JAPANESE GARDENS RESTAURANT
Irish National Stud, Tully, Kildare, 045-521617, irishnationalstud.ie ¤ Visitor’s centre food generally strikes fear in my heart (and my digestive system). Limp, brown leafed salad sandwiches, soggy quiches and rock-hard scones are the usual fodder served up to the busloads of trapped tourists.
A nice surprise then, to visit the restaurant at the National Stud and Japanese Gardens in Kildare.
Here, you really are captive – the only other food for miles is the high-quality hay fed to the country’s thoroughbreds in the adjoining stables. But they’re doing great things inside for the humans too. The bright restaurant is pleasantly decorated with oil table cloths, cream chairs and large windows overlooking the Japanese gardens.
The food is all made on site by Ballymaloe-trained Natalie Collins and her team – there’s an incredibly busy open kitchen to the rear. A still-warm slice of sausage roll (¤10.95), as big as a batch loaf, is crammed with tasty pork, spices and covered in toasted sesame seeds. All main courses are served with a selection of salads, which include a bacon-flecked Caesar, pasta with rocket and pesto and some roasted potato with balsamic and caramelised onions. Two good slices of a loin of bacon (¤9.95) are moist and moreish and come glazed in honey and Dijon, and more of those salads.
Desserts are enormous and again, all made on site. There’s a Toblerone cake (¤3) that disappears while we queue; a light-as-air Belgian chocolate praline mousse cake, served with dainty macarons on the side (¤4.95) and a delicious pear and almond tart, with fresh berries and cream (¤3.95). Food is served here from 9am to 5pm daily. You can visit without entering the stud or the gardens, but then you’d never walk off those desserts…