Carton House is one of Dublin's most impressive hotels; a beautiful old mansion dating back to the 1700's set in 1,100 acres of woodlands. The hotel opened its doors in 2006 and over the past five years has been undergoing an extensive restoration programme with an investment of over €80 million. Coming along the winding drive from the main road to the hotel you pass through the award winning golf courses, pass the lakes specially designed to fulfil a dream of Queen Victoria before her second visit to the house and finally arrive at the magnificent setting of the house, where you can appreciate how sympathetically they have merged the old with the new
The Linden Tree Restaurant, named after the Linden trees just outside the main windows, which are in excess of 150 years old, is Carton Houses' fine dining experience, open to both hotel guests and visitors alike. It is located in the corridor that runs between the old and the new part of the house and is a large, elegant room split over two levels with low ceilings and subtle lighting to create a formal setting. Fully set tables with white linen, sparkling glassware and silver cutlery complete the setting, while taupe walls with flock wallpaper keep the environment neutral. There are cream leather banquettes against the walls and a selection of round tables and high back chairs to the centre of the room. Huge picture windows overlook perfectly manicured gardens and huge burning candles in the windows and small blue fairy lights on the trees give a truly magical feel to the room. Background music is very soft allowing you to enjoy the hum of chat from the surrounding tables, while conversation is easy.
Starters range in price from €7.50 for the cream of roast red pepper soup to €11 for char grilled langoustines, while other options include Coq au Vin and chicken liver parfait. Main courses all hovered around the mid €20 mark - with vegetarian red pepper risotto at €18 - including braised shoulder of lamb, pan fried fillet of sea bass or the 8oz prime Irish fillet of beef for €28.
The wine list is extensive, spanning over 10 pages and you can spend anywhere from €29 to €92 for an Italian 2009 Sant Antonio Amarone Della Valpolicella, dependant on taste and budget. We opted for the Spanish Campo del Moro, a fresh, fruity wine I enjoy.
To start I decided to have the cured Irish salmon, which was served as a herb pancake stuffed with salmon, which sat on a bed of dill jelly decorated with dots of horseradish cream cheese. It was a great presentation, and a delicious dish, so light but full of flavour and just the right portion size. The gentleman chose the Crosier blue cheese & chive mousse which was served with pickled pear and a port & blackberry puree with walnut. This was another imaginative take on a popular starter, and was an equally delicious choice.
To follow I had the grilled fillet of hake, a nice meaty fish which was crowned with a ravioli parcel stuffed with crab & smoked haddock, perched on a bed of balsamic leeks and surrounded by a saffron & cardamom sauce. All the flavours complemented, and the saffron and cardamom was another show of flair. Fred ordered the squab pigeon; seared breasts of delicately succulent pigeon were served with red cabbage, pigeon sausage and caramelised onions with a dried fig polenta in elderberry jus. The bitterness of the pickled red cabbage worked fabulously with the sweet of the onions and the flavour of the meat was exquisite.
All the desserts are priced at €9.50 and with choices such as blackcurrant arlettes, white chocolate and honey semi freddo and French macaroon it is very hard to pass by. I loved the mocha miniatures; three small chocolate desserts which were a coffee and vanilla Oreo cheesecake, a German Baumkuchen (a small donut with chocolate inside) and a Nutella beignets boules de Berlin. Fred shared and we both finished with a liqueur coffee, mine Baileys and his Irish.
The evening was so perfect we didn’t want it to end, and we then retired to the Kitchen Bar for an after dinner drink. The Linden Tree is a serious restaurant serving excellent food in exquisite surroundings; it’s a treat.
**The Kitchen Bar is another dining option with the original working kitchens from the old house, still with the old stoves and range in situ. Food is served daily from 12.30 to 7pm with a great choice of sandwiches and wraps as a light snack or salads and mains for something more filling. Over in the club house you can also dine and I believe Sunday lunch is exceptional there.
Head chef Cathal Kavanagh oversees all restaurants and has been at Carton House since the beginning. He previously worked with The Westbury for many years and The Clarence before that, as well as the top destinations in London including The Waldorf and Grosvenor House.