Restaurant review: Idá’s, Dingle, Co Kerry

How much longer can the Murphy’s wonderful cooking remain undiscovered by the rest of the country?

As one whose aging brain requires regular flushing, a largely fruitless exercise to supposedly ensure clearing space for whatever new guff is uploaded each day, I salute the memory of any reader who recalls me reviewing this same restaurant last year. 

Certainly, there are other deserving establishments out there still to be visited but I must confess to a continued fascination with Idá’s, an ongoing tale nowhere near any concluding chapter. 

And each further visit always begs the same question: when is the rest of the country going to cotton on to its existence?

Tonight, it being the Dingle Food Festival, we are treated to an amplified version, metaphorically and literally: the usual tasting menu expanded to nine courses; each course paired with a natural or organic wine from Kilkenny’s wonderful Le Caveau wine merchants; each course scored with music chosen by Dublin-based DJ John Casey. 

Prosaic types may struggle with ‘conceptual saucing’ of their ‘dinner’ but I’m happy to indulge chef/proprietor and recovering fine artist Kevin Murphy, and it would take a world-class curmudgeon to cavil about any combination of fine food, wine and music.

An amuse bouche of smoked lobster and whiskey butter on a seaweed cracker is a punchy maritime emissary for Foraged Broth of Land & Sea that follows, a fresh Glenbeigh oyster added to the hot broth fine-tunes already significant umami wallop. 

German electronica is a background harmony to the rapid rise in decibels as suddenly-awakened palates set to parsing hidden complexities in this humble looking dish while a buttery Muscadet (Chateau du Coing de Saint-Fiacre, 2013) surprises with its ability to keep pace.

Only after My Heart’s Delight has utterly vanquished Monkfish Liver fried in brown butter, velvety foie richness pierced by sharp un-ripened blackberry and fresh chickweed, do I confirm she has consumed fish offal. 

A squeamish sort, she freely admits, if pre-informed, she’d have run a mile. She also admits she’d scoff another five or six in a heartbeat.

Salted Pollock with roast bone emulsion and Ballyhoura king oyster mushrooms is a masterclass in elemental fish cooking, barely seasoned fish falling away in glistening porcelain slabs, illustrating just how good lesser-hymned pollock can be under a gentle hand but the pronounced ‘naturalness’ of Alexandre Bain Champ Couturier, Tracy-sur-Loire 2014 does not sit well with a neighbouring oenophile who baldly states, ‘sauvignon from the Loire should not taste like that!’ 

Fair enough, so I choose to relish its funky charms while blithely ignoring the passport.

Wine keeps flowing, nary a dud glass to be found, courses fly by. MHD swoons over a concave ‘bowl’ of pearl onion cradling a teaspoon of broth. Sweet, tender lamb encounters sharp, crunchy fermented white turnips. 

Some of Murphy’s ongoing lactic experimentations (including whey, fresh cheese, buttermilk) are illuminations of the still under-explored potential of Irish dairy.

Even Casey gets in on the act, an Ethiopian tune, Tezeta (Nostalgia) rises above the hubbub, standing out as a perfect and plaintive seasoning for a wonderful Brill with whey butter sauce and foraged foreshore fare, a throwback to Murphy’s childhood. 

A splendidly under-sweetened dessert of fennel ice cream and tangy buttermilk ‘meringue’ is uplifting even after seven preceding courses and defies restraint.

Idá’s may be tucked away in a remote little corner of the far south-west but Murphy’s cooking is now comparable only with the very best from anywhere on the island. 

An especially zealous commitment to produce, foraged and cultivated, of his magical hinterland, mark him out in a town already heaving with good restaurants making excellent use of the local ‘larder’.

With each return visit, it becomes harder to find flaws and only the premises lag behind, still short of the dynamic and aesthetic appeal to best serve such superb food. 

So, before Murphy dons the overalls and sets about writing that next chapter in this ongoing tale, might I suggest a pilgrimage sometime soon? 

After all, should the venue eventually match the standard of the food, then you’ll find words such as ‘perfection’ being bandied about and, when that class of thing happens, you won’t have a hope of bagging a table, even in far off Dingle.

The Tab: €300 (€150pp for this one-off event including all drinks. Normal average for dinner for two is €150)

Opening Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 5.30pm to 9.30pm

The Verdict

Food: 9/10

Service: 8/10

Value: 9/10

Atmosphere/Ambiance: 9/10 (Extra points awarded for John Casey’s sterling contribution to the night)

Idá’s, John Street, Dingle; 

066 915 0885, www.facebook.com/IdasRestaurant

 Idá’s, John Street, Dingle; 066 915 0885, www.facebook.com/IdasRestaurant    


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