The Lord Bagenal Inn is in Leighlinbridge and for the past 33 years James Keogh and his family have been running this fantastic hotel and restaurant, just minutes off the M9, and only 40 minutes out of Dublin.
James originally trained and worked under the renowned Jack Kelly of Kellys Resort in Rosslare, and this training is very apparent in everything he has done in The Lord Bagenal. He is offering top class cuisine at very affordable prices.
In The Lord Bagenal you have the choice of eating in the bar or in the restaurant. On a cold winters day, everywhere was toasty warm, with large open fireplaces roaring at you from all corners. The restaurant is a small narrow area with marble topped tables and parquet wooden floors with night lights on all tables making the setting intimate. There is a larger open area to the right overlooking the river, which I would imagine is used more for functions and large groups.
When entering the restaurant the very first thing you see is a small closed off area which is home to a huge selection of wines. When reading the extensive 26 page wine list, don’t be intimidated, it starts off with a page of €95+ wines which we just skipped past to the Sommelier Selection, through the champagnes and sparkling wines and into the house selection. After that it is divided regionally and the prices start €23.00. We chose a 2010 La Boussolle Pinot Noir for €25, this was a recommendation of James’ and a good choice.
Once the wine was opened and we were enjoying the homemade bread that had been laid in front of us we turned our eye to the menu. There are two menu options; an early bird served daily between 6-8pm, offering 2-courses for €20 and 3-courses for €25, and a set dinner menu for €35.00. Dishes on the early bird started with melon and Serrano ham, golden fried mushrooms or smoked chicken Caesar salad, followed by mains of rack of pork, breast of chicken supreme or a darne of salmon and all followed by cheese cake, profiteroles or death by chocolate.
The Dinner Menu was more extensive offering, on top of the early bird selection, roast quail stuffed with prunes, black pepper squid or sesame prawn balls. We decided to order from the dinner menu and chose Wicklow Brie Fritters served with Lord Bagenal Chutney and garden salad which were nicely browned, leaving the brie runny. Both Keisha and Fred opted for a homemade vegetable soup; hearty and warming.
For main course we could have had pan fried pheasant, a Hereford sirloin steak, or a baked tartlet of organic goats cheese all served with vegetables and potato. In the end Keisha had sea bass with chips (child’s portion) while Fred had the slow cooked shoulder of lamb which was cooked to perfection, and full of flavour. I went with the medallions of monkfish served with saffron & green tip mussels, again a great choice, the meaty monkfish was cooked just right, and the mussels added depth, flavour and texture. All the desserts are homemade and we c ouldn’t decide between the cheesecake to the warm bread and butter pudding, so a compromise candidate of shared apple crumble & custard rounded the meal off nicely, and we all went with a cup of tea to finish.
The road that James has adopted here in The Lord Bagenal is very much about serving superior quality food while offering value for money. With two of the sons also working in the restaurant; Paddy on the floor and George in the kitchen, the family touch is pervasive. He also has the added advantage of having a really loyal team, most of them have been there since the year dot, including Ollie who should have retired many years ago but just enjoys what she is doing.
All evening personality shone through, from the quality of the food, to the service and the complete atmosphere that has been created. Well worth a visit.