Hidden Ireland: 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.
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.
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.
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 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?
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.
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.
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.