Conyngham Arms Hotel
Phone: 041 988 4444
Irish Daily Mail
5 March 2016
I have a very soft spot for the Conyngham Arms. You see, Johann and I had our wedding reception there many years ago when it was run by the Macken family.
It was a gloriously hot and sunny July day and we started with proper minestrone soup followed by prawn and avocado cocktail. Then came baked ham with a madeira sauce and we finished with strawberries and cream. Perfect.
These days the hotel is under the same ownership as Tankardstown House where a remarkable chef, Robbie Krawczyk, son the great West Cork charcutier Frank Krawczyk, cooks what I hear is exceptional food. Indeed, I’m long overdue a visit there.
My descent upon the Conyngham Arms was, if you like, by chance. I had some business to attend to in the village and I arrived early with an appetite. It was the obvious thing to do.
It’s interesting how often I find myself eating, in a sense, on the hoof and, therefore, not very well. There are so many times when all you can get hold of is some fuel just to keep you going. There’s no pleasure in it beyond satisfying the essentials of hunger. It’s just the answer to a bodily imperative.
That’s what made my visit to the Conygham Arms, on a drab day when it felt that the rain would go on forever, so pleasant. It was good food and it was there in the right place and at the same time.
Lunchtime at the Arms is a fairly informal affair and that suited me just fine. The bar area was nearly full with an eclectic range of people: a mother with two teenage daughters; two elderly county ladies discussing dogs, horses and various familiar names (I married into the area) in penetrating voices; a father lunching with his very chatty little boy; some solitary pensioners.
Regular readers will be familiar with (and possibly bored rigid by) my enthusiasm for chicken wings. I like them crisp but my wife, as fine a judge of food as she is a creator of it, prefers succulence. Thanks to her influence, in this as in so many other things, I am mellowing. The chilli and orange marinated wings with which I started were very good indeed; crisp enough but also succulent, delightfully balanced (unlike myself). The marinade which could have just been a redundant bit of menuspeak delivered a slightly sweet, tangy, and rather good sticky saucing.
This came with a little salad anointed with a creamy dressing which had been applied from one of those kitchen squeezy bottles. Despite appearances, the dressing was spot on and the salad impeccable, right down to the freshness of the red onion. And believe me, freshly sliced onion in salads is as rare as a polysyllable in a Healy-Rae speech.
How could anyone in their right mind resist a locally reared and organic turf-smoked bacon chop? Especially when it came with local black pudding, deliciously spicy in an unusually cumin-ish kind of way? Did I give in? Can there be any doubt? True, the chop was a bit overcooked but bacon is hard to judge; the flavour was fantastic and the tart, dark cider gravy made a great foil. There was good mashed spud and perfectly al dente carrots and broccoli too. Where else would you get it? No, seriously.
The desserts may have been quite brilliant but the list read like a catalogue of afterthoughts so they remain an enigma to me. Maybe next time.
However, before I headed up the Collon road, on foot, in the horizontal rain, I decided to fortify myself with a coffee, to wit, a macchiato, i.e. an espresso with a bit of milk froth on top. Bracing but comforting at the same time, if you see what I mean.
Something arrived and I’m still not sure what it was but it wasn’t a macchiato. I had paid the bill at this stage, so didn’t ask. I think it may have been a hot chocolate. Possibly it was a moccha. I will never know.
But I do know that there’s good food in the heart of Slane and that it involves good, largely local, raw materials which are not messed about and disguised by insecurity in the kitchen. It’s also a very friendly and welcoming little place and I was glad to see that the tradition of hospitality that started here hundreds of years ago is being carried on so well.
My bill, including two glasses of wine, a large bottle of water and the strange coffee, came to just over €40.