|The Idle Wall|
Named after a local landmark where, in the past, dockers would sit and wait for casual work at the busy harbour, The Idle Wall is located beside the entrance gates to Westport House looking out onto the town’s picturesque waterfront. From the moment you first step into the restaurant you get a real sense that nostalgia and food memories have played a huge part in Aine’s food. The menu is peppered with her interpretation of dishes from her childhood and is immediately appealing.
Although it had been a beautiful day, the evening on which we visited had turned distinctly chilly so we were glad to be seated beside an open fire in the simply decorated and unpretentious dining room. Paintings by local artists hang on the walls and these along with patterned china placed in a random fashion on shelves add to the overall homely feel of the room which we found charming.
Shortly after we had made our menu choices, Aine appeared carrying a large basket of bread from which she served us thick slices of a Brown and a White Soda Bread. She explained that the latter had been made using buttermilk that she had smoked over turf. I was intrigued and curious to see what the bread tasted like. The audible moans of pleasure started with my first bite and by the time I had finished the slice, I was whimpering like an idiot. I LOVED it. Anyone who burns turf will know that it has its own distinctive and almost sweet aroma which permeates everything. My grandmother used to have a turf-burning range oven and I can remember how, after visits to her house, the smoky perfume lingered on in our hair and clothing. Eating Aine Maguire’s delicious soda bread was like being forcefully thrust back to those times and I found the experience strangely moving. The breads were served with two butters, a plain and a turf-smoked version.
My guest for the evening decided on the Deep Fried Crispy Duck Egg, Pickled Red Onion, Chorizo & Reek View Farm Salad (€8.50) to start. The egg had been expertly cooked with a moreishly crispy exterior and a wonderfully runny yolk that oozed seductively onto the lettuce leaves mingling with the very tasty and nicely balanced salad dressing. Thin slices of fried chorizo added some spicy heat which was welcome against the rich creaminess of the duck egg. Memory started playing its tricks once again and I was reminded of the egg and lettuce salads I had in my youth.
My starter of Smoked Mackerel, Horseradish Cream & Salad (€8.50) also came presented with the same salad but it managed to feel like a very different dish where the soft and beautifully smoked mackerel was the star of the show. The fish which had been smoked on Achill Island was one of the best that I have eaten and quite different to the leathery versions that sadly, are too often available in our supermarkets. A large spoonful of a well-judged horseradish cream completed the dish.
Both mains were served with a selection of roast potatoes and seasonal vegetables but we also decided to order a side of Homemade Chips and Béarnaise Aioli (€3). The chips, with their crisp exteriors and lovely fluffy centres were heavenly and we greedily gobbled them down. We regretted not ordering more.
Even though our appetites were well sated, we found the dessert menu impossible to resist so we decided to order one apiece and share them equally between us. First up was Cuinneog Buttermilk Panna Cotta, Green Apple in Sauternes, Honeycomb & Bee Pollen (€6.20). The panna cotta was served in a small bowl with a spoonful of the apple compote on top. The compote had been made using Sauternes - an almost honey sweet dessert wine - which was perfectly paired with the grassy bee pollen and the crispy honeycomb. This delicate dessert was nicely balanced as the panna cotta itself had not been overly sweetened.
Service throughout our meal was friendly and attentive and in keeping with the generally ambience in the restaurant. I loved the food that I ate during my meal and I found that the whole experience resonated on a number of levels, stirring emotions and memories from deep within me. The restaurant scene in Ireland seems to be going through a renaissance at the moment and with chefs like Aine Maguire it is not hard to see why.
Put simply… The food in The Idle Wall is food that you will want to eat.
The Idle Wall
|Buttermilk Panna Cotta|