Renowned food critic Adrian Anthony Gill, who writes under the name AA Gill, visited the restaurant at Ballymaloe recently.
Writing in The Sunday Times Magazine, he complained about the layout of the car park, the items for sale in the kitchen shop, and the fact there were more women than men eating in the restaurant.
Eventually turning his critical gaze towards the food, Gill admitted the carrots were excellent — but there were too many of them for his taste, apparently. He also found fault with the seasoning and flavouring, describing them as “timid”.
In response to the remarks, Ballymaloe’s Hazel Allen said it was somewhat “out of the blue” as Gill’s visit to the restaurant seemed to have been a pleasant one.
“He was very pleasant, very nice; there were no problems. We didn’t know he was coming, but we did recognise him when he arrived. He just walked in, the same as anyone else would. There was no indication he was unhappy,” she said.
Ms Allen also said the restaurant probably wasn’t what Gill was expecting.
“We’re very much a country house on a farm — we’re not trying to be anything else. Our food is seasonal and we don’t import anything from overseas, so we serve what’s in the garden. At this time of the year, that means a lot of carrots but, to be fair, he did say they were very good.”
She admitted seeing the bad review was upsetting, but said it wouldn’t change the way the restaurant was run.
“We’ll keep doing what we do. We were fairly disappointed with it, of course, but he’s entitled to his opinion.”
While in Cork, Gill also visited the Farmgate Café in the English Market to dine on smoked fish and beef stew. Taking a shine to the “unexpected treasure”, Gill championed the atmosphere, calling it a restaurant “rooted in good things and fine tastes, all served with pleasure and good nature”.
When handing him the bill, the waitress said the restaurant had dreaded the day he came — but then it began to dread he would never come at all. She need not have worried, however, as Gill declared the mash potato so good the restaurant “deserved their own gold medal”.
Rebecca Harte from Farmgate said they were delighted with the review.
“It was a huge relief to be honest,” she said.
“We’re very pleased he liked the market and he liked Farmgate. It was the best review we’ve ever gotten.
“But it was a bit upsetting for us to get such a great review considering the remarks he made about Ballymaloe.
“We think they’re wonderful operators, they’re fantastic.”