A holiday village on the western shore of Lough Derg may seem an unlikely place to find one of the country’s most interesting smart-casual restaurants, but this is where you’ll find Brasserie Mark Anderson – and you’ll be glad you made the journey.
A former GCGuides Chef of the Year (and until recently proprietor of the superb little fish shop/deli/café, Gravitas, in Killaloe), Mark Anderson worked with many famous chefs before opening here in mid 2012 – and, as word spread on the foodie grapevine, this lovely place soon became one of the region’s hottest dining destinations.
An associated events/wedding venue commands the prime waterside location nearby, but here a former pub provides a warm and characterful setting for Mark’s good food, with a welcoming log fire burning in a huge stone fireplace on chilly days, black ‘beams’, original artwork and an open kitchen all creating a space that is both welcoming and full of interest.
Classy glass-topped darkwood tables with leather-seated chairs are simply laid with a white linen napkin, quality cutlery and glassware – and a tiny watering can of seasonal flowers or berries adds charm.
This masterpiece of understatement is typical of Mark’s style, and his seasonally-led menus illustrate the same philosophy. Although a simple enough read, they belie much thought in the planning as the aim is to offer seriously good food at affordable prices - and friendly, well-informed staff will ensure an enjoyable experience.
The best of ingredients are showcased in even the simplest dish (a soup of locally grown root vegetable, perhaps) and, along with a few named suppliers, words like ‘free-range’, ‘organic’ and ‘wild’ are sprinkled liberally through all menus.
Many would travel here just for a Sunday lunch of Mark’s “Fish and Chips” (sustainably caught local fish and triple cooked chunky chips) and, while there are many other more sophisticated choices, even the “Burger and Chips” is made to order with freshly minced sirloin beef.
Although he’s keen to emphasise that Brasserie Mark Anderson is “not all about fine dining”, evening menus allow this gifted chef to flex his culinary muscles and – while still offering outstanding value – the cooking is outstandingly creative and beautifully presented, without being over complicated.
Yet, emphasising the feeling that this is a real night out, diners are treated to all the little extras like an amuse bouche (a small bowl of French onion soup, perhaps) and a palate cleansing sorbet between courses, whether choosing from the set menu or going à la carte.
Seafood is a particular strength – a starter of seared scallops with an accompanying crumble (black pudding perhaps or, more unusually, peanut) is a speciality to look out for and there will be creative main course fish, such as delicate turbot served with big-flavoured accompaniments like oxtail with ale, Jerusalem artichoke, horseradish and girolle.
Game also features in season; a dish especially enjoyed on a recent visit by the Guide was haunch of venison, which made a great brasserie dish served with full-on autumnal accompaniments including delightfully tart red cabbage, a potato terrine, kale, blackberries and vanilla.
Ending the meal on a high, pleasing desserts include excellent house variations on the classics – crème brulée, trifle, clafoutis and, of course, chocolate – and any milk served with the Badger & Dodo artisan coffee is Glenisk organic.
A balanced, informative and affordable wine list offers plenty in the €20-€30 range – and, unusually, all wines (including champagne) are available by the glass.
All round, Brasserie Mark Anderson is a great asset to the Mid-West region – and one well worth remembering when planning a trip.