Although many others have since followed suit, the idea of opening a restaurant in a church was highly original when Hans-Peter Matthia did so in Cashel in 1968. The scale - indeed the whole style of the place - is superb and provides an unusual and atmospheric setting for the seriously fine food which people travel great distances to sample.
Hans-Peter’s son, Jason (who returned from working in some of London’s finest kitchens) joined him in the business in 1998 and this - together with the opening in 2004 of their excellent daytime restaurant, Café Hans, next door (see entry) - brought renewed energy, confirming the status of Chez Hans as the leading restaurant in a wide area and assuring its future.
Ably assisted by his wife, restaurant manager Louise Matthia, and a strong kitchen brigade (it is nice to note that he acknowledges his sous chefs, Barry Underwood and Julia O’Dwyer, on the menu), Jason offers menus that include an early dinner menu that represents some of the best value to be found in Ireland and an extensive à la carte, either of which is definitely worth a special journey.
Guests are welcomed into the bar, to look at Jason’s enticing menus over a drink: the à la carte offers an outstanding choice of nine excellent dishes on each course, including many specialities - their famous cassoulet of seafood (half a dozen varieties of fish and shellfish with a delicate chive velouté sauce), for example, imaginative vegetarian dishes - and, of course, the great lamb and beef for which the area is renowned.
An inspired Tasting of Tipperary Lamb, for example, might be composed of braised shank, minted meatball and a herbed rack, and a classic beef dish with a twist could be char-grilled Angus sirloin, with béarnaise sauce, French fries, and rocket & parmesan salad.
Finish perhaps with lemon tart & lime tart with raspberry sorbet or chocolate mousse with vanilla ice cream and candied oranges, then tea or coffee with home-made petits fours.
Service, under Louise Matthia’s direction, is quick and pleasant. An interesting, well described and fairly priced wine list includes a good range of classic old world and international wines and varieties, and two pages of recommended wines under €40, some from Hans-Peter’s sister’s vineyard in Germany.
Booking ahead is essential.