The Munster Room restaurant at Waterford Castle is without doubt one of the finest dining rooms in the country. This oak panelled room envelopes you in luxury and graciousness, and with Michael Quinn’s authentic and seasonal menus, dinner is a delight.
Waterford Castle is truly a hidden gem. It’s what everyone who has been there before me says when I start to tell them how much I liked it. From the moment you drive onto the ferry to take you the 100 metres or so to the private island on which it stands, you feel like you are leaving Ireland behind, and going somewhere quite different. The island is home to the castle, the golf course, lodges and some scenic walks in the woods. We were bound for a night in the castle, and as we drove along the approach road, it suddenly appeared in front of us, rising majestically from the dark, and providing a wow moment.
Waterford Castle is small by castle standards, but perfectly formed and symmetrical, a very elegant structure that is in proportion in all respects. Inside entrance hall, original tapestries still hang on the walls, and a huge fireplace dominates. We check in and go to explore our room, which is large with a very nice four poster bed and a beautiful abthroom with vintage green tiling.
We have arrived slightly later than expected and head down for dinner. The dining room is a large rectangular space with oak panelled walls and a very beautiful ornate ceiling. Service is friendly and professional and we are soon ensconced with our sparkling water and some good bread while we peruse the menu.
Starters include Sally Barnes smoked haddock risotto, roast partridge with chestnut stuffing, seared Kilmore Quay scallops and a quail pie. Main courses tempt us with Wicklow venison, roast Dunmore East brill, roast Skeaghanore duck and aged beef.
In the end it’s the scallops and the brill for Deirdre, while I chose the risotto followed by the beef. A bottle of Pouilly Fume, and a half bottle of Fleurie complete our order. The wine list is well balanced, offering choices from all the main regions.
First up though is an amuse Bouche of crab meat, which sets the standard. Next up, the scallops are perfectly cooked, almost translucent in the centre, and are served on a bed of Puy lentils, ceps and scallop cream. Even a scallop fan was impressed. Nevertheless, I think I get the star here; the smoked haddock risotto is ridiculously good, exploding with the flavours of tarragon and lemon, while the parmesan shavings mix beautifully to the soft poached hen’s egg. A wonderful dish.
We are then brought a strawberry and balsamic sorbet, which gives us a chance to regroup before the main event. Deirdre’s Brill are four perfect little fillets on pickled girolles and caper stem puree, with black truffle. Perfectly cooked, they are delicate and delicious, while my fillet of beef is pink throughout, and is served with a little dish of potted ox cheek, and oxtail in a cap croquette. We share these with each other, and enjoy their flavours and simplicity. We finished up with a sticky toffee pudding and a couple of coffees and re-tired to the entrance to sit in front of the fire and relax after a splendid meal.
The menu was a table d’hote affair, priced at €62.50 per person, which isn’t cheap, but the quality of the food on offer makes it a good value menu, even if not an inexpensive one. The Castle also do combined accommodation and dining packages, and there are some great value deals available online.
We really liked Waterford Castle, the setting is special, the staff all seem to have been there a long time and genuinely love the place and Michael Quinn’s food is perfect. One of the most memorable meals, and indeed settings, of the year so far.