Locally born Mark Ahessy returns to Clonmel after serving his time in some of Dublin’s best restaurants including L’Ecrivain, Pichet and Chapter One to become head chef in Stonehouse Restaurant. He, along with owners Jim and Anthony Smith have brought something new to Clonmel with a fine dining in a relaxed setting format, with a short, well balanced menu that's big on promise and delivers.
The Stonehouse restaurant is located at the train station end of Thomas Street in the town centre, in an old grain store 5 mins walk from the centre of Clonmel.. Once inside the entrance there are some striking purple and lilac velvet chairs which create the perfect setting for pre-dinner drinks.
The dining room is a large open space professionally decorated to create the ambience such a fine restaurant deserves. Choose from well spaced tables and chairs or sit along the wall in a couple of couch like seats with scatter cushions. The colour palate of green, grey & silver make it very relaxing and the light jazz music playing in the background creates an atmosphere, and there are fabulous views out over the perfectly manicured gardens.
The menu is short and very well chosen, full of locally supplied produce; seafood is from Wexford, but just about everything else is from Tipperary. The early bird, which is available daily from 5-7pm or 5-6pm on a Saturday, is great value with 2 courses for €23 or 3 courses for €27.
On the a la carte there are six starters to choose from, priced from €6 for pea & ham soup to €12 for terrine of duck, foie gras and beef cheek. With a further selection of six mains, the dearest dish was the Hereford beef at €29, while other choices included Cahir lamb, free range chicken, pan fried cod fillet or Silverhill duck.
The wine list is very extensive, with French, New World, Italian and Spanish selections. House wines are available by the glass at €7 and bottles range from €21 to €27. We chose the Loire Barton & Guestier Sauvignon Blanc 2010 for €23. You can spend as much as €65, and I am sure that there is something for every palate and budget.
I chose the seared yellow fin tuna and my husband ordered the crispy pig’s feet as he had heard so much talk about them before our visit. Both dishes were beautifully presented and equally good, but the pigs feet were so good they had to shade it, and I think Fred only got to eat half as I kept stealing when he wasn’t looking. Next up was an in-betweener of watermelon Grenache and lime jelly pot which was so refreshing, cleansing the palate just before we headed onto the main course.
My spiced monkfish was served on a bed of mussel fricassee and baked potato mash, and the meaty fish and more delicate mussels worked well. Fred couldn’t resist the fillet of beef with caramelized shallots and horseradish jus, and in fairness in the heart of the Golden Vale beef is a fine choice, and this piece was really very good indeed. The dishes presented a great balance between the sea and the land, and morsels were swapped throughout. Both dishes were accompanied with a selection of vegetables and baby potatoes, and were both seriously above par.
Desserts brought hazelnut praline nougat with chocolate sauce and the passion fruit orange jelly, one rich the other fresh, again the juxta position of tastes meant the food passed across the table as much as between plate and diner. There was also a chocolate fondant, baked crème fraiche and a great plate of local & national cheeses, but our choices were a perfect end to a great meal.
Two coffees and we were finished. The Stonehouse is that thing that comes along seldom when reviewing restaurants; food that makes you sit up and take notice. Mark Ahessy is a fine chef, and I have no doubt the food here will continue to improve. The Stonehouse is one to watch; make sure to book as tables are hard to get.