BALLYVAUGHAN, Co Clare, ROI,
The distinctive limestone rock of The Burren creates something of the look of a lunar landscape, and Ireland's smallest National Park makes an impressive backdrop for this luxurious Georgian country-house hotel. The magical setting inspired Tolkein and C S Lewis by all accounts. It's not a 'castle', but it is a charming creeper-covered house in neat gardens with views to Galway Bay. Well-turned out staff look after proceedings in the smart, formal restaurant, where daylight views stretch across to the bay and candles flicker on elegantly dressed tables in the evening. It's a captivating setting for the pin-sharp contemporary cooking of David Hurley, with the food on the plate matching the view for visual impact. Barbecued smoked eel arrives as a starter with textures of Jerusalem artichoke and apple, or go for the luxe lobster raviolo with fennel salad and toast consommé. Regional ingredients figure large on a menu that puts together wild local rabbit with a boudin of the slow-cooked leg meat, plus black pudding, variations of carrot, and a chanterelle jus. Local seafood figures large, too - pan-roasted halibut with glazed chicken and leek, say - and, to finish, a blackcurrant soufflé comes with sorbet, compôte, and a wee jug of warm buttermilk custard.
Tel: 065 7077005
Please quote 'The AA'.
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Days closed: Sun, Wed (ex Sun BHs)
Dates closed: Nov-mid Feb
Days closed for lunch: all week
Cooking type: Modern Irish, European
Chef: David Hurley
Number of seats: 50
Accessible for wheelchairs.
No children under 7 yrs.
On N67, 5km S of Ballyvaughan village
Nearest station: Oranmore, Ennis