26 Jun, 2009
Review: The Tea House Restaurant, Laragh, Co. Wicklow
Some of my friends won’t eat out with me anymore. I spend a lot of the meal poking them and asking if their food is good.
The problem with reviewing restaurants, of course, is that you spend a lot of time looking for faults when, as an ordinary punter, you’d often completely overlook them. I’ve always tried to approach each review with this in mind: human beings are running this restaurant, and human beings are fallible and make mistakes, so don’t get hung up on something relatively petty.
But for The Tea House Restaurant in Laragh, Co. Wicklow, I’m throwing this rule out the window. This is because, over the past month, I’ve been going there as much as I possibly can – and I think it might just be absolutely perfect. So I set myself a challenge of trying to find something, anything, a tiny chink in its flawless armour. No luck so far.
I can’t believe I’m moving to Dublin next week, just as this little gem opens on my doorstep! We first stumbled on The Teahouse Restaurant about a month ago when we were popping down to the local shop for milk. Its hypnotic charm was irresistible; despite having just had lunch and with dinner in the pot, as well as very limited amounts of money, we had to eat there.
Setting and Service
The restaurant is in a conservatory, and the views of the forest and mountains makes it the perfect setting. Inside, the decor is incredibly beautiful. Fresh flowers everywhere, drool-worthy cake displays, lovely tables, and spotlessly clean. When we first saw it, we almost turned on our heels and left, as it had the look of a very expensive place. The owner, Lisa, greeted us with the type of old-fashioned, natural hospitality I had assumed no longer existed. It’s very much attached to her home, and the kitchen door is always open.
After our first fantastic meal there, we swore we’d be back. So we were. Last weekend, we walked over the mountain from our house and arrived there after two hours in the gorgeous sunshine. The menu had shrunk somewhat since our first visit, and Lisa told us it will now be changing everyday. Oh no, we thought: we can’t afford to go here everyday.
Or can we? The food here is incredibly good value. The ingredients and quality are second to none, and despite only recently opening, it was jammers. I’m not sure how they can afford to sell such high-quality food at such a low price: it certainly puts The Farmgate in Cork’s English Market, with their lovely yet overpriced salads, to shame.
We both had soups: Potato and Onion and Tomato and Basil, served with fresh, home-made bread cooked in Lisa’s kitchen earlier that day. Both were really, really good: familiar flavours with their own unique identity. Our mains – an old style Pork Stroganoff and a Leek and Cashel Blue Tart – were flawless. The big plate of stroganoff (€10.50) used top-quality pork and came with a generous serving of rice and vegetables. The outstanding tart came on a light and perfect pastry and, again, the quality of the ingredients shone through. It came with a very generous and well balanced salad. And it cost… only €5.50.
We had two desserts this time. First, a lemon tart, freshly made by The Tea Room’s pastry chef that morning. The lemon filling (€5.50) was gooey, custardy, and just-so, while the organic vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce was gobbled up despite full bellies.
The Best Value in Ireland?
Laragh, about a mile away from Glendalough, is my local village and a very popular destination. It would be relatively easy for The Tea House to serve any old slop and rely on passing suckers. But they don’t.
Our bill, for two starters, two mains, two desserts, and two coffees, came to €42.50, and we shelled out another €25 for a very good bottle of white. Total bill was €67.50. Let me repeat that for the restaurants that are still ripping off their customers: €67.50 for four courses and great wine.
Euro for euro, this is possibly the best restaurant I’ve ever eaten in, anywhere. Opening hours still seem a wee bit erratic: it’s currently open Thursday-Sunday but not yet in the evenings. I’d recommend calling to check: 040445302.
Don’t be surprised, but do be delighted, if you see little imitations popping up around Ireland. Screw the round towers and the lakes: this alone is well worth the trip to Glendalough.