that it’s pet friendly. On this visit, in fact, I met two very proud people arriving for lunch carrying Binky, a perky Jack Russell, who’d recently celebrated his 18th birthday with a party — cake and all!
The Duck is set in the stylishly converted outbuildings of Marlfield, but, with a small, dark table being the only one available for two on our visit, we chose to stay outside on the terrace, dodging showers under a big umbrella.
We felt a bit forlorn, though the wonderful rose gardens facing us offered some compensation. However, when the kitchen door was suddenly opened beside us, we were privy to a little too much of the kitchen activity — “Two duck salads, chef”; “Take that down to the table on the second right; no, no, no, not that one, the other one”.
Meanwhile, a member of the management got herself a bowl of soup and sat down nearby, on her phone. I never think chowing down in view of the guests looks very professional — even more so in an high-end establishment.
“It’s not cheap, though I suppose you’re paying for the surroundings,” said Rena, which should be expected — after all, the surroundings are impressive. What we hadn’t expected was that the casual-dining option would be a bulked-up set lunch menu, minimum-spend formula, with two courses at €32 — plus hefty supplements of €12 for a rib-eye steak and €9 for rump of lamb, with sides extra at €5. Perhaps if it had been Sunday lunch... but we would have preferred a couple of small plates each of lighter, summer-style food and seafood, as I’m seeing widely, so we struggled a bit with our choices.
Eschewing mackerel pâté; prawns pil pil; pulled pork; and mezze dips, Rena kicked off with crostini with a base smattering of Irish buffalo mozzarella, topped liberally with charred courgette, confit tomato, smoked almonds, dressed leaves and basil pesto, which she quite enjoyed.
I had shredded confit five spice duck salad, which was enlivened visually by the vibrant redness of pomegranate seeds, radish wafers and watermelon. It looked well, but the actual duck at The Duck, by way of bits of shredded drumstick, felt a tad skinny and dry and needed a lot more spicing, particularly as the overall dressing was very bland.
Mains included roast pork; a 10oz beef burger with Wexford vintage Cheddar and fries; spiced lamb koftas with beetroot, hummus and naan bread; while fishy dishes on offer were fish & chips or warm salad of roast Kilmore cod. Warm flatbreads with toppings also featured— gluten-free versions were available.
Rena’s bowl of panzerotti pasta parcels filled with creamy balsamic mushrooms, garlic, spinach, and Parmesan was tasty, while my seared rump of Slaney Valley lamb was sliced and completely enveloped in ratatouille and Kalamata olives, topped with herb salsa, and had a trio of potatoes on the side. If you want the lamb pink, it’s best to say so. I assumed, as it said ‘seared’, that it would be quickly cooked and pink on the inside, with ratatouille on the side. This was not the case. That being said, it was good.
Desserts, €9 extra, included a rhubarb Eton mess; chocolate brownie or apple and cinnamon crumble. We shared a modest slice of salted caramel and raspberry bakewell tart, with raspberry sorbet. With no alcohol, just a large bottle of Acqua Panna (€5) and service, our bill came to €95.50.
The Duck Restaurant,
Marlfield House Hotel,
Courtown Road, Gorey,
Tel: (053) 942-1124