YEP, the snow was wonderful and all that: fun and frolics for frostbitten ‘kids’ of all ages; community spirit at an all time group-hugging high; and cosy family nights in by the fire approaching nuclear levels of Hygge (the Danish word for ‘craic’, minus actual ‘craic’).
But it also meant The Cat’s Pyjamas (this week’s soubriquet) and I had to postpone our keenly anticipated night away in The Mustard Seed, cabin fever adding a rather manic urgency to our subsequent re-scheduled departure a week later and having turfed devil spawn somewhere in the general vicinity of their grandparents, we hit the highway like Dick Turpin on steroids.
It is ostensibly a romantic break, for reconnecting/rekindling/reviving and whatever other boxes require ticking but our initial cravings are entirely selfish, concerned only with liquid comfort. TCP requires something hot and foamy and easily topped up by occasional languid stretching of a tap-twiddling toe, in other words, a prolonged bath.
I’m after something cold, black and foamy, partaken of in the local pub, the better to relish the penultimate Irish Six Nations game, against the Scots. This arrangement works out very well indeed for all parties and appetites are honed to a keen edge by the time we assemble for pre-dinner Bellinis in the library.
The dining room is a smart yet relaxed room: navy blue walls, long velvet drapes, tasteful artwork and fine old cornicing around the high ceilings.
Proprietor John Edward Joyce oversees all with convivial charm, steering us towards a fine Italian Chardonnay (Alois Lageder 2015) of fresh green apple, flinty minerality and long smoky finish.
I readily admit to being a coffee snob/bore/geek or however you choose to describe someone who waffles for hours about roast profiles and growing altitudes and spends way too much on brewing kit.
It naturally follows that I give deep consideration to its potential as a savoury cooking ingredient but any efforts tasted to date, even at Michelin star level, have disappointed.
Seemingly it is best suited to dessert or confectionery, my personal faves being affogato or a coffee and walnut sponge consumed at an Irish Countrywomen’s Association shindig — and the latter was made with Maxwell House.
And then I taste Mustard Seed chef Angel Piriv’s oak barreled, coffee yellow carrots, coffee-braised tubers assuming sultrier, earthier undertones, something more akin to roasted Jerusalem artichoke, complexity of flavour even has me doubting for a second it is actually carrot.
Served with splendidly herbed feta cheese, more carrots — hay-smoked — savoury broth and a citric-sweet mandarin puree, it is an elemental dish that commands attention.
Excellent chicken (seared breast, good terrine) is countered with plum and maple syrup, just sweet enough and with a pleasing acidity that elevates the tender meat, cossetted as it is in demure parsnip and buttermilk puree.
A simple yet surprisingly hearty green salad anointed with sweet papaya dressing makes an excellent ‘breather’ for the belly before main courses.
TCP’s justly relishes meaty slabs of perfectly cooked turbot encircled by superb scallops, buttery sweet carmelised exterior enclosing tender milky flesh.
Jerusalem artichoke is an unctuous ally while sweet Yacon root, another tuber, with an almost pear-like ‘bite’, adds contrasting textures.
Suckling Pig offers variations on a porcine (Ballinwillin Farm boar) theme: flavours are spot on though herby sausage could use more fat while a meaty aspic jelly is over-chilled and slightly under-set.
Silky purees (wild garlic, celeriac) are luxurious while crunchy asparagus and crisp crackling add bite.
TCP is too in love with her dessert, a heavenly mousse, to proffer more than a glimpse while I enjoy an old school crumble, though a tart berry sorbet is a too-startling substitute for custard or vanilla ice cream.
Chef Angel Piriv is a very good cook, as able to satisfy a local rural audience looking for a good feed as to quietly get the attention of any erstwhile epicureans, and I can’t help thinking his food must be more enjoyable again when the very excellent organic gardens to the rear of the house are in full bloom, supplying the kitchens with the finest of truly local produce.
And I haven’t even mentioned the superb breakfasts. This, of course, will all entail a return visit and soon. Another ‘romantic break’, perhaps, maybe in time for the impending World Cup this summer?
Tel: 069-68508; www.mustardseed.e
Classic Dinner Menu costs €62 per person
Mon-Fri, Dinner, 6.30pm-9.15pm; Lunch, Sundays & by appointment