You may be wondering why I have strayed from my usual turf all the way to Limerick; one reason is that with our new roads it is perhaps closer than you think, less than an hour to get there, and the second reason is that No 1 Pery Square is a jewel that really is worth a visit.
Limerick, as we all know, gets some bad press, but over the last few years a lot of time and money has gone into transforming many parts of the city. An example is The People’s Park that runs from the railway station area to the exit right beside No 1 Pery Square. It is beautifully laid out with huge rosebeds, restored Victorian fountain, and bandstand. There was not one cigarette butt to be seen or any litter whatsoever. As I left the park I met two of the park rangers, and to say that they are proud of the parks they look after is an understatement. They chatted with me for ages and they had loads of local knowledge and stories.
The hotel and restaurant is a combination of restored Georgian townhouses and newly constructed buildings that match perfectly. It is in a very quiet part of town and you can park at the front door or have your car parked by the hotel for you in the private locked car park at no charge. It is only a five minute walk to O’Connell Street, and if you are there on a Saturday be sure to visit Limerick’s Saturday fruit and vegetable market, it is superb.
The hotel has four very tastefully restored bedrooms in the original Georgian house, each room named after previous owners of the building. In the new building there is one penthouse suite and 15 club rooms. I stayed in a clubroom and, while I am not a great lover of hotel bedrooms, this ranks as one of the very few in Ireland that I would volunteer to go back to any time. Why? First and foremost the bed, made locally in Ballylanders by the Natural Sleep Company ( www.naturalsleep.ie) Very expensive but fantastic for a sound sleep, in fact so good I will be placing an order for one soon. If you are in the market for a bed Craughwell Furniture is the local agent. Secondly, everything is very carefully chosen for quality and comfort.
There is of course a spa, which we did not have time to investigate, it is built in the original Georgian vaulted cellar and has treatments such as seaweed peat baths (a new one to me), maternity massage, hot towel shaves for men, and much more.
However for me the most impressive part of this visit was the food. The dining room is called Brasserie One, but do not be misled by the brasserie title, this is great food from a great chef and kitchen staff. The night we were there was during Limerick Gourmet Week and several restaurants in the area were serving special three course dinners for €35. I chose the only item on the menu with a supplement, that was €5 extra for a terrine of fois gras, confit of duck and duck livers, served with rhubarb chutney. My companion chose the beetroot marmalade and goat’s cheese tart with rocket pesto in filo pastry. While waiting for our starters we browsed the very interesting wine list, absolutely none of the usual suspects there. There was a fantastic selection of grape styles: cortese, Viura, chenin blanc, viognier riesling, gruner vetliner, chardonnay, and even a white pinot noir, tempranillo, grenache, zinfandel, carmenere, corvino, sangiovse, and much more. The wines were priced from €19 and upwards, with many in the €20 to €30 price range. Following a discussion with our excellent waiter we agreed on a pinot gris from Slovenia called Versus at €28 a bottle. What a wine, it worked with all the dishes perfectly.
My foie gras terrine was excellent, all the different ingredients shone through with their own flavours, rich but not overpowering. My companion’s beetroot tartlet was quite a surprise, it looked great and boy did it taste amazing. Obviously some regulars know this to be the case as several other diners had ordered it too. From the description it sounds ordinary enough, but the super light pastry and the flavours were finger and plate licking good. As it is a brasserie, the kitchen is designed so that you can see through to the chefs working away, no fuss, no bad language, just the word ‘service’ called out to signal that a dish is ready.
My main course was roasted monkfish, warm lentil and fennel salad and spiced butternut puree. What can I say, it was perfect in every way and I mopped up every morsel. I know from cooking monkfish that it is difficult to get it done really tender, but chef Alan Burns did it proud. My companion’s main course was glazed beef, crushed celeriac, and salsa verde. This is beef cheek, a very ‘in’ dish right now, served with a great concentrated glaze. It is a dish that any beef lover would devour, it is incredibly tender and the big flavour is so concentrated that you will remember it for days. This is what dining out should be all about, eating dishes that you just know you would not be able to cook at home without major fuss and perhaps a nervous breakdown. At this stage I must mention the waiting staff, very professional and well versed on all the wines and the food.
There is a wine shop in the hotel where all the wines on the wine list can be purchased to take home. The difference between the wine shop price and the restaurant price for all wines is €10, this means that as you go up a level in wines you are getting great value in the restaurant, as many restaurants take the retail price and multiply by two or three. And yes I did buy some of the Slovenian wine to take home.
My dessert, in the picture, is a delicious raspberry parfait with white chocolate and tasted as good as it looks.
After a fantastic night’s sleep, we had a look at the breakfast menu. The choices included steak and eggs, eggs benedict, devilled kidneys, traditional Irish breakfast, and a dish called omelette arnold, it was described as an omelette with peat smoked haddock. The smoking of the haddock was so slight it just had an edge that had you wondering, was it really smoked? I would actually go back just for this dish. My companion had the eggs benedict with homemade hollandaise, the eggs were perfect on a toasted muffin with a slice of Limerick ham.
If you feel like a night or two away, I cannot recommend it highly enough, have a look at the website for offers and special occasion deals www.oneperysquare.com, phone (061)402402
Tapas selection at KC Blake’s
KC Blake’s restaurant has just added a selection of light bites to its summer lunchtime menu. They are priced between €4.25 and €6.95 and my recommendation would be for you to share a few or even just call in for one if you would like something tasty for approximately the price of a sandwich.
I sampled three items; the mini pot of homemade asparagus soup for €4.25 was excellent if perhaps undersold, it was quite a big bowl of delicious soup with crusty garlicy bread. Next for the chicken wings, also €4.25, with crudites of celery and blue cheese dip, my world travelling daughter assured me they were as good as the best she tasted in a famous Sydney BBQ restaurant. I had the deep fried calamari with lemon aioli and chilli oil, €5.50. The helping was again bigger than expected and delicious. At this point it is worth mentioning the presentation of all three items, simply excellent, so much so that I asked if the china was bought in especially for the various tapas and yes, it was. I would rate this as one of the best quality/value deals in the city at lunch time, and would love to see it extended to night time when one could perhaps order six or seven dishes to share.