Brabazon restaurant is in the stunning Tankardstown House just outside Slane in Co. Meath. This is our third visit, the second was with Paolo, and this return is bittersweet. The food has always been unforgettable, and a trip to see how Chef Robbie Krawczyk has progressed the food is a must do.
Tankardstown is a tranquil oasis for a luxury getaway. This was the first time we were able to stay over. We were in one of the courtyard apartments, as we brought our dog Rafa along - Tankardstown is doggie friendly – and we found ourselves in some luxury and almost too much space. We thought of dialling some friends to come along, but thought better of it and just gave ourselves over to over indulgence.
The restaurant is in the renovated outbuilding; a beautifully restored stone building with a semi open kitchen, where you can watch the team at work. There is no shouting in this kitchen; the chefs work in silence, perhaps communicating by telepathy, and nothing looks rushed or panicked.
The conservatory style French doors let in loads of light, and tables alternate between natural wood and what I swear is Persian green, a restful mid green that adorns our own somewhat smaller conservatory. A flag stone floor is perfect, and the whole environment is seamless stylish, while the ambience is genteel and warm. On a pleasant spring evening the restaurant is full, with what we deduce as a mixture of guests, locals and others like us who have travelled for the food.
There is an A la Carte and the seven course tasting menu. We always have the tasting menu in Brabazon, and here is a snippet of Paolo on the last time:
"So it began with an amuse bouche, served in a small glass jar, of whipped goats' cheese topped with cured salmon. Simple but good, it made an appetite-stimulating beginning to our meal. This was followed by an interesting dish, an egg cooked for 40 minutes at 70 degrees. What you get by this method is a cooked, but runny yolk, and it was served in a bowl of sand, holding the eggshell firmly while we dunked the homemade bread into it.
Next to arrive was the charred squid, which came with finely diced chorizo, roasted garlic and charred leaves of little gem lettuce. The charred leaves were new to me, but they're on my list of likes from now on. It gave the leaves a really interesting taste and flavour.
With that flavour still on the palate, the scallops arrived, served with carrageen, coral, sand and seaweed. The coral and the sand that made up the sea shore, were of course edible, and not just edible, actually good to eat.
Then came the move to meats, the first to arrive being the steak tartare. Obviously not a full-size one, but a dainty little one served with pickled shallots and nasturtiums. Too small to be topped with a hen's egg yolk, it worked well without, although I wonder if a quail's egg yolk might have worked.
At this point, you'd think we'd have been flagging, but the portion sizes are very well judged and the whole menu was almost devoid of carbohydrates, so it really wasn't filling.
Hay-smoked duck breast came next, a method of flavouring that's becoming increasingly popular. It was served with salsify, fermented cabbage (sauerkraut) and duck jus.
The last dish to come to the table was the crème fraiche soufflé, which came with a delectable blackberry sorbet."
This time around the seven courses morphed into nine or ten. We started with the same little loaves and cold smoked buttuer, with a selection of charcuterie from their own smokehouse, followed by dainty Abalone. Our first course brought perfectly topped egg shells full of smoked poato foam, with a centered yolks and crispy onion shavings on top. They were delicious, and were quickly followed by cold cooked monkfish, served with fennel, roe, cucumber water and seaweed.
A slice of octopus, with leek, roe and ham fat was next, and it was wonderful, to be followed by a large dish of wood pigeon smoked in hay, with salt baked salsify, burnt cauliflower and lovely wild garlic.
We went back to the sea then, with a perfect piece of gurnard, with fennel and grapefruit. Gurnard is a fish you don’t see that often. It’s a white fish, not unlike cod, and if you see it in the fishmongers, try some, as its local to our waters and great value.
Our main course, if a tasting menu has one, was a piece of spiced loin of pork with burnt apple and fermented cabbage, which just about did for us, but also brought us to the beginning of the dessert section, which of course goes into a separate tummy, and so it’s like starting afresh.
A deconstructed rhubarb and custard was delicious, and was followed by a picture perfect 70% chocolate lattice atop butternut squash sorbet and olive oil white chocolate crumbs.
If you think a seven course menu might be too much, remember the portions are perfectly judged, and Robbie eschews lots of carbs, so even a small person – the better, prettier half being a case in point – can enjoy this feast without being too full.
We finished with coffee and retired to our suite, happy in the knowledge that we had done our bit for fine dining. A quick walk around the beautiful grounds with Rafa and some doggie treats saw us all tucked up in bed.
Breakfast the next morning was as good as we hoped a spread of fruits, compotes and pastries, was backed up by excellent eggs Benedict and smoked salmon and scrambled eggs and another walk beckoned before we reluctantly left this idyll and returned to the real world.
Tankardstown is a must. It’s proximity to Dublin and the general wonderfulness of the place, not to mention the food, makes it a bucket list destination for anyway who enjoys the finer things in life.