The Lady Helen Restaurant ranked #2
How do you allocate places on a 100 Best Restaurants list? "It's not easy," says Ireland's most widely read food and hospitality critic, Lucinda O’Sullivan.
"I don’t judge restaurants merely by the artwork on a plate, or whether or not they’ve won a rubber tyre award," the critic notes.
"I’m not particularly into sitting in overly precious, hushed rooms in silent worship, cooing over foraged fiddlehead ferns.
"For me, it has to be more than that, it’s the whole package — atmosphere, attitude, good food, service, and how they serve their customers and community through thick and thin — that warrants them a place on my 100 Best Restaurants list."
KILKENNY QUALITY RECOGNISED
So how did the black and amber eateries fare?
Making the Top 30 from Kilkenny were The Lady Helen (#2), Rinuccini (#15) and Campagne (#16), whilst Fennelly's of Callan made the Top 30-100 list.
Read the author's thoughts below:
The Lady Helen (#2)
The exquisitely refined 1-Star Lady Helen room at the Mount Juliet Estate in Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny, is a joy. I’ve stayed at Mount Juliet many times down the years and remember occasions when Tiger Woods was quietly fishing from the River Nore, or the visit of the late Albert Roux to cook a special dinner featuring the Queen Mother’s favourite soufflé as the grand flourish. However, the cuisine nowadays is at a different level with, on my visit last month, John Kelly’s Tasting Menus delivering on tantalizing, ethereally elegant, contemporary dishes. Foie Gras had Franco Japanese influences with dashi, walnut, pear and treacle brioche; Turbot was with celeriac, lovage, pickled gooseberries and chicken jus; while Tipperary organic veal had asparagus, morels and wild garlic.
In a wonderful Georgian house in the shadows of Kilkenny Castle, for over thirty years the Cavaliere family have been delivering exquisite high-end Italian food in an atmosphere that almost has you believing you’ve discovered somewhere special in Rome. Chef Antonio’s ravioli is as fine as silk, his fresh Kilmore Quay Black Sole on the bone grilled to that nano second of perfection and finished with white wine, lemon, garlic, extra virgin olive oil and fresh parsley.
Foie gras ‘crème caramel’ with fig chutney, caramelized walnuts and golden raisins is just one of the stalwarts of Garrett Byrne’s French-inspired Kilkenny kitchen that will leave you drooling. The atmosphere is sophisticated, professional and welcoming, and Byrne has never been pretentious about his Michelin star. Worth the detour as they say. Do ask to see the Speedos.
Fennelly’s Of Callan (Top 31- 100)
What sisters Etain and Aoife Holohan did here was absolutely inspirational. They turned an old former pub into one of the hippest spots in the country, with not only great food but with an amazing rustic yard where they hold fantastic courtyard musical gigs and other artistic events. Think of Buddha bowls; Cajun pork belly stew; spinach & moong dal curry; porky sandwiches; burnt Basque cheesecake; almond bakewells; tarte au chocolat with vanilla and black pepper ice-cream.
You can read the full article from Lucinda O'Sullivan HERE.
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