There’s been lots of talk recently about underground restaurants: in various papers, we wrote about them here before, and when Peter was interviewed on Ryan Tubridy’s show on RTE, one of his fellow guests was an amateur chef who has run a restaurant from her own flat. As Peter said in the previous post, they’re a lovely idea but where does one track them down? Turns out, if your friends Riaz and Oisin have a friend who goes out with a chef who runs a secret restaurant in Wicklow, you can go along with them when they book a table. At least that’s what happened to me. Yay!
Last Friday, five of us trekked out to deepest Wicklow to eat in an ‘underground’ restaurant there. It was quite a hefty drive, which really added to the feeling of occasion around the whole event. On arriving we saw that the restaurant was situated in the most beautiful country house you could imagine, with friendly dogs running about and a bowl of punch on the sideboard. The dining room was cosy and lovely, with seating for about thirty or forty people, candles and flowers on the tables and a musician playing gentle classical guitar.
The menu was a set menu with four courses, and nearly all ingredients were locally grown or caught. We got a simple, creamy and delicious Butternut Squash Soup to start. For the second starter we were offered a choice of Cured Irish Sea Mackerel or a Kohlrabi and Lychee Salad. I had the Mackerel, which was flavoursome and lovely, and came in an excellent sauce with plenty of horseradish (mmm). There was some swapping of starters, and the salad was excellent too, with fresh, light and tangy ingredients.
This course was followed by the best lemon sorbet I’ve ever tasted (to clear our palettes of course), and then the mains. The choice was Wicklow Pheasant in a Port, Cream and Wild Mushroom Sauce, or Pasta with a Ginger, Courgette and Red Pepper Sauce. Everyone at our table opted for the Pheasant, and it seemed to be the popular choice across the room. It came with a creamy mash and perfectly cooked Brussels sprouts. The pheasant brought much joy to our table, and when the chefs came around with a big pot offering seconds, we all forced down some more. The one slightly disappointing note of the entire meal was the dessert of Quince and Hazelnut Cake – it was like a slightly underwhelming apple tart. To be fair, I was incredibly full of delicious food at that point, and all traces of appetite had desserted me.
So it was a tremendous feed, all in, and in a really warm and lovely atmosphere as well. After the food was finished, the chef came out to make a shy speech of thanks, and then people started singing (and playing with the puppy). It was at least 3am before we dragged ourselves away. All this wonderful food in the gorgeous atmosphere cost us only €35 each: incredible value. As there is no alcohol license, we brought our own wine, which got us a great saving on the usual price of eating out. If all secret restaurants are like this one…more please.
This secret restaurant is open once a month, and the organisers say that they want it to spread by word of mouth rather than through organised publicity. So I can’t put the location or contact details here, but am willing to accept bribes at the usual address. Shhhh…