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Waterford Festival of Food 2013: FergusStock with Fergus Henderson, a Banquet in Lismore Castle and a Week to Recover

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Fergus Henderson of St John & Paul Flynn of The Tannery – stars of Waterford Festival of Food

I never thought that I would be having a drink with Fergus Henderson in the pub where I used to try to under age drink when I was 16, but there you go. You never know what life will throw at you.

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With Sally McKenna of the Bridgestone Guides and Fergus Henderson of St John, photo courtesy of David Clynch Photography

Waterford Festival of Food has just whizzed by. One of the rare festivals that I never miss, it is always superb, combining the best of community activities, local producers and chefs with some of the best food talent around. Last year Angela Hartnett cooked at The Tannery, and this year, it was the turn of FergusStock with Fergus Henderson.

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FergusStock Menu at The Tannery

120 were in attendance and 120 were on the waiting list for a superb feast. We started with the now famous bone marrow with sourdough toast and parsley salad, followed by a terrific ox heart and beetroot salad, with the ox heart sliced thin and slightly crisped. It was so tender and full flavoured.

Whole roast brill was next, tender and buttery before the show stopper, a half pot roast pigs head (a marvellous selection of tastes and textures all shielded by the best crispy skin). St John’s famous rarebit was next (I love to pop into the bar for one with a glass of wine), finishing with a super rich chocolate ice cream that had so much chocolate in it, it didn’t dare to melt when left untouched while I digested the preceding courses.

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Bone Marrow with Parsley Salad, waiting for service at the pass

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Pot Roast Half Pigs Head

Not much could top this, but then the next day there was Lunch with the Chefs at Lismore Castle where some of Ireland’s best chefs told their stories in conversation with John McKenna & Catherine Cleary. The food was served by Eunice Power (who I cooked with at our pop up at the festival last year), and was a terrific display of local produce (quinoa excluded!) and great cooking. I grew up near that castle – well 20 miles away – and it was such a treat to eat in there.

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Chandelier and Stained Glass Window at the Banqueting Hall in Lismore Castle

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In Conversation with the Chefs at Lismore Castle

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Pea & Ham Soup

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Knockalara Cheese and Quinoa Salad (Knockalara is a terrific sheeps cheese from Waterford and is available at Neal’s Yard in London – try it)

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Beef main course

There was so much more on, local foraging walks, a seaweed seminar, an enormous farmers and producers market on the Sunday morning, food trails (I did a food trail on Friday night which descended speedily into a singing contest but was all good fun and the best insight into Irish culture for any tourist that wants to see the real Ireland).

The only downside is that it is too easy to get completely carried away as I always do, and by Monday I had had little sleep, too much wine, and lots of fun. I needed a few days to recover.

I am excited to see how they will build on it next year, and am very proud that this all happens on my home turf. One for your diaries: the Waterford Festival of Food.

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Great pork taco with quinoa, black bean, lime and corn salsa from BBQ Joes at the Market on Sunday

You can see more photos of the festival on the Official Photographers website: David Clynch Photography.

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Hidden Ireland: The Tannery, Dungarvan

The Tannery, Dungarvan

And on to The Tannery. You’ve been waiting for this one, haven’t you?

Dungarvan was never really a food destination, not until Paul & Máire Flynn moved in and opened The Tannery in 1997. The Tannery was an old leather factory, I remember it very well from my youth. One distinct time when very young I recall lots of people working with animal hides which were hanging very visibly, lots of steam, and a sense of industry. I remember people in hats and my surprise when I was told exactly where those skins came from. From animals! I remember the stench. I was very small.

The Tannery, Dungarvan

Since then, I’ve noticed a very big change in attitudes to food in the area. Maybe this was happening already, and the opening of The Tannery crystallised it, but I think it’s fair to say that they were critical to this development. They’ve since opened an award winning guesthouse (Tannery Townhouse) and an award winning Cookery School which I have yet to check out. I have enjoyed food at the restaurant though, and last Sunday, I returned for Sunday lunch with my sister.

The Tannery, Dungarvan

Set by the Quay in Dungarvan in the old tannery, The Tannery restaurant is encased in a gorgeous old stone building. Downstairs in the foyer you can have a drink while you wait for your table, upstairs is the restaurant, bright and airy with hints of it’s Tannery past. With a population of 17,000 people, Dungarvan is a small town by anyones standards, but people travel to eat there now.

The Tannery, Dungarvan

We opted for a set Sunday lunch which offers 3 courses for €30. Comprehensive, offering 5 options for each course, it was very difficult to decide what to have as it was all very appealing. My sister could not resist the Crab Creme Brulee with Pickled Cucumber and Melba Toast and she advised that I had to try the Tannery Tasting Plate, offering a selection of 4 starters: Vichysoisse, Ketafi of Cooleney Camembert, Chicken Liver Parfait with Plum Chutney & Pork Rillette with Onion Marmalade.

The Tannery, Dungarvan

The Crab Creme Brulee was fantastic, ambrosial, rich and still light. Gorgeous. The Tasting Plate was wonderful too, the Vichysoisse was all you could ever want from that cold summer soup, the Chicken Liver Parfait creamy, light and rich, the Ketafi of Cooleney Camembert was a wonderful addition, with crisp noodles surrounding oozy creamy camembert, and the Pork Rillette as good as everything before. I loved it.

Choosing a main course was challenging too. Grilled Hake with Bouillabaise Sauce, French Beans & Aioli; Glazed Pork Belly, Apple Sauce & Celeriac Cream; traditional Roast Chicken with Stuffing, Carrots & Peas; Seared Scallops, Romesco Sauce & Chorizo Croquettes or Wild Garlic Risotto with Crispy Shallots. How to choose?

The Tannery, Dungarvan

I decided on the scallops as I loved the idea of the chorizo croquettes and they have been something that I have wanted to make for a while. Nodlaig went for the wild garlic risotto. A side order of intensely buttery mash was served with my main. Both were executed perfectly again, no less than 7 scallops with strips of pickled courgette (I think!), charred scallions, a roast tomato with charred slice of garlic on top and dreamy, creamy, spicy chorizo croquettes. The wild garlic risotto was lovely, bright green and packed with flavour, the rice was al dente and had a lovely bite as it should, the crispy shallots served as a perfect contrast.

The Tannery, Dungarvan

The Tannery, Dungarvan

The Tannery, Dungarvan

Time for dessert. Soft Baked Meringue with Strawberries and Lemon Curd was irresistible for me, and Nodlaig went for her favourite Chocolate Truffle Cake. I loved mine, it was light, fruity and summery, not rich, and the chocolate truffle cake was mousse-like and reminded me of the River Cafe’s Chocolate Nemesis. Very good indeed.

The Tannery, Dungarvan

The Tannery, Dungarvan

Coffees were included and I had two very good and very well priced wines by the glass. A Bergerac Sauvignon- Semillon for €6.50 and a chilled red Beaujolais at the same price. We had a lovely lunch, it really has everything nailed: great room, great food, friendly and efficient service and very well priced. The food is detailed and delicate but has a lovely homely quality too. It stands up to and beats some michelin starred meals that I have had in London, and I think that the people of Dungarvan are very lucky to have it there.

Just last night they won an award for the Best Restaurant in Munster, Ireland, and the Best Irish Cookery School, so it’s definitely one to visit. Make sure you stick around and enjoy the area and all it has to offer, if you do.

http://tannery.ie/