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Restaurant Review - Eccles Hotel

Restaurant Review - Eccles Hotel

Wednesday 29 May 2019

‘Ne’er shed a clout ‘til May is out’, is the old expression, and, with the June bank-holiday weekend fast approaching, the real summer holiday season is about to begin. Hotels and restaurants around the country have been dusting down the canopies and umbrellas, and dragging out the garden tables for al fresco dining in the hopes of yet another bumper summer.

West Cork may be hugely popular – it’s such a stunning place – but what amazes me is the number of people who’ve told me that they’ve never been there, including, almost unbelievably, a couple of restaurant critics and food writers.

They’ll no doubt move themselves this year, as the Rebel County heads into the tourist season having garnered three Michelin Stars since last summer. One star was bestowed on the Japanese restaurant Ichigo Ichie in Cork City, while the other two were awarded to Mews in Baltimore and Chestnut in Ballydehob.

It’s a pity however that Michelin didn’t extend their largesse a bit further along this magnificent moviesque coastline, to the recently renovated Eccles Hotel in Glengarriff , where Chef Eddie Attwell has been knocking everyone’s socks off.

Firstly, the Eccles Hotel itself, with its dramatic balconies and gorgeous architecture, reminiscent of Gone with the Wind, stands proudly overlooking Bantry Bay. It goes back 250 years, and it’s where your grandmother probably spent her honeymoon during WWII, with a visit to the Italianate Garnish Island thrown in. It’s also where Pippa Middleton stayed with her now husband a couple of years back for a nearby wedding.

I’d gone up to Cavan some time ago, to where Eddie Attwell had been based for a relatively short period, and really liked what he was doing. Both his parents are chefs, so Attwell grew up around food in Antrim. He has an impressive pedigree, which includes Simon Rogan’s two-star L’Enclume in Cumbria; Ardtara at Maghera; reaching the final of the prestigious Roux Scholarship; and representing Northern Ireland in the Great British Menus on two consecutive years, including the battle to cook at Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday banquet. He’s seriously involved (I’m sick of the word ‘passionate’) in foraging and growing his own produce and, on upping sticks to Glengarriff last year, immediately installed a polytunnel to supplement the already lush foraging opportunities on his doorstep in West Cork.

So, it was no accident that I ended up in the Harbour Bar at the Eccles to see what Attwell was at. One thing I can say is that even if a dish may read simply on the menu, it will be a work of art on the plate.

Amazing grazing
They have a bar menu (€5-€16.50), running from noon to 9pm, but, the bistro menu, kicking in at 6pm (€5-€28), offers 7oz fillets, 10oz rump and sirloin steaks as well as a Chateaubriand to share at €60.

Starters included mussels with cider, barley and apple; prawn cocktail; and smoked-beef fritters; while mains offered herb-crust baked hake; pork belly with Clonakilty black pudding, apple and ‘brown sauce’; Cork Whiskey & vanilla cured salmon with prawn, radish, apple, and herb cream; and a beef burger on a brioche bun with vintage cheddar.

We had, what has to be the best bargain of all time, their grazing board (€20), which gave a choice of four starters to share, each one being perfection. Tackling into the fishy numbers first, our fritto misto (€11.50) of salmon, squid, prawn and cod pieces, on shaved fennel, was just as you would have it overlooking the Bay of Naples, being light and airy, unlike some of the battledress batters we’re used to here.

A delicious fish cake (€7.50) was warm and crunchy with dill mayo, fennel jam and garden leaves. Bao buns (€9.50) were an explosion of flavour-filled juicy shredded duck leg, with elements of spinach, Gubbeen chorizo and Gubbeen cheese, while smoked beef fritters (€8) with mushroom ketchup, mustard mayo, leaves and onion rings, were punchy and quite different. All in all, we had a fantastic mini-feast which should have cost €36.50, if ordered individually.

We passed on puds (€6), which included marmalade bread & butter pudding; lemon posset, with blueberry, lemon sorbet and white chocolate cookie; and strawberries with Champagne sorbet.

We stuck to water, as we were driving, so, our bill, with a tip, came to just €25. Deal of the decade!

Eccles Hotel,
Glengarriff , Co. Cork.
Tel: (027) 63-093

First Published in The Sunday Independent