We had a bit of a delay leaving Dublin this morning. We couldn’t get all of the luggage into the hire car!! Now, normally, we are the most economical of travellers in regard to bags – we only took two 22inch suitcases when we travelled the world for 4 months – but given the freedom of business class allowances, and the shopping possibilities, we have gone a little crazy and added 2 pieces of “carry on” to our load. Not really excessive, but obviously too much for a little Ford Focus – unless you want to be stupid and leave stuff on the back seat when off visiting tourist sights, and we don’t want to be looking for trouble (that and the fact that anything pinched that is in view is not covered by travel insurance – if it’s in the boot and it’s stolen, it’s covered). So we spent nearly an hour trying to consolidate the luggage and managed to get everything we had into the big bags and left one piece of carry on behind at the hotel. Not happy with the delay, though!
So we got off to a late start and had to cull a couple of things off the planned list for the day. Instead we headed straight for the National Irish Stud – very informative and we got to see lots of mares and their foals. Unfortunately, we didn’t actually see Vintage Crop who has retired to this stud (and is a ripe old age of 26 – not bad for a racehorse).
The luxury these top stallions are kept in, is astounding! One of them (who is a tad claustrophobic) has music playing in his stall constantly to help his stress! They have their own paddocks (separated by double fencing so they can’t kill each other!), and all the grooming, food, massage and nookie that they could want! One of them (can’t honestly remember his name) has a €60,000 covering fee (talk about high class call boy!) and is worth €60million. The money in horse racing is insane!
After a light lunch in the café at the stud and a stroll through the Japanese gardens, we set off for our first “out of Dublin” accommodation – Kilgraney House. This house graces the cover of “Ireland’s Blue Book” (Irish country houses, historic hotels and restaurants), and is owned and run by two wonderful hosts – Bryan and Martin. They impressed us immeasurably by cooking a 7 course dinner for their 15 guests (with choices in both the main and dessert), with only 1 extra person helping out. To top this off, running the B&B is actually their second job – they are both university lecturers, AND had to go to work Monday after we all left on Sunday morning! Very impressive, indeed!
Our dinner consisted of: blue crab, kaffir lime leaf custard; goats cheese with minted beetroot, mixed leaf salad; butternut squash soup with nutmeg and crème fraiche; lemon geranium sorbet; forest mushrooms with mushroom & spinach risotto (the BEST risotto we’ve EVER had); sumach crème brulee; dark chocolate & whiskey mousse cake with Bailey’s ice cream; trio of farmhouse cheese with quince jelly and oatmeal biscuits. This was all presented in an intimate and graceful dining room, with all guests at their own small couples tables rather than one large communal table. Even though we had shared a very nice pre-dinner aperitif in the drawing room, it was a good choice to give us our privacy and romance with the pairings again – and with the attentive service of Martin that evening, it was just like the fine dining in any Michelin starred restaurant!
We slept like royalty in the, oh so comfy bed in our courtyard suite and slept for a full 9 hours (lovely change to the maximum of 6 we had been managing since arrival in Ireland!). The only dampener on proceedings was the fact that the bathroom was not heated – they really should’ve gone for the underfloor heating – don’t know how guests cope in winter!! Breakfast was on par with dinner in terms of sophistication, style and deliciousness, but we managed to tone things down a tad by not eating everything on offer! John began with the array of cereals, nuts and fruits, and Nic got into the homemade breads with the house preserves – black currant was a huge winner. This was followed by orange and raisin pancakes served with crème fraiche. We weren’t going to indulge in the sweet side of the menu, but when Bryan’s face looked crushed when we said ‘no,’ we succumbed and ordered a half serve (ONE baby pancake each!). Then we shared a baked egg with spinach and a timbale of scrambled egg and smoked salmon. The eggs were so iridescently yellow that Bryan commented that they can’t use them to make ice-cream because it looks as if it were radio active! But they were the best damned scrambled eggs we’ve ever had – consistency, creaminess, fluffiness and colour – all top marks!!
Yes, the focus of this blog is ridiculously slanted in the gastronomic direction, but we can’t help it – we love food! And we are fortunate enough to be eating at some very special places with dishes created by some very talented chefs!
But let’s leave the food, albeit briefly! Our check out of Kilgraney House was delayed because we were playing with Bryan and Martin’s new puppies – shar pei and bull terrier cross. They were energetically friendly, licky and nibbly and would run and leap into our arms in their enthusiasm and affection. Gorgeous! Only born at Christmas time, so still plenty of growing to do. We disengaged ourselves from the tongues and baby teeth of the pups, gave our hosts one final hug goodbye, and set off for the historical and geographical highlights of the region. Go to Kilgraney House