Brabazon Restaurant is in the stunning Tankardstown House just outside Slane in Co. Meath. This is our fourth visit, the second was with Paolo, and this return is bittersweet. The food has always been brilliant, and now there’s a new chef in situ, and there’s a bit of expectation.
Tankardstown is a tranquil oasis for a luxury getaway. This was the first time we were able to stay over. We were in one of the courtyard apartments, as we brought our dog Rafa along - Tankardstown is doggie friendly – and we found ourselves in some luxury and almost too much space. We thought of dialing some friends to come along, but thought better of it and just gave ourselves over to over indulgence.
The restaurant is a beautifully restored stone building with a semi open kitchen, where you can watch the team at work. There is no shouting in this kitchen; the chefs work in silence - perhaps communicating by telepathy - and nothing looks rushed or panicked.
The conservatory style French doors let in loads of light, and tables alternate between natural wood and what I swear is Persian green, a restful mid green that adorns our own somewhat smaller conservatory. A flag stone floor is perfect, the whole environment is seamless stylish and the ambience is genteel and warm. On a pleasant spring evening the restaurant is full, with what we deduce as a mixture of guests, locals and others like us who have travelled for the food.
New head chef Adrian Cassidy has been here five years, working with Rob, but he’s new to the top job, and has big shoes to fill. The menu hasn't changed that much, which anyone lucky enough to have eaten here will agree is a good thing. The philosophy of fresh, seasonal and local still holds. There are plans afoot to expand the menu back to five, seven and nine course tasting options, but the present a la carte is more than appealing, with a range of dishes that surprise, delight and maybe even challenge a little.
Homemade breads were soon joined by a terrific little amuse bouche of Goats cheese, wrapped in pickled celeriac, which was no sooner demolished than along came a little tasting bowl of rabbit consommé, with dumplings, carrot jelly and leeks. This was a starter I was eyeing, and this way i got to try it anyway. Delicious flavours, well combined and intense.
Then the meal started in earnest; Deirdre had the beef tartare with crispy shallots, homemade mayonnaise and sourdough, a delicate disc of meaty goodness sitting on the porcelain whiteness, it looked almost austere in its richness. Great balance of flavours and textures, it was excellent.
Abigail enjoyed the crab cannelloni; pickled cucumber replacing pasta, and the crabmeat inside with squid ink and crab oil, worked beautifully. This is a terrific dish; light, tangy, sweet and silky, it really had it all.
My wood pigeon was at the other end of the spectrum, an earthy dish with lightly smoked, burnt cauliflower florets, broccoli and a soft egg yolk that was a a perfect dip. It was filling, and contrasted beautifully with Abigail’s crab. One was the fresh essence of the sea, while the other the pungency of woodland.
Main courses continued to impress, Abigail started on the maritime theme with roast cod, with homemade ink pappardelle, and clams, mussels and salsify. Deirdre couldn’t pass the rump of lamb, with parsnip and charred leeks, but it did pass her, and she and Abi swapped halfway, the better to enjoy the flavours on offer.
I ploughed my own furrow over a dish of perfectly pink duck breast with salt baked celeriac, roast beetroot and rosemary jus. My meal was a tour de force of game, and as good as any I have had.
Desserts needed to be delayed but were worth waiting for. Abigail is the chocolate fiend, and a fondant with hazelnut and praline ice cream was delicious, but in fairness was over shadowed by sheep’s yogurt soufflé with berry sorbet, which was a new one on me, and an exquisite winter apple and cider sabayon, with cinnamon meringue, which was incredible.
The ladies enjoyed a half bottle of white Bordeaux from a well chosen and reasonable list. I had sparkling water and we finished with good coffee.
Tankardstown is one of my favourite stops on the years reviewing. It’s always inventive and delicious, and I love the room. It was also the last place myself and paolo reviewed together and will always hold a special place.
If you haven’t been it’s accessible from Dublin in 45 minutes, the accommodation is fab, and the food sublime. One for the bucket list.