Set in the harsh splendour of Connemara, Renvyle House is unpretentious, comfortable, sits in stunning scenery and makes you feel at ease. As a destination at Ireland's westerly tip, it offers a warm welcome on the wild Atlantic coast. The restaurant is under the sure hand of Tim O’Sullivan, head chef for over twenty years who has won numerous awards, including Best Chef in Connaught in 2007 and 2008 from Food and Wine.
Renvyle House is on a promontory jutting into the Atlantic and has a small lake, Lough Roisinduff, alongside it. It's a long, low two-storey building, the last in a line of houses built on this site. This incarnation was built in the late nineteen twenties, after the previous house had been burned down by the IRA some years earlier. At that time it was owned by Oliver St. John Gogarty and his literary connections ensured that Renvyle was filled with artists and writers. When he and his wife opened it as a hotel the guest list included Augustus John, W.B. Yeats and the Churchills.
Inside, Renvyle has a warm and comfortable feel. It's not a brash, modern five-star hotel, it has a more homely, welcoming air, more like a grand, hospitable country home. The dining room is large and is visually divided by large, supporting pillars. I thought the style of the room was reminiscent of the Arts and Crafts movement, a thought that was confirmed when I learned that its architect was a pupil of Sir Edwin Lutyens.
There are various dining options during your stay from the bar menu which is served in either the bar or the conservatory overlooking the gardens to the highly acclaimed Roisin Dubh Restaurant.
In the Roisin Dubh restaurant the 5-course menu began with a choice of five starters including buffalo mozzarella, chicken liver pate or pork & apple sausage served on onion and thyme mash with a port jus. These were followed by a choice of apple & onion or tomato & basil soup or a raspberry sorbet.
From there, they went on to present fillet of prime Irish beef, guinea fowl supreme, pan fried organic salmon, baked fillet of hake or pan fried fillet of brill plus a vegetarian option of risotto with cherry tomato, olive, pinenuts & spinach with parmesan shavings
The wine list is extensive without been intimidating; a selection of wines that has evolved over years has been carefully selected to compliment the menu.
I would recommend speaking to Ronnie, Phillip or Cillian for their recommendations as in the years we have been visiting they have never got it wrong and have introduced me to some fabulous wines that I am still enjoying today. On this evening Phillip suggested the Pouilly Fume 2011, a lively white from the Loire Valley and a full bodied 2006 Margaux which Phillip so elegantly decanted at the table, both great choices.
Before we started a small amuse bouche of mussel pie got the taste buds into motion. I started with the pate which was so creamy and full of flavour served with melba toast, pineapple chutney and a Cumberland sauce while Fred worked his way through a generous helping of chilled Connemara oysters drizzled with a spring onion and lemon grass dressing.
We followed on with tomato & basil soup for himself and I went with the raspberry sorbet which was light and refreshing before I tucked into pan fried fillet of brill cooked just perfectly with broccoli, beans & asparagus and a lemongrass dressing which I asked for on the side.
My husband has always loved the beef at Renvyle and had the fillet of prime Irish beef with a bacon and herb potato cake served with béarnaise sauce and a red wine jus.
Tim is so selective of where he sources his ingredients and it really shows in his delivery, all beef is from Finnerty’s of Oughterard and the fish comes from Four Leaf Clover in Galway.
Dinner at Renvyle is an evening of sheer pleasure and enjoyment and can take several hours, the perfect opportunity to relax and unwind, catching up and chatting. If you have little ones with you there is plenty for them to do too, allowing you time together.
The dessert menu arrived, and we took our time to digest dinner and continue savouring the wonderful wines before ordering iced mango parfait presented in an almond tuille with fresh fruit and raspberry coulis for myself, while Fred had the Irish farmhouse cheeseboard; a great selection of Irish cheeses comprising Hegarty’s cheddar, Cashel blue, a Tipperary brie, Ardrahan and Blue Bell Falls goat's cheese
We finished with coffee, petit fours good and some ‘Irish Craic’ with some local song and dance. The menu at Renvyle changes on a daily basis, and some of the dishes will appear. This is the third time we have reviewed Renvyle, and we’ve never had a bad experience. Top notch food from a chef on top of his game, and very consistent. Highly recommended