When his much loved Newbridge hotel, The Red House, was destroyed by fire some years ago Brian Fallon (of Fallon & Byrne in Dublin, see entry) brought the whole team to this well known premises in the attractive village of Kilcullen.
Following major renovations throughout, the building emerged with a beguiling interior - a stylish blend of old and new that will be familiar to anyone who remembers The Red House - and a very relaxing atmosphere.
The smartly understated stone-grey exterior is highlighted by simple gold signage, a promising sign for first-time visitors, who will also warm to the welcoming fire on chilly days and a prompt greeting from pleasant staff, who guide you to the atmospheric restaurant or to one of several eating areas in the buzzy bar - which is smartly and comfortably set up for dining, with wooden-topped tables and a mixture of upholstered banquettes and painted chairs.
Menus read really temptingly, not only because the dishes themselves sound so delicious although they certainly do – who could resist starters of Dingle Bay crab claws with wild garlic and chive butter, or Ted Browne’s prawn cocktail with mixed leaves, for example, or mains like free-range chicken, with stuffing, carrot & parsnip, or a vegetarian main dish of roast organic Grangebeg vegetables with Mossfield cheese fritters...
But the nicest thing is the food has a sense of place and personality, with a sprinkling of producer names throughout the menu, and a sense that there’s a real sense of commitment - and real people - behind each delicious dish.
And Fallons have taken the idea of crediting their valued suppliers a stage further than a descriptive list (excellent though that can be), and brought them centre stage.
If you pop in for afternoon tea (or a glass of lovely cloudy Ballycross apple juice, from down the road at Bridgetown, Co Wexford), it’s Mrs G’s jam from Abbeyleix that you’ll get with the freshly baked scones and cream – and then, if you look at their ‘Supplier Family’ you’ll see her there smiling out at you.
Look again and you’ll see Sandra Higgins alongside, with a Hubbard chicken tucked under her arm and a gang of them pecking away in the grass behind her - and there’s Nolan’s pristine butchers shop (just across the road, and one of Ireland’s best), and the organic vegetables and free-range vegetables grown at the nearby Camphill and Grangebeg communities…and so on.
You can read about their fish suppliers, and how they’re working on sustainable stock management – and how shellfish suppliers Ted Browne of Dingle have come from working out of their garage in 1984 to employing 60 people today; find out about organic cheese production at the St Tola goat farm in Co Clare.
Hear how meat wholesalers M&K meats (‘very best meats in Ireland’) went from a single butchers shop to supplying 99% of Ireland’s top restaurants with a range of meats that includes O’Doherty’s organic pork and ‘black bacon’ from Fermanagh and seasonal Connemara Hill Lamb, the only Irish product to have EU PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) status – it must be born and reared in Connemara.
All fascinating stuff, and a joy to read if, like most people, you like your food to have a sense of place. Not that even the very best ingredients would cut much ice if the obvious quality of the produce wasn’t matched by genuine commitment and talent in the kitchen, and by service.
But it is: the cooking is great, portions are generous (as befits this sporting area), the staff are lovely and the value is good for the quality offered – no wonder their happy customers keep coming back for more.