Myself and my wife Yvonne enjoyed a little road trip this weekend just past in Carlingford County Louth. A lovely part of the world it was indeed as it overlooks Carlingford Lough, is a medieval heritage town and contains a surprisingly large number of pubs and eateries all within a short walking distance.
We stayed in Belvedere House which contains The Bay Tree restaurant.
We did a stay/meal deal on the Saturday which was €150 for 2 people bed & breakfast and a 3 course evening meal at the restaurant. The extra night was €90 and with a bottle of wine at dinner and a glass of port, the bill was €273.We arrived on Friday afternoon and headed straight to one of my favourite pubs, PJ’s Anchor Bar...voted Louth’s best gastro pub in both 2010 and 2011. http://www.pjoharescarlingford.com/
We had a little tapas portion of oysters and baby back ribs to go with our pints which were extremely tasty. The ribs absolutely melted in the mouth and thankfully the obligatory BBQ sauce was on the side. I preferred the natural flavour of the slow cooked meat.
For dinner we went to the Kingfisher restaurant http://www.kingfisherbistro.com/ which I was reliably informed was Carlingford’s best by a good local source. My wife opted for the special set menu @ €26.95, pretty good value but the options were of course a little on the cheaper side. She started with a pea risotto which was nice, but criminally under seasoned. She followed up with Thai Spiced Pork in light crispy batter, Asian sticky rice, Roast curry oil & sweet soy. Hot & sour onions, which was also quite good...healthy amounts of five spice, sweet and sour notes, chilli heat...but overall, I thought it was lacking something and Yvonne was quite under-whelmed. Her dessert was a Strawberry Pavlova which was very nice. I ordered off the specials menu, a scallop, pea puree, and risotto and bacon starter @ €9.95, Turbot @ €26.95 and a very nice sticky toffee pudding at €6.95. The starter was really nice ... scallops well cooked and pretty much a classic and often done combo with the peas and bacon.
The main was quite disappointing. I love a nice moist thick turbot fillet but what I got was several of the thin tails which were pretty overcooked.
It came with a fresh tomato sauce which was nice and fresh but a little bland. The accompanying carrots, broccoli and new potatoes were buttery and still firm so pretty good but overall I expected quite a bit more from the most expensive item on the menu. I generally don’t send food back...I just don’t come back. I did mention that the fish was overcooked and they kindly gave me a free glass of wine so I have to say that was nice. We had a bottle of the Panul Chilean Sauvignon blanc and the bill came to €91 so €100 with a tip. I’d really be hoping for a lot more for that money these days.For lunch the next day, we ate at Food for Thought on Dundalk Street... http://www.carlingford.ie/index.php/dining/food-for-thought
I had a golden onion and Emmental tart with a side of absolutely steaming hot and very delicious cheesy creamy garlic potatoes. Tart was very tasty and served with a salad, coleslaw and sticky chilli jam. Very nice. Yvonne had a deli ham and cheese sandwich with some Ballymaloe relish which was also lovely. Very nice lunch for €24 including a cup of tea.
Dinner was in The Bay Tree and part of our deal. It was the best meal of the weekend. We both had a Crab Crème Brule which essentially was a creamy fresh crab mayonnaise (but light and unctuous), a parmesan Tuile acted as the Brule and it came with a nicely dressed fresh leaf salad (with a couple of interesting leaves, I’d say partly foraged), some sweet pickled cucumber which really cut through the creaminess of the mayo and some thin toast.
We both really enjoyed this. For main, I had a fresh succulent monkfish deep fried in Kadayif pastry and fresh tartar sauce. It came with a gorgeous warm crab adn potato salad...very good!!
Yvonne had a very nice Halibut with prawns in a cream sauce. It was really good and perfectly moist juicy fish.
I had a cheese board with some port and Yvonne had an iced nougatine with strawberries.
The cheese was billed as artisan and my only complaint was that I would have loved to know what each one was. A little card with a printed explanation would have been great. All in all, a really good meal.
Breakfast the next day was a little average. The bacon seemed to have been cooked in a batch at the start of service and it was pretty dried out by the time I got mine at 9:45. The 2 poached eggs I had were a little watery but the toast and coffee was lovely. Would have liked some homemade jam or artisan rather than a branded plastic tub.
Carlingford is a great spot. Loads of bustle, live music in most of the pubs, we had great cocktails in Magee’s bar, pints in the Anchor, a good live country 3 piece and some great food. Added to that a quick shopping trip to Newry which is only 18km away and it was a nice little break. Highly recommended.