La Vida restaurant in Rathoath village, close to Ashbourne in Co. Meath was a pleasant surprise. Set back off the Main Street in a courtyard centre, owner and manager Didi had an infectious warmth and enthusiasm and her small restaurant is morphing into something very good indeed with the arrival of chef Asier Hernandez, who came from the excellent Salt in Kilkenny and has produced a short and concise menu of food that can be served and eaten in the style of tapas, or more correctly perhaps their larger cousins, Raciones.
The restaurant in contemporary in design with comfortable chairs and a minimalist unfussy decor. The menu lists a selection of traditional and contemporary sharing plates that make La Vida stand out from the other restaurants in the village. Patatas bravas, calamari sit alongside a trilogy of lollipops, while a mini fish and chips, or a goat’s cheese salad provide diversity, and artisan items like the Sasta award winning black and white pudding from Co. Kerry make an appearance.
On a Sunday evening the restaurant wasn’t packed, but it was steadily busy with mostly other couples winding down after the weekend. I went along with the other, prettier half Deirdre for dinner. Seated with our sparkling water, and having declined the generous glass of Prosecco, we decided on a selection of dishes which came from the kitchen on a steady stream.
Calamari had a seasoned crispy batter and sat on dressed leaves with a garlic aioli that got us off to a great start. Tender and with a tangy dip they were very good, and the dressed leaves were tasty in their own right.
Papayas bravas came with a bravas sauce and aioli in separate little dishes, so we could mix and match our sauces to our taste, while the trio of lollipops brought Brie, chicken and txistorra in filo pastry with three different sauces.
Sasta black and white pudding on toast came from award winning producer Sasta in Kerry, and the black had an apple sauce on top, while the white came with a little Brie hat on.
The special of slow roast Duck with polenta, foie gras, and morels mushrooms came on a polished black slate and was a very pretty dish, and the slow cooked duck was sweet and delicious. We had a side of crunchy asparagus served with aioli foam, and at this stage were fit to burst.
Paolo had a theory that we have a special dessert stomach, purposefully to allow us to have a sweet at the end of a meal, and the desserts did sound intriguing. We toyed with the white chocolate soup, but decided on a duo of rich chocolate and pistachio fondants were fabulous; it’s worth a trip to Rathoath just for the dessert.
I liked La Vida, they are trying something different, and it seems to be working. The menu is new and I have no doubt will change over the next while, but there were flashes of imagination and originality in the menu, and the dessert was one of the best ever.
La Vida is worth a visit, and if Didi’s charm doesn’t get you, hang on for the chocolate.
**La Vida have just introduced a four course tasting menu for €29.