The Bar at the
Cliff House Hotel

Middle Road
Co Waterford
Phone: 024 87800

The Irish Daily Mail
1 September 2018

Ardmore is a rather lovely spot, so pretty and so scenic that you can almost ignore the carbuncle that is the local caravan park.

It also has one of Ireland’s few restaurants with a Michelin star, something for which our native establishments have to strive much harder than in other places, from Basingstoke to Berlin. I don’t give a fig about Michelin, generally speaking, but the fact that Martijn Kajuiter has one star in Ardmore would suggest that, were he elsewhere, he would probably have two.

I know him, thanks to having produced the Cliff House Hotel Cookbook with him years ago.

On the day we dropped in, the bar terrace was liberally dotted with south Dubliners and the occasional grazing American. There were more pints of Guinness in evidence than is usual in places charging these kind of prices. Well behaved children came and went and the staff looked after everyone with calm efficiency.

The bar menu (not to be confused with the Michelin-starred House Restaurant menu), laid out on one big card, employs twee language that was big in the mid-1990s: “From the Garden”, “From the Land”, “From the Sea” and the like, instead of letting people figure out for themselves that tomatoes are more than likely from some kind of garden and that Guinea Fowl and Foie Gras Terrine are unlikely to have emerged from the waves. I half expected a pudding called “death by chocolate”.

However, how did it eat? Well, Skeaghanore duck rillettes were excellent, delightfully textured, sensitively seasoned, served with little cornichons and pickled shallots, plus seeded crackers and a kind of contemporary Melba toast. Full marks.

“Dutch Beef Bitterballen Croquetes” I knew from the cookbook. These are, I suppose, a kind of Dutch take on the Spanish croquetas, maybe a bit more robust. These generous crisp spheres came carefully arranged and balanced, creamy and beefy within, served with a little dish of mysteriously but deliciously tarted up mustard which provided just the right kind of foil. This was a great value “small bite” (and not all that small, either), for €8.50.

It was refreshing, incidentally, to have a proper slab of butter, at room temperature, served with the excellent brown soda bread. Far too many restaurants, including some of the best, dole out huge quantities of bread with homeopathic doses of butter.

“McGrath’s smoked beef, rocket, hen’s egg, mature cheddar” sounded like a cross between beef tartare and a carpaccio and it was, indeed, more than the sum of its parts. The beef, from the eponymous butcher in Lismore, was indeed subtly smoky, very thinly sliced, very nearly raw, topped with rocket and what I’m pretty sure was a 63ºC egg – i.e. cooked, but only just and very soft – and framed by wispy filaments of very mature, tangy cheddar.

Wild mushroom ravioli, bizarrely billed as “from the garden” were indeed rather more horticultural than expected. They lay beneath a thick layer, or mulch as gardeners would say, of frisée lettuce, baby spinach leaves, little pickled enoki mushrooms and nasturtium flowers. These all conspired to make the dish look as pretty as an advertisement for some expensive perfume but it didn’t help the pasta do what it was meant to do: taste of what it contained.

The ravioli were too big; they needed to be much more compact, more thinly skinned and more generously stuffed with the perfectly decent wild mushroom paste. If this had been attended too, they would also have cooked evenly. And the acidity of the enokis really jarred in this context. All in all, a badly thought through dish with some good elements.

A “lemon and cream pot” as our shared pudding was simple, fresh, light and just right in all respects except one. It was billed as containing our local Blackwater Gin and neither of us could detect any whatsoever.

With mineral water, three glasses of wine and good coffee, the bill came to €92.50.