The Candied Walnut is a funky café by day and by night local man Barry Hayden has brought a bit of sophistication and elegance back into evening dining in Portarlington. The Candied Walnut is only open a matter of weeks and has the whole town talking and indeed, beating a path to the door.
The restaurant itself is simply elegant; dark wooden floors and tables with high back leather chairs. The walls are taupe in colour and dotted with abstract splashes of paint on canvas. With perfectly placed lamps, subtle lighting and spots on the ceiling an intimate and relaxing ambience is created. Windows overlook the courtyard with tables and canopies for the perfect after dinner coffee, weather permitting. The evening we visited The Candied Walnut was exceptionally busy, a good testament for somewhere so new.
The menu is simply laid out, with the specials of the day explained at the table, which on our visit were pan fried hake, whole black sole and confit of Barbary duck. The wine list was a short list of six whites and the same of red, priced from €20-35.00. We chose the Chilean Sauvignon Blanc for a respectable €24.00, and a glass of the Argentinian Malbec.
First up was an amuse Bouche of mushroom and roast fennel was served in an espresso style cup, a nice start to what promised to be a nice evening. We then started with the pan fried garlic & chilli tiger prawns served with warm sour dough croute and the goat’s cheese and red onion marmalade tart. Tiger prawns were perfectly cooked, full of flavor and delicate on the tongue. The tart did what a good goat’s cheese confection should; they used good cheese that had the proper flavour.
The black sole was my next choice, and I was thinking I’d never finish a whole portion but surprised myself, but struggled with the fondant potato and the sides of roast carrot & parsnip with seasonal greens, to thoroughly enjoy the fish. Himself had the 10oz sirloin, perfect coked as requested, and presentation and simplicity was certainly the name of the day. The steak was served on a wooden board with a basket of generous wedges, and the good local meat did the talking here.
Desserts were all €5.50, and I was tempted with the coffee scented crème brulee with amaretto biscuit which was the perfect end to the meal. We had two good coffees, which were served with ‘Candied Walnuts’, which was a lovely touch.
The Candied Walnut is hitting the right notes, and with a chef owner and good front of house with Anton, they will go from strength to strength.