Unassuming, handsome & full of life, MacNean House and Restaurant really is a mirror image of its endearing owners Mr Neven McGuire and his beautiful wife Amelda. Taking to the road from Dublin to West Cavan we were filled with excitement about the evening of undoubted culinary delights that lay ahead. We have genuinely never heard one bad word about MacNean House and having attended a couple of events in this renowned restaurant we felt it was high time to add it to TheTaste.ie culinary map.
When we phoned to make our reservation we accepted the first cancellation that was available, which as it turned out was just a week away. MacNean House is constantly busy but, like everywhere, cancellations invariably occur so don’t let the thought of long waiting lists prevent you from making that call.
Arriving into the heart of the very quiet village of Blackloin, a stone faced building adorned with hanging baskets overflowing with multi-coloured sweetpea quaintly frame one of the greatest names on the Irish culinary scene, MacNean House and Restaurant. Arriving around 6pm on a Thursday evening the restaurant was already buzzing. A very efficient check in and we were immediately shown to our room for the night. The very charming Aidan Kelly, Assistant Manager, does not provide you with the option to carry your own luggage. From the moment you step through the front door, you are tended to in the most welcoming fashion.
A very modern, stylish bedroom with a spacious ensuite bathroom. Decorated in grey and pink tones with a sparkling chandelier adding that touch of glamour. So nice to see that MacNean House are ahead of many with the use of large, refillable soaps, body lotion, shampoo and conditioner from one of our favourite Irish brands, Voya. Small steps like this are where every establishment can contribute to less packaging waste and we really hope to see more following suit.
A little aperitif in the very welcoming bar that we spotted just off of reception was our first port of call. A pint of Guinness and an Old Fashioned marked the starting point of our night. The Old Fashioned so good that the quick witted, jolly barman and ourselves agreed it was so good it was almost medicinal for my hayfever suffering dinner date. Some very dainty delights accompanied our drinks and were a sterling indication of the taste sensations that lay ahead.
Whilst enjoying our pre dinner drinks and snacks we had the opportunity to pore over the array of indulgent offerings on the menu with the guidance of one of the lovely MacNean House ladies, every item described and explained with absolutely nothing overlooked. We decided to splash out and go for the Prestige Menu with Wine Pairings, €139pp.
Neven’s Signature Menu rests confidently in the hands of Head Chef, Carmel McGirr who executes each course with skilled precision. A bread basket that we would devour all day long put us on our food path for the night. Pea & Mint Velouté with a spoonful of Tuna Tartare woke our taste buds right up, the addition of a glass of Champagne only enhanced our starting point further.
This is an extensive menu with more choice than many Tasting Menus. Below we have showcased eight dishes but as you can see from the menu, there is ample variety. The wine pairings as curated by Restaurant Manager and Sommelier, Blaithin McCabe are of an excellent standard. Not only does Blaithin know how to pick them but she also knows how to pour a more than generous measure.
Starters of Thornhill Duck & Seared Sea Scallops were our choices and wow were they incredible. Thornhill Duck, Confit Spring roll, Seared & Home Smoked Breast along with a little noisette of Foie Grais. In all honesty it was this plate that inspired our title for this review. Heavenly mouthfuls of the most flavourful duck imaginable. Dishes like this are so delicate but compounded with an intensity of flavour that is insurmountable.
Seared Sea Scallops, Maple Glazed Smoked Pork Belly & Cauliflower prove themselves to be a formidable combination. The salty nature of the Pork enhancing the buttery scallops and cauliflower balancing them both out and showing them who the true underdog of this dish is. Faultless.
As Beef lovers we were never going to be able to resist our first choice of main, Dry Aged Beef Fillet, Braised Beef Shortrib & Creamed Celariac. The richness of the beef mellowed out so subtly by the creamed celeriac. Our table was furnished with sides of buttered new potatoes, tenderstem broccoli & kale dressed with lightly poached lengths of rhubarb, a new flavour combination to us but certainly one we enjoyed.
Monkfish, Basil Bulger Wheat, Lobster, Dublin Bay Langoustine & Ponzu Gel, this monkfish had been cooked so delicately and retained all of its tenuous flavour that as we all know can be lost if not handled properly. The meatiest of the fish family all highlighted so elegantly in this dish with Lobster and Dublin Bay Langoustine. Seafood with soul.
Pat Clarke Strawberry Plate, Strawberry & Lemon Cheesecake, White Chocolate Semifreddo & Yuzu Sorbet, we have been known on occasion to proclaim that Cheesecake should infact be a food group all of its own. A devilishly delicious Strawberry & Lemon Cheesecake is at the heart of this wonderous plate but its comrades of White Chocolate Semifreddo and Yuzu Sorbet hold their own. A truly stunning dessert.
The Special Dessert of the night was a Chocolate Fondant with a Peanut Butter Ice Cream, Toffee Popcorn and Chocolate Soil quite literally the stuff of dreams for the unashamed chocoholic at the table. Chocolate lava oozing from the centre of its cocoa coccoon mixing seductively with the Peanut Butter Ice cream. This is what decadance tastes like.
Pre – Dessert & Petit Fours were little works of art. Presentation is king here in MacNean House but in no way overshadows taste.
Neven has not just built a fantastic career for himself and an iconic restaurant, he is constantly nurturing new rising talent and turning them into star head chefs. From entrance to exit, every person you encounter holds their own version of Neven’s charm, friendliness and they showcase what is is to be at the pinnacle of Irish hospitality. We recently saw Neven reply to a tweet where someone had (quite rightly) pointed out that they don’t understand how Neven has not yet received a Michelin Star and his reply was something along the lines of … ‘Thank You, but I am more than happy that I have Michelin tyres on my car.’ This consistely gracious attitude along with Neven’s uncompromising dedication make him not only one of Irelands finest Chef’s but also gentlemen. Grace and dignity are to the fore both within this man and his mission.
REVIEW BY: Keith Mahon
MacNean House & Restaurant,
Tel – 00 353 71 9853022
Fax – 00 353 71 9853404