Tankardstown House is a most exquisite Georgian House set on a private estate just two miles from the village of Slane. It was bought in 2002 by Bryan and Trish Conroy who spent four years painstakingly restoring and furnishing the main house and seven courtyard cottage suites. No expense was spared in ensuring it would be the ultimate location for exclusive private rental, house parties, celebrations and weddings. They then moved on to open their daytime Bistro which is set on the ground level of a long and narrow old stone outbuilding, with multi pane windows and French Doors opening out to a patio and gardens, the Bistro is in a series of roomlets. It is exquisitely furnished with washed oak dining tables from France, and lovely squishy sofas dotted around. There is huge attention to detail, including little pails filled with fresh lemons on each side of the French doors, windowsills embellished with clusters of pine cones on hay, and formal topiary trees and daisy bushes in little red bricked troughs running alongside the building.
We sat outside on the terrace and being greedy started off with a prawn and crayfish salad for me and a caramelised onion and Crozier Blue cheese tart for Brendan which was with Little Gem lettuce and toasted walnut dressing. We followed up with gorgeous spinach and ricotta tortellini with tomato and basil sauce and a pinenut tapenade for me, whilst Brendan had superb traditional beer battered fish and chips.
They also do things like Saddleback pork rillettes served with cornichons, grainy mustard and rustic breads – which I have had there before – lovely – and pork and leek sausages with mash and caramelised onion gravy. You can have a 6oz dry aged sirloin steak sandwich, or an authentic Thai Green chicken curry.
They also do a lovely Afternoon Tea here - you can have either a Traditional Cream Tea with scones, clotted cream and jam, or the full Afternoon Tea, and why not, for two people with the chef's choice of freshly cut sandwiches, the aforementioned scones, and delightful pastries and sweet treats. Push the boat out and have a Prosecco or Tattinger Afternoon Tea - that's hard to beat.
Having got the Bistro up and running they then opened the Brabazon Restaurant which is a stunning place ambiance producing lovely food with an emphasis on local and seasonal produce. To start Gravadlax of Donegal organic seatrout comes with pickled cucumber, Ketaffi langoustine, and beetroot aoili, whilst a galantine of free range chicken and Peter Callaghan’s black pudding is paired with a seared sea scallop, milk foam and morel seasoning. Chicken liver and Foie Gras Parfait has soused cauliflower, onion marmalade and warmed brioche whilst a superb potato and black truffle soup has a crisp Tankardstown hen’s egg and pancetta wafer, with potato and thyme terrine. They also do a terrific terrine of Ardsallagh Goats cheese with apple and celery but also with Champagne soaked raisins and candied walnuts, Kalamata tapenade, olive oil and black pepper cracker.
Mains are equally appetising. Roast breast and confit leg of Cherry Valley duck comes with sweet potato puree, fondant potato and caramelised plum tatin, whilst roast rump of Lough Erne lamb comes with a braised shoulder croquette, cauliflower puree and Boulangere potato. Fillet of Atlantic hake has buttered peas, lettuce and ratte potatoes, Annagassan crab salad and tarragon fritter, whilst fillet of monkfish with Bayonne ham has a ragu of peas, broad beans and tomatoes, with orzo pasta, clams and olive oil. Breast of free range chicken comes with Boxty potato, baby carrots and leeks, crispy wings and sauce Bercy. There is of course a fine steak for the steak man in the form of a 35 day dry aged rib eye complete with all the trimmings of roast Portobello mushrooms, slow cooked shallot and green peppercorn sauce and Rosemary fries.
There is an extensive wine list with half bottles, which I always like to see these days, and lots by the glass.
If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well seems to be the Conroy motto.