Sunday, 4 October 2015

Restaurant Review: VM Restaurant, Viewmount House, Longford

Viewmount House, a beautiful Georgian house lovingly restored by James and Beryl Kearney is set on four acres of magnificent gardens on the outskirts of Longford Town. The house, originally built in 1740, was once home to the Earl of Longford but these days is a boutique hotel offering luxurious, stylish accommodation and first-rate food in the attached VM Restaurant.
I have stayed here before and can confirm that there is something very special about Viewmount House. With its exquisite grounds, comfortable rooms and great restaurant, it represents the perfect destination for anyone seeking a relaxing break with top-notch food and impeccable service.
Selection of Bread
The impressive ground floor dining room which houses VM Restaurant is located in the original stable buildings which have been converted to create a spacious area with a high ceiling and large windows that look out on to the immaculately maintained gardens.
The menu reads extremely well with choices to suit most palates. It changes regularly to take advantage of what is seasonably available and where possible, Head Chef Gary O’Hanlon uses produce that has been locally sourced. Although still in time for the Early Bird menu which finished at 7.30pm and is served on Wednesdays and Thursdays only, we decided to go for the Dinner menu instead.
Duck Leg Confit Terrine
Bread is made from scratch on the premises and a good selection is offered including White Bread and slices of an Apricot & Walnut Loaf - both of which were flavoursome and had good texture with a nice crust.  My favourite however, was an outstanding Guinness & Treacle Brown Soda Bread which had a wonderfully moist and chewy texture. Thickly spread with butter it was impossible to improve on. The bread was served with butter and a nicely spiced Red Pepper Hummus.
Our meal then kicked off with an amuse bouche of Thornhill Duck Leg Confit & Salt Baked Celeriac Terrine. This was an unconventional way to serve the duck as the meat had been removed from the bone and shredded to form the basis of the terrine. It came presented with carrot, a sweet and earthy baby beetroot purée and a particularly well-made piquant celeriac remoulade. Powdered duck fat completed the dish and added a vaguely salty element which dissolved pleasingly on the tongue. We really enjoyed it.
Pork Cheek
My starter of Beetroot Cured Clare Island Organic Salmon was a beautifully presented and colourful dish. The inclusion of some lightly pickled shitake mushrooms was an inspired addition to the plate as their texture (which was reminiscent of cooked oysters) complimented the salmon perfectly. Furthermore, the pickling juices of the mushrooms along with the small segments of fresh pink grapefruit which had also been included cut through the richness of the salmon. A fresh and citrusy quinoa salad provided interesting textural contrast. This was a very clever dish which showcased the excellent quality of the salmon that had been used.
John’s starter of Braised Rare Breed Pork Cheek, Grain Mustard & White Onion Bisque looked and smelled absolutely delicious. Here the pork had been slowly braised and showed no resistance to the lightest of pressure applied by the fork. The soft and succulent pork was so satisfying to eat and was perfect with the smooth mustard and onion bisque. Garnished with crispy potato flakes and seasoned with onion salt, this was a rich dish full of intense gutsy flavours.
Jelly & Yoghurt
As part of its Dinner menu the VM Restaurant offers an optional extra course which is served before the mains. After a rich starter, John enjoyed his light and refreshing Jelly of Viewmount Blackberry and Richmount Farm Elderflower, Glenisk Organic Natural Yoghurt which came presented in a tiny Kilner jar. The jelly was tart having been barely sweetened and together with the thin layer of tangy yoghurt that it was topped with created a dish with wonderful palate cleansing properties. By way of contrast my velvety Celeriac Soup was a substantial dish. It included generous chunks of slightly salty ham that accentuated the natural sweetness of the celeriac and was comforting to eat.
I settled on Wild Irish Sea Bream for my main course. This was another attractive looking dish which included two large sea bream fillets which had been carefully cooked so that the flesh was soft and succulent and the skin wonderfully crispy. Served along with fresh orange segments and a lively citrus beurre blanc this was a light yet satisfying dish. Compressed marinated fennel added another layer of flavour and a pine nut and almond crumble provided textural contrast.
John selected the Irish Free Range Chicken with Celeriac Mornay, for his main course. The celeriac mornay was inventively presented as a smooth purée onto which well-cooked, moist and tender pieces of roast chicken were placed. A chorizo, butternut squash and spiced walnut nage inspired by the flavours of the Middle-East worked well with the delicate chicken to create an interesting and elegant interpretation of a classic roast chicken dinner. Garden peas and pea-shoots completed the dish.
Honey Sponge, Popcorn ice-Cream
Intrigued by the sound of the popcorn ice-cream on offer, I decided to pick the Warm Citrus & Honey Sponge, Candied Popcorn, Salted Caramel & Popcorn Ice-Cream for dessert. Here citrus juices were used along with honey to create a light but not overly sweet sponge cake with a lovely texture. This sat on top of a generous ‘smear’ of salted caramel sauce. The ice-cream was heavenly and with its distinct popcorn taste was fun to eat. I love desserts and this one did not disappoint.
John’s choice of dessert - a Granny Smith Apple Parfait, Sorbet of Richmount Farm Elderflower & Apple, Honeycomb was another winner. The parfait was smooth and refreshing and contrasted nicely with the freshness of the compressed apple. Honeycomb nuggets provided little bursts of sweetness.
Apple Parfait
We washed everything down with a half bottle of a 2009 Chateau Tour de Pas St. Émilion which was reasonably priced at €19.50. It was full of ripe berry flavours with a good length on the palate and was a good choice with our diverse menu choices.
A trio of petits fours including a raspberry marshmallow, chocolate truffle and mini-madeleine along with cups of filtered coffee brought a thoroughly enjoyable meal to a close. I think that at €55 per person, the Dinner Menu is outstanding value for the quality of food you get. Gary O’Hanlon is one of this country’s most talented chefs and he produces well thought-out interesting food that is absolutely delicious.
Service throughout the meal was very professional, but in no way stiff or overly formal. There are many establishments who could learn a lot from Beryl and her team in this regard as it was faultlessly delivered and perfectly pitched.
VM Restaurant
Viewmount House
Dublin Road
Longford Town
County Longford
Tel: 043-3341919
This review first appeared in

Guiness Treacle Brown Bread