The Court Yard Hotel is located off the Main Street in Leixlip on the site of the original Guinness brewery. From the outside it’s easy to miss, it looks smaller than it is inside. It is more of a venue than a traditional hotel; it’s home to Arthur’s Bar which is very busy with a large terrace area, where all the matches are watched, and during the summer you wouldn’t get a seat at any price. There’s also The Piano Bar which is a more intimate setting, the Riverbank Restaurant and the hotel areas themselves.
You can enter the Riverbank Restaurant from the hotel foyer or through its own entrance as you come into the Court Yard. With a stone façade and split over two levels the restaurant is full of charm and character. Down the left hand side of the restaurant are huge picture windows overlooking the river walk, which give a sense of tranquility, bringing the outside in. Exposed stone walls separate the dining area from a more casual seating area where one could sit over a leisurely morning coffee.
Stairs lead to the upper mezzanine, and on a weekend evening there is also live music in this area after dinner. To the rear there is a fabulous wine cellar which guests are more than welcome to visit and browse through the collection of wines which Robin has been building over the years and is justifiably proud of.
We were seated in the centre of the restaurant beside a large grand piano where the pianist was playing some great tunes, the atmosphere was buzzing and everyone was in full swing as they started into the Christmas celebrations. There was a selection of menus; early bird and festive season set menu both offering exceptional value at €22.95 and the A la Carte.
We both decided to dine off the a la carte, it is priced at the main course price to include starter or dessert plus a €4.95 supplement if you go for the third course. There are six appetizers to choose from including a carrot & parsnip soup, charred Cajun chicken salad or toasted foccacia topped with sautéed wild mushrooms, roasted garlic, thyme & rocket. Mains range in price from €19.50 for the vegetarian wild mushroom risotto up to €29.95 for an 8oz Irish fillet steak with all the trimmings, while there is also a 10oz sirloin, a breast of Glen Valley chicken or a grilled fillet of skinless salmon to choose from
Their wine list is extensive and caters for all palates and budgets starting at €21.95 for the Chilean house wines and goes to €41.95 in the ‘fine wines’ section for Chablis, there is also a choice by the glass at €5.60 or quarter bottles at €5.70. I chose the house Chilean Lazo by the glass, a crisp white while my husband ordered the South African Simonsig Cabernet Sauvignon at €29. A smooth and easy to drink red wine.
I started with the fennel, pink grapefruit & feta salad, a light starter with a fabulous dressing of lemon and herbs while Fred ate like an Italian and had the linguini pasta with clams and mussels, courgettes & spring onion and a basil crème fraiche The pasta was cooked al dente with a slight bite, while the seafood sauce was full of fishy flavour and was very generous.
To follow I had to try the seafood feast priced at €25.50; a good size fillet of John Dory, lemon sole and trout on a mussel and prawn mousse topped with a puff pastry lattice. I was in seventh heaven and enjoyed every last piece of fish only taking a small helping of the fresh vegetables that accompanied the mains. He went with their signature dish of aromatic boneless Silverhill duckling with apple and Swede puree which cost €25.95. The duck was delicious, perfectly pink inside, crispy without.
We had a little room in the special dessert stomach, and I had the buttermilk pannacotta to finish, which was light and the ideal end while Fred tried the raspberry and redcurrant cheesecake, heavier but very good.
Head chef Andrew Cawley is formerly of Beckett’s, and the service under manager Robin is smooth and friendly. The Courtyard is only a stones throw from Dublin, but it’s also a world away, and you should check their website for breaks and offers.