Monday 22 May 2017

Brooklodge Hotel & Dinner at the Strawberry Tree

Last week one of my colleagues told me that from reading my social media posts she thought Mr. FFID was French, it made me laugh. So in case you were wondering Mr. FFID is a Wicklow man but that’s all I’m going to share about my mysterious husband today. We got married last year and received a gift voucher for Brooklodge as a wedding gift from friends. So when we realised it would expire this summer we booked ourselves a much needed staycation in Mr. FFID’s home county.

I’ve been to Macreddin village a few times, it’s a lovely spot and they have a nice little food market from Spring to mid Autumn on the first Sunday of every month. It’s in a beautiful location, not too far from Dublin but with surroundings that really make you feel like you’re far from everything.  We left the city centre after one of my food tours and got there in the late afternoon, unfortunately it was lashing but as I always say, the rain just makes Ireland even more romantic.

We stayed in one of the standard rooms and to be honest while it was comfortable they were quite simple and old school, I didn’t even take pictures. I liked the wood panelled window seats and the Food & Wine Magazines in the bedroom were nice touches. For us, the most important was to eat in the onsite restaurant, the Strawberry Tree.

In the afternoon, we had a little stroll around the beautiful grounds of Brooklodge and I played tourist in the old phone booth, spying on the hens outside the bakery and smokehouse and had a little look at the herb garden.

Time flew by and then it was very quickly dinnertime! The Strawberry Tree is Ireland’s only certified organic restaurant. The menu changes according to what’s in season and they use as many organic products and wild foods as possible. I loved seeing all the bottles of drinks and jars of products made with wild foods scattered all around the hotel. The restaurant is only open for dinner from 7pm and is also open to non-residents. They have a €65 menu and a €85 nine course tasting menu (which we went for) to which you can add matching wines and drinks for another €35 per person.

The dining room is quite opulent looking, with an elegant dark blue carpet, marble effect throughout and dark lighting.

I’ve never seen such an impressive menu in terms of provenance, featuring numerous Irish producers and only organic foods and wines as well as wild foods.

We were brought freshly baked breads with a delicious wild garlic pesto and butter and little snacks to start the meal. One of them was an adaptation of the crisp sandwich in a form of sourdough bread with chive cream and grated cheese, I thought it was such a great idea. The other little snack was a ’90 minute cheese’ (made 90 minute before it was served), it’s the little touches like these that make a place special.

The first course was a duck egg with a wild woodruff hollandaise and micro greens. The egg tasted beautifully fresh and the sauce was smooth. 
Then came leek topped with pearl barley from Kilbeggan farm that had a nice bite, topped with wild garlic flowers.

The first meat course was very flavoursome, wild pigeon cooked perfectly and served with asparagus. 
Next course didn’t work for me, a piece of wild John Dory with a big smear of wild seaweed in a puree consistency. The presentation wasn’t the most appealing and the smell of fish was a bit too strong for my liking.

The short cured wild sika course that followed was simple and had some great flavours, with nettle and burnt apple.

The second fish dish was more successful, light and refreshing: a beautiful piece of salmon with cucumber, radish and wild sorrel.
By this stage I was getting full and the sorbet of wild Fraughan with amazing rhubarb was brought as a plate cleanser.
The wild fallow deer was excellent and the highlight of my meal, with onion and bone gravy.

I love the presentation of the wild berry soda, which came in little bottles and cute straws, served in a little crate.
Finally the dessert was a rich wild sloe fondant with wild beech booze bilberries and a divine honeycomb ice cream.
At the end of our meal we were brought to the Wild Foods Pantry, an incredible room filled with all the wild food concoctions and jars, their cured meats and a fantastic selection of Irish cheeses. Such a special room!

The food at the Strawberry Tree was very different from what I’ve had in other fine dining restaurants in Ireland. It’s not cheap, but then good ingredients never are. It was all about showcasing seasonal, local, wild ingredients served simply on the plate. It challenges the palate in a good way and it’s definitely a unique Irish food experience. While it’s a costly evening out (we had to top up our gift voucher for our meal) it’s one that I will always remember.

Brooklodge & Macreddin village is a great spot and even though our stay was short it felt like a nice break from the city. They have a spa which we stupidly didn’t get to visit where residents have complimentary access to the Thermal suite and other facilities if you’re looking to relax and pamper yourself. It’s an excuse for me to go back!
Disclaimer:  This is a fully independent, unsponsored review.

Brooklodge & Macreddin Village
Aughrim House, Aughrim Upper, Macreddin Village, 
Co. Wicklow, Y14 A362