Dingle: Out of this world

Global Village Restaurant, Main Street, Dingle, Co Kerry; tel: 066-9152325; globalvillagedingle.com

DINGLE sparkles like a dragée on a cake-shaped map of Ireland, a bauble glittering and enticing, almost slipping off the edge of the island to disappear in kelp beds under guttural, gurgling waves. On the shore of a changing, enfolding sea and almost overloaded with folklore and legend, the town’s heartbeat, at this time of the year at least, is tourism. This enterprise is served by the ever-obliging Fungi and an array of restaurants with considerable reputations, some more deserved than others.

Despite its identity crisis of recent years — just like Derry/Londonderry it leads a double, conflicted life — the town never had any difficulty in identifying or realising potential. For many years the town has understood that if it was to compete with the region’s other attractions it needed something a tad above the ordinary. And the town’s restaurants are more than equal to that challenge.

Nuala Cassidy and Martin Bealin’s Global Village Restaurant, Michelin recommended and named the best restaurant in Kerry in this year’s Irish Restaurant Awards, enhances that reputation considerably. It also makes life difficult for those restaurants that might rest on their laurels. It is, by any criteria, top-class. We — DW and I — visited on the eve of the Munster final and the town was alive, buzzing with tourists Irish, European and a lot of Americans. Sometimes you cringe about what might or might not be offered to Buddie and Gertie from Poughkeepsie but not here. Anyone who could not find something to enjoy in Dingle that evening needs to have a life-reclaiming chat with themselves.

Global Village is in a longish narrow room, brightened by paintings of fish and shellfish. We weren’t there overly long but every table in the room was used twice during our stay. Most of the customers were Irish or Irish people with foreign guests and, as ever, this is the very best endorsement of all.

DW opened with crab parfait, crab meat and apple salad, crab bisque, sesame tuille. She’s become quite a fan of crab meat this summer but this, despite impressive alternatives, was really wonderful. Zappy fresh and edged with apple acids, it almost leapt from the plate.

My starter searched different depths but was as memorable. A bowl of crab and cognac bisque struggled to make itself stand out in a list of really attractive starters but it was smokey rich and so full of flavour I can taste it still. A simple dish prepared to benchmark standard. Main courses maintained the standard and outshone all but the very, very best we’ve enjoyed in recent times.

DW chose hake, chorizo, anchovies, rosti potatoes, carrot puree, salsa verde. It was delicious and beautifully cooked. Almost the perfect dish but to fault it would be cavilling for the sake of cavilling.

I had John Dory fillets, Dingle Bay prawns, fennel and orange salad, duck fat potatoes and a herb oil. It was a wonderful juxtaposition of robustness and subtlety, simplicity and complexity.

It is said we taste food with our eyes first and Martin Bealin’s presentation of his dishes is so stylish, so very just right that he obviously recognises this. He could give lessons to many of his hidebound colleagues.

Desserts, followed by indulgent petit fours, were as lovely as anything that preceded them. Buttermilk and elderflower pannacotta, salted caramel ice cream for DW and a mocha plate — coffee and cardamom creme brulee, langue du chat biscuit, coffee truffle and coffee ice cream for me.

The wine Frei Weingartner, Gruner Veltliner Smaragd, Wachau (€33.50) matched everything prepared in house and was, as ever, a pleasure.

Writing about restaurants is too often a gushing, excitable indulgence but every now and then you find something that justifies all of the hyperbole. I went to this meal feeling scratchy and pretty pessimistic about this country and all of the silliness we tolerate but two hours later I left believing that any country that can produce food like this has a future. It really was that good.

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