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Restaurant Review - Mikey Ryan's

Restaurant Review - Mikey Ryan's

Wednesday 04 October 2017

Driving the M8 to Cork is a bit like traversing the remote plains of Australia. Not only is it a culinary desert, but there aren’t even ‘tea and pee’ facilities on the motorway for the best part of 160 miles. In the old days, we’d stop in Cashel at Davern’s Pub but that’s now closed. However, Cashel is really on the up, and there’s a hot new place that, is as the Michelin man might say, ‘worth a detour’. Mikey Ryan’s, a renowned old 19thC pub on the main street, was bought last year by John Magnier of Coolmore Stud fame. What attracted the multi-millionaire horse owner to an old pub, you might ask? Well, it backs on to the beautiful Cashel Palace Hotel, which Magnier also bought, making it the ideal link for casual posh pub dining in the overall plans to renovate and restore Cashel Palace to its former glory.

It’s a massive project, overseen by Trish Conroy, who has a wonderful eye for decor and detail. Sitting right at the heart of Cashel, like some glorious French chateau, its restoration and re-opening will be a great boost for the town, which receives so many tourists on their pilgrimages to the famous ‘Rock’.

Dead Rabbits & Dickies
Across the water, posh pub dining is all the rage now with top hotels like Claridges having had a New York Irish pub pop up with The Dead Rabbit, in its iconic Art Deco bar; The Langham opening The Wigmore on Regent Street, with a menu by Michel Roux junior, and our own Richard Corrigan opening Dickie’s Bar at his eponymous Mayfair restaurant. Gastropubs are beginning to drift a bit, like the old pub grub places of yore, and we are going to see them having to up the anti, tarting things up with a bit of luxury, as well as smarter food, wines and cocktails.

Kirwan in the kitchen
With the re-opening of Mikey’s, the first part of the project, Brendan and I dropped in for lunch. The old bar is as glorious as ever and, and, with a whole new bright airy glass filled section reaching out into the terraced gardens, this is perfect posh pub territory. Of course, there’s a horsey influence, with elegant equine symbols on the tableware, historic photos and a fantastic horsebox in the garden kitted out as a bar for al fresco days. Tipperary born chef Liam Kirwan has come home to head up the kitchen. With an interesting pedigree, having worked for great chefs such as Rowley Leigh, plus Jeremy Lee of the legendary Quo Vadis in Soho, he has also worked for the iconic Hawksmoor pub group, plus stints in diverse locations from Australia to the Caribbean and Portugal.

His food concept is founded on giving people a taste of Tipperary with the ‘culinary principles of freshness, seasonal quality ingredients, almost feelings of home, nostalgia and comfort but that bit more delicious’.

Something fishy?
We kicked off by nibbling on beer roasted cashew nuts (€3) and great big spheres of pork crackling (€5.50) with cider apple sauce, while I taste-tested a cup of aromatic butter bean, roast garlic and marjoram soup (€4) – bowl size €6.50. Cashel Blue rarebit (€5.50) featured, as did Daly’s smoked salmon with horseradish cream and wheaten toast (€8.50), and the Butcher’s Daughter sausage (€10) with smoked cheddar flatbread. They also do a premier burger (€13.50) and rump or fillet steaks (€23/€28). Brendan enjoyed his smashing hot hot cottage pie (€14), served in a cast iron cassolette with a great big duvet of fluffy mash, along with a pint of Guinness (€4.50), while I had a delicious salmon and prawn cake (€12.50). I often have ‘fish’ cakes that are more potato than fish, but this was the real thing, a sturdy dense protein number, topped with a perfect, just oozing, poached egg, garnished with pea leaves and a good tartare sauce.

Puds (€6/€7.50) included ice-creams and sorbets, a white chocolate and strawberry cheesecake, and a cheese board with rye crackers and pear chutney at €11. We finished off by sharing a mouth-watering fruit-laden summer pudding (€7.50) with vanilla ice-cream. So, with an espresso (€2.20), 3 bottled waters (€7.50), and service, our bill came to €66.70.

It’s casually chic with smart ‘simple’ food beautifully executed.

Mikey Ryan’s Bar & Kitchen,
76 Main Street,
Co. Tipperary.
T: (062) 62-007 

First Published In The Sunday Independent