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Carrig House, Ring of Kerry.

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Carrig Country House & Restaurant, Caragh Lake, Ring of Kerry, Ireland

+353 (0)66 976 9100

Price: € 120-200 (for two with wine)


It's not often that Paolo goes nuts for a place, but in this case...well read on.

Carrig House is an early Victorian house that sits in a wonderful four acre garden that runs right down to the lake shore. The original house now has a sensitively built wing that houses new bedrooms, which brings the total up to a still modest sixteen.

The sense of tranquillity is almost palpable. Across the lake the heights of the McGillicuddy Reeks break the skyline, in the distance you can just make out the Atlantic. When I got there, the only audible sound was birdsong. Inside the house is a happy mixture of new and old, there are nicely proportioned public rooms and more than anything else, a happy atmosphere.

But beautiful as all that abundant nature is, I was here for the food. The dining room overlooks the lake, but by dinner time the skies had darkened, the wind had begun to howl and the placid lake had become a white-horsed wildness in the raging sou'wester that came straight off the Atlantic. Thankfully the double glazing kept the gale outside, and inside the dining room all was peaceful.

The menu, under head chef Helen Vickers, changes with the seasons, but the one on offer this night caused me agonies of indecision, so much of it looked attractive. Pan-roasted quail, a salad with lambs' kidneys and chicken livers, fresh oysters, local smoked salmon and a confit of duck all took second place to my eventual choice of a goats' cheese soufflé. Most of the starters are priced between €8 and €10. Main courses included roast duck breast, loin of lamb, grilled salmon, John Dory, turbot, cod and breast of chicken, plus a vegetarian option. Apart from the turbot at €28, the main course were priced from €18.50 to €24.

It's not often that I get paroxysms of pleasure, but the goats' cheese soufflé was verging on the sublime. It was light, full of flavour and had the sort of texture that chefs spend years trying to achieve. This piece of gastronomic art put me in a perfect mood for my next course, which was the loin of lamb. Four or five slices of pink and succulent lamb were accompanied by an aubergine and potato moussaka, which reminded me of meals eaten in Greek islands. When aubergines are cooked like this they become exceptionally good, they become a vegetable that even confirmed carnivores will eat with pleasure.

After all of this, I still found room for as dessert and in fact got a taste of two of them, the wonderfully named Armagnac parfait with drunken prunes and a chocolate marquise with a raspberry sorbet. Both were very good and ended the meal very nicely for me. As a haven of peace and a place for re-acquainting yourself with nature, Carrig House makes a perfect hideaway.

Carrig Country House & Restaurant, Caragh Lake, Ring of Kerry, Ireland

+353 (0)66 976 9100

Price: € 120-200 (for two with wine)

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