At a culinary moment when ingredients are taking the lead over fancy techniques, haute cuisine is having to adapt. This new vibe is perfectly encapsulated at The Oak Room, a newly Michelin-starred restaurant at Limerick’s luxurious Adare Manor hotel. Before it opened in 2017, the chefs toured around Ireland in a campervan as they put together their menu, inspired by the local ingredients they found en route.
The result is a seven-course tasting menu and an à la carte-style section featuring almost entirely Irish-grown produce. The bread, for instance, comes with a pat of seaweed butter from Galway; a parmesan raviolo sits in a rich, gamey consommé made from wild boar sourced in Ballywillin; beetroot for a simple tartare comes from a farm down the road; and a cup of smooth, salty mashed potatoes from Ballymakenny accompanies a tender slab of Castletownbere-caught turbot.
The cooking is straightforward and unfussy, allowing the ingredients to take centre stage. The sweetness of a scallop cuts through the umami-rich hit of caviar, and a fillet of monkfish (the hero of the meal) is simply roasted in butter and served with fennel and basil on a shallow pool of bouillabaisse. The meal ends with a “Jaffa Cake” of a dessert: chocolate ganache and orange jelly accompanied by an orange sorbet that tastes so distinctly of an orange (pith and all) as to be startling.
It feels as though Ireland is having something of a culinary renaissance. The country now boasts 18 Michelin-starred restaurants, its best showing in years. In February, Phaidon will add a chunky Irish cookbook to its catalogue of world cuisine titles. And The Oak Room is a sparkling showcase of this new foodie scene.