The Ivy Restaurant at Dunboyne Castle Hotel & Spa is located in County Meath, just a short distance from the capital. Once home to the Lord of Dunboyne, the castle dates back to antiquity, but since a major refurbishment in 2006, it now combines perfectly traditional old-world opulence and contemporary design. The castle stands on 21 acres of mature manicured lawns and gardens, the Spa is world class and the rooms are idyllic.
The Ivy Restaurant is located to the left of the reception as you enter the hotel. It is a large open space, and with neutral tones of creams, greens and taupe’s it creates a contemporary sophisticated space. The chairs are funky, the windows gracious, there is a conservatory and the whole effect is pleasing. Crisp white linen, fully set tables and elegant glassware add to the ambience, and combine to make it the perfect setting for a fine dining experience.
Executive head chef John Nagle has a fine pedigree, and since joining the hotel in 2012 has consistently upped the ante on the food, showing his own commitment to local, sustainable produce, while winning two AA Rosettes in 2013, and retaining them in 2014.
We were seated at a large oval table with banquette seating to the left looking into the restaurant and were feeling quite special, the staff are exceptionally attentive to all their guests and everybody seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. As we began to read the menu a bread board was placed to the centre of the table with warm homemade breads, soft butter and oil plus a bottle of still water.
The menu is very well put together; six starters and the same of mains. Starters range in price from €7 for a butternut squash soup to €12 for the west coast scallops, while other choices were goats cheese panna cotta, crab & apple or a beef shin terrine.
As we moved onto the mains there was a good selection starting with a vegetarian option of bulgur wheat for €17, to the most expensive, €29 for the beef fillet. Also making an appearance were venison, guinea fowl and skate, all extremely creative with a real grown-up feel.
The wine list is extensive, and recently redesigned by Simone Passerini, restaurant manager and in-house sommelier. Wines have been carefully selected to complement the menu showcasing different grapes and wines from around the world while offering value throughout, with a good selection of recommended wines and the more expensive wines going up to €69 for a Chateau St Emilion Gran Cru or €65 for the classic Chateau Neuf de Pape.
Simone’s recommendations included a Spanish Mas Classique Le Loup for €35 or a Portugeuse Don Rafael Tinto for €42. We decided to go with one of my favourites, Villa Nuevo Rias Baixas, an Albarinho grape; a crisp and refreshing choice full of fruity flavour.
After ordering chef sent out an Amuse Bouche named beetroot mess, it was crisp beetroot shavings with drops of goat’s cheese on a crumb base, each on a long teaspoon presented on a slate. I have to say I like an AB, and this one hit the right note of taste and presentation.
I started with the crab & apple, a slice of avocado cheesecake served with fresh crabmeat and dressed with pickled seaweed, seaweed crostini and micro greens served on a slate. Beautifully presented with a contrast of textures and flavours between the saltiness of the seaweed to the sweetness of the. Fred chose the duck & lentil, a spicy hot mix of duck and lentil served in a jar, being a lover of hot and well flavoured foods he thoroughly enjoyed and recommended this dish while the girls had the soup of the evening, cream of vegetable, and they loved every bit of it.
To follow I had the wild halibut which was topped with an edible sand and served with a smoked broccoli puree & clams, sprouted broccoli and a parmesan veloute a beautiful combination of flavour and taste while the girls went with the cod fillet which came with a curried cauliflower & potato and was dressed with a coconut gel, lime, coriander and prawns, a fusion of Thai flavours. Fred had one of his favourites and not often found on menus, the guinea fowl served with purple cauliflower & potato cous cous and a red wine glaze, this most certainly won our dish of the evening.
There was a selection of sides at €3.50 per portion offering all variations of potato, buttered market vegetables and battered onion rings but in our opinion the portions were more than generous and we didn’t feel the need to add anything more
All the desserts averaged around the €7 price point, except the Munster cheeseboard which was €10. We decided to share the mixed berry roulade, a light and refreshing dessert after all the rich food of the evening, it was delicious. We could also have been tempted with mango & lime brioche pudding, vanilla crème brulee or a chocolate ganache tart, not to forget the chef’s smashed chocolate
Tea, skinny latte and a cappuccino finished the evening served with chef’s special of smashed chocolate completed the perfect night at Dunboyne Castle.
John Nagle has created a menu that is far beyond hotel food, this is exciting dining in a contemporary space at its best.
We retired to the Sadlier Bar where there is live music every weekend and Fred enjoyed a Hennessy and I finished off the Albarinho before discovering the cocktail list, where Adele went about mixing her first cocktail and did exceptionally well. There was a selection of bars to choose from and a great buzz around the hotel, so whether you wanted the buzz of the Sadlier Bar or preferred to sit by a large open fire in the foyer the choice is yours. For a getaway with friends or intimate time with a loved one, I can’t speak highly enough of The Ivy at Dunboyne Castle.