We spent a lovely few days in Mount Juliet recently. One of the real reasons for going was to finally return to the Lady Helen, we hadn’t been back since it was awarded a Michelin star. We were staying in Mount Juliet on a package that included a seven course tasting menu on one evening. We booked for Monday evening and decided to start with a gin martini in the bar.
The Lady Helen has a luxe and formal feel, yet doesn’t feel stuffy or over bearing. Our table was one of the three in the window bay. We had requested that earlier in the day, and as the restaurant was full, we were very glad we had done so.
We didn’t have to make any choices except for wine and settled in to enjoy the feast ahead. To start, while we were looking at wine lists, a little pre course of gougeres arrived.
Then the breads and the most delicious bacon & onion bread, it was a highlight and they were following by another amuse bouche, a scallion potato ball with a smoked mackerel veloute.
Our first course, Scallops, Orange, Carrots, Chicory and Smoked Eel was a beautiful looking dish, intense flavours that all married really well. We were off to a great start with this plate of food. I really loved the orange and yellow colours on the plate too. It looked and tasted good.
This was followed by Cod with Fennel, Chantrelles, Clams and Rockfish Sauce. I love fennel (it can be a love / hate ingredient) and while I enjoyed the cod, we both felt that for a tasting menu course in a Michelin star restaurant it lacked a little something special. It was nice but ordinary and didn’t live up to the scallops beforehand.
Next was the meat course which was Challan Duck, Watermelon, Kalamansi Orange and Nepalese Pepper. The duck was cooked perfectly pink, tender and I loved the watermelon, it worked so well with the duck.
The courses throughout are small, to be expected in a tasting menu of course, but they were smaller than we have experienced before in similar restaurants, especially on the ‘main’ dishes.
We enjoyed our wine and took a little break before pre-dessert which was some sort of blend of avocado and mint (if I recall correctly) but whatever it was, it just didn’t work for us, a strange texture more than taste although it looked incredibly pretty on the large black plate.
Dessert was a slice of Baked Custard Tart with Blackberry Sorbet, Maple Syrup, Nutmeg and Granola. While nice, this isn’t really a dessert either of would have picked on a menu and truthfully expected something more. Dessert is the time for creativity and perhaps a more fun element and the baked tart just didn’t excite.
Our meal finished with Petit Fours, presented beautifully on this tray, the chocolate seeded wafer, macaron, nougat, chocolate… worth waiting for and a perfect end to the meal. I would have traded the dessert previous for more of these!
The seven course tasting menu is normally priced at €85pp. While everything was good, some dishes stronger than others, the scallops and duck for example, there was nothing memorable; no dish we were wowed by or that we wanted to have again. You know those plates of food you think about long after the night (hopefully it’s not just me that does that!).
We would normally go with wine pairings on a tasting menu but this time decided against. We enjoyed a white wine first, a 2012 Woodhaven Chardonnay from California (€30) followed by a 2008 Walnut Block Pinot Noir from New Zealand (€59). The white was crisp and a light and worked really well with our amuse bouche and scallops through to the cod. We chose the Pinot Noir as we knew there was no heavy meat dish on the menu so we thought this would work well with the duck, and it certainly did.
Overall we enjoyed our evening, despite some misgivings on the food; service was impeccable throughout, a superb wine list and a great atmosphere and setting.
I don’t think we would return specifically for a tasting menu at the Lady Helen but wrapped into the whole experience of a stay in Mount Juliet it was lovely.
The Lady Helen | Mount Juliet Estate | Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny, Ireland | Tel: +353 56 777 3000 | firstname.lastname@example.org