Mindful dining is here to stay and at these restaurants, slow, sustainable and local are not just buzzwords … Ciara McQuillan finds four restaurants with a farm to fork philosophy
THE STRAWBERRY TREE AT THE BROOKLODGE HOTEL, CO WICKLOW
THE ROOM The opposite-of-rustic dining room, with gleaming mahogany furniture, dramatic midnight blue paintwork and gilded mirrors makes a glamorous backdrop for the best organic Irish produce.
ON THE PLATE Ireland’s very first fully organic restaurant, The Strawberry Tree’s menu features Irish master producers and growers. Every item on the menu is natural, free from artificial preservatives or pesticides and traceable to its exact point of origin. Vegetables come from produce superstar Denis Healy and many of the ingredients are gathered from nearby Macreddin Woods. The Organic and Wild Tasting Menu (€94) features courses such as From the Forest Floor and no visit to The Strawberry Tree would be complete without a trip to the Wild Food Pantry where you can choose your own cheese for the cheese course.
WHAT ELSE? At the Big Table Dining Experience a group of friends or family (up to 42) can share an organic feast, with platters set in the middle of the table, allowing everyone to serve each other or help themselves. Brooklodge Hotel and Macreddin Village, Co Wicklow, 0402 36444; www.brooklodge.com.
CAMUS FARM FIELD KITCHEN, CO CORK
THE ROOM In a bucolic setting just outside Clonakilty, a vaulted barn houses a dining room and open kitchen. Simple wooden tables and benches create a casual, convivial atmosphere and a woodburning stove gives out toasty heat on chilly evenings.
ON THE PLATE The menu at Camus Field Kitchen offers an authentic farm-to-fork experience, with much of the produce served grown or reared on the farm. Sustainability, biodiversity and animal welfare are at the heart of everything at Camus Farm and the sought-after 28-day-aged Dexter beef comes from 100 per cent grass-fed cows. Vegetarian and vegan options include tromboncino squash, cavalo nero and cime di rapa broccoli. The wine list favours old world wines with interesting non-alcoholic options including an excellent fiery ginger beer from Black Castle Craft Soda. There is an on-site art gallery featuring local artists and acres of nature trails for post-prandial meandering with exquisite views over Clonakilty Bay.
WHAT ELSE? The ceremonial circle on the farm, modelled on local ringforts, is a stunning venue for a romantic wedding or handfasting ceremony, and for those who fancy making a night of it, there are tent pitches too. Camus Field Kitchen, Clonakilty, Co Cork, 086 826 3429; www.fieldkitchen.ie.
THE OLD BANK, CO WATERFORD
THE ROOM This first floor restaurant is an intimate, elegant space with beautiful sash windows affording views over pretty Dungarvan Harbour. On the ground floor, a casual bistro has herringbone parquet flooring and mid-century-style furniture.
ON THE PLATE With its very own farm, Al Eile, just 5km from the restaurant, The Old Bank takes the provenance of its produce very seriously indeed. The farm has 24 raised beds, 20 no-dig beds, five tunnels and fruit bushes on just under an acre of land. Last summer, it passed its Irish Organic Association inspection, and it is set to receive the organic classification in April 2023. Plans include adding rare breed pigs and native Dexter cattle to the farm, further enhancing the restaurant’s farm to fork principles. Executive head chef Dave Larkin devises menus guided by season: main courses include Comeragh Mountain lamb served with salsify, Jerusalem artichoke and fermented garlic jus and a vegan option of coffee-baked celeriac served with cep, truffle, kale and potato, which would tempt even the committed carnivore. Pastry chef Emma Lynch creates masterpieces such as a dark cherry and chocolate Opera cake and a peanut parfait with banana and honeycomb.
WHAT ELSE? The timeless, art deco-inspired cocktail bar is the perfect place for an aperitif. Cocktails champion local Jameson, Blackwater and Waterford distilleries. The Old Bank, Dungarvan, Co Waterford, 058 48189; www.theoldbankdungarvan.ie.
THE BISHOPS BUTTERY AT CASHEL PALACE HOTEL, CO TIPPERARY
THE ROOM Flagstone flooring, vaulted ceilings, generous tables and a large open fireplace make this a beautiful dining room to enjoy modern Irish cooking.
ON THE PLATE Stephen Hayes, culinary director at Cashel Palace, is a champion of local Tipperary produce, as well as being involved in Ireland’s slow food movement and a supporter of regenerative farming practices. The menus at The Bishops Buttery reflect these philosophies with notable Irish food producers leading the way. Dexter beef, Wicklow Sika Deer and Shepherd’s Store Cheese from Cashel Farmhouse are just some of the Irish ingredients that can be found on the menu along with pork from Crowe’s Farm and apples and cider from The Apple Farm of Tipperary.
WHAT ELSE? A visit to nearby Cashel Farmhouse Cheese is a must for a cheese-tasting experience that is second to none. Cashel Palace Hotel, Main Street, Cashel, Co Tipperary, 062 62002; www.cashelpalacehotel.ie.