Party returns to Powerscourt
But Sika Restaurant at The Powerscourt Hotel needs to prioritise flavour over flounces
It’s quite the sight after a nose-to-tail journey on the N11. A line of gleaming vintage cars is queuing at the Powerscourt Hotel in Enniskerry. Each driver whisks away a couple of women in posh dresses. Husky men wearing lanyards and wheeling suitcases are arriving in taxis. Giddiness levels are high and a woman with a clipboard is keeping it all moving. Have we tripped across some insanely expensive wedding? No, it’s a Canadian insurance company bash. And the cars are taking them up to Powerscourt House for a party.
The former Ritz-Carlton hotel has seen its share of parties, not all of them grounded in the insurance dollars of risk-averse Canadians. The hotel was built in a hollow on the beautiful Powerscourt estate by Johnny Ronan’s Treasury Holdings. The swaggering building became one of the biggest money pits in Irish hotel history. It was reported to have €127 million in debts when it was Nama-ed. It’s since been sold for a song, said to be something to the tune of €4 million. Last year, the suits renamed it The Powerscourt Hotel.
The restaurant is named after a woodland creature, the sika deer. I haven’t been able to get a table the previous two evenings as the restaurant was booked for private functions.
The Sika takes a bit of seeking in the bewilderingly vast lobby with a bay window which is of Bay of Biscay proportions. Gilded hot air balloon chandeliers float over the couches. A smiling man at the desk sends me down a curved stairs where elevator music is playing in a nearly-empty room. The carpets of Ramsay’s time are gone. The chairs have been re-upholstered and a sober charcoal grey has been painted on parts of the walls. The tables are still linen covered and there are lots of circles. Circular tables, a circle of slate with a circle of butter. My beef fillet comes cut in a perfect circle. Someone somewhere might have suggested the circle as a concept.
The view is gorgeous. Our table looks out at the Sugar Loaf and a line of sunlit pines which we will watch the summer light slide over during the set €60 a head, three-course menu.
The food is typical Irish five-star hotel fare: meat, two veg, a swirl of sauces, a crumb and a foam. There is a list of excellent producers and a definite nod to what’s in season. The good things include an earthy mushroom puree with fried scallops, but the scallops are a touch overcooked. They come with wild garlic gnocchi which sounds great in print but in reality the wild garlic has given just colour rather than flavour to the soft potato parcels. Anne’s Fivemiletown goats’ cheese comes as a long slab surrounded by a circle of golden beet, some purple beet sauce and a walnut crumble that’s so sweet it seems to belong more in the granola buffet than on a savoury plate.
My beef fillet is a fine cut of silky meat but as bloodless as a banker’s handshake even though I ordered it rare. More satisfying is the rectangle of puff pastry with thready beef topping and a chip-size chunk of jellyish bone marrow. The other good touch is two spears of grilled white asparagus. The second main course is a well-cooked flaky fillet of cod with lovely green asparagus spears and mushrooms speckled with the star ingredient, Kanturk butcher Jack McCarthy’s coppa, crunchy cubes of gorgeous bacon.
A lemon tart does what it needs to do, but my blood orange parfait is the weirdest dessert I’ve eaten for a while. A roll of fudgy pink and white which tastes of nothing sits alongside a flavourless coriander mousse with sugared coriander leaves standing to attention (no, never had them before and never want them again). There’s a white chocolate ball which breaks under the fork to spill pink tangy juice onto the plate. Unfortunately the bombe chocolate has the latex-aftertaste of chewing a rubber glove.
There’s that five-star sting in the tea and coffee prices at nearly a tenner for the two, bringing our bill with two glasses of wine and tap water to almost €150. Dessert apart, it’s been a well-executed meal. But if they really want to fill this dining room with people who aren’t staying at the hotel or attending a bash, then the ambition has to aim for flavours over flounces. Dinner for two came to €147.05.
Sika Restaurant, The Powerscourt Hotel, Enniskerry, Co Wicklow
Tel: 01-274 9377
Music: Elevator muzack
Food provenance: Good, with local names such as Gold River Farms and Wicklow Rapeseed Oil
Facilities: Marble-lined swish
Wheelchair access: Yes
Vegetarian options: On request
Verdict: 6.5/10. A welcome reinvention that needs a bit more work