Brabazon Restaurant is in the stunning Tankardstown House just outside Slane in Co. Meath. This is our fifth 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 Jonas Sarkozi, and there’s a bit of expectation.
Tankardstown is a tranquil oasis for a luxury getaway. The last 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 calling some friends to come along, but couldn’t think who we liked enough and just gave ourselves over to over indulgence. This time was an evening visit of dinner, but even a few hours here is a pleasure.
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 seamlessly 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.
The menu is now a la carte, with a tempting selection of carefully curated dishes. It’s a 5-5-5 combination and starters include pan fried plaice, wood pigeon and scallops. Main courses offer a choice of pan fried hake, barabry duck breast or a beef fillet, which the tempting desserts include banoffe, pear William tart or a cheeseboard featuring local cheese makers. As a trio we could try quite a bit of the menu.
Deirdre started with eh pan fried plaice, and apart from the perfectly cooked piece of fish this was a picture pretty plate, with broccoli puree, an intriguing almond sponge, squid ink tuille and flowers, which all sat like a little reef on the plate and was a delight to behold. Marguerite was a first time visitor and she had the scallops, beautifully cooked with a red pepper puree, tomato concasse, crispy pork crackling adding texture and flavour and a violeta meringue. Again a delight for the senses, not just the tastebuds. I was on the land side of things with a wood pigeon rossine, with a delicate piece of foie gras, truffle powder and aerated potato. The pigeon is shot by local man Sean Curtis, and the pigeon loss was truly my gain, as this simple plate of gamey goodness was delicious.
You may have noticed by now that this is food cooked and prepared at a very high level, and manager Derek had supplied the ladies with some stonking red wines, from parts a little different. Deirdre enjoyed a Bender Pinot Noir from Germany and marguerite had a Croatian Cuttonar Taran Barrique, which was aged in the barrel for 12 years before making it’s appearance at our table.
Main courses impressed even more; Dee decided on the cord fed chicken, and even this most modest of birds was raised up with a perfect little chicken liver Pithiver (delicate little pie), parship puree and curried parsnip granola. Marguerite struck the jackpot with a piece of hake cooked au pointe, served in a large dish, tucked to the side and on the edge of a small lake of rick chowder. Some braided bacon added to the repertoire here, along with cauliflower puree, and this was a feast in itself.
Again I was the land lubber, with the most succulent pork belly, topped with cracking crackling. Purple pomme puree, and sure why not, was accompanied by a quails egg, and caroot nest. Pork belly really is one of lives great pleasures when cooked correctly, and this one was perfect.
We were pretty full at this stage, but the desserts called to us and we shared two; a rich deconstructed Affogato gateau –try saying that quickly – was complemented but a tangy and creamy passionfuit confection involving stramed yoghurt, mango sorbet, frsh mango and a chocolate macaroon.
We finished with good coffee and posh tea and sat and enjoyed our surroundings before heading off in to the balmy night. Tankardstown is as great as ever. A meal here is always one of the highlights of my year’ I just really love everything about it. Do try and pay them a visit, and a wonderful escape its certainly within striking distance of the city but a world away in terms of peace and serenity. Fabulous.