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Homestead Cottage review: An incredibly beautiful new restaurant from a talented chef

The menu is grounded in the instinct and love of someone who has grown their own produce

Homestead Cottage
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Address: Luogh North, Doolin, V95 KH30, Co Clare.
Telephone: 085 8613103
Cuisine: Modern International
Cost: €€€

It is not often that you get a dish that encapsulates a moment. Bursts of sweetness from tiny peas and broad beans, which have been plucked just a few hours earlier from chef Robbie McCauley’s one-acre plot in Doolin, are dappled with the tisane-like perfume of lemon verbena, sorrel and dill. The tiny tendrils, interspersed with a few sunshine yellow marigold leaves, float on top of St Tola goat’s curd. Dazzling in its simplicity, it’s an ephemeral moment, capturing the delicious essence of summer.

It follows our first course on the €75 seven-course tasting menu, which started with a Flaggy Shore oyster; the sweet, sour and spicy notes of a nahm jim dressing jolting the salinity of its tender flesh.

As if planned in waves, the brine of the sea returns for the third course. It is the most cheffy looking dish at McCauley’s Homestead Cottage restaurant, which has been open just three weeks when I visit.

As the former head chef of Gregans Castle, a serious level of precision is not at all surprising, yet in his new restaurant, the approach is more relaxed than the studied formality of his previous diningroom.


Glimmering, precisely cut diamonds of mackerel sit on a tableau of dots. It’s so delicate, I approach it tentatively, but soon discover that the magic happens when you work across the plate. Kombu-cured mackerel meets the unexpected chewy sweetness of beetroot, horseradish adds a prickle of heat and tiny spheres of apple string it together with a tightrope of freshness.

It is a dish that pairs beautifully with our bottle of Pierre Frick Riesling 2005 (€42), a biodynamic wine with considerable age and umami flavours that is likely to appeal to natural wine lovers. But you’ll also find crisp, fresh styles on this idiosyncratic list of primarily organic wines.

We continue with another fish course. Thin slices of courgette are fanned neatly on top of a round of hake, capped with tender artichoke and gently barbecued mussels. Aubergine caviar, lightly seasoned with garlic, thyme and olive oil, adds an earthy note, sitting beneath the hake in a pool of sauce mariniere. The creamy white wine sauce is split with verdant splashes of parsley oil. It’s a dish with quite a few elements, yet it’s not overwrought.

The meat course is a substantial serving of Burren beef which is quite simply magnificent. Charred to a deep mahogany crust, it is rare inside, served with wilted brassicas, wild garlic puree and garlic capers. The side dish of pomme puree merits a health warning for the gloriously indulgent ratio of potato to butter, or is it butter to potato? Either way, it’s delicious.

On to the sweet courses and an ineffably light chocolate mousse with fresh cherries and toasted flaked almonds is topped with a quenelle of creamy ice-cream. A second dessert is lighter still, a lemon cream with new season blackberries and crystallised blackberry leaves.

Contrary to how it may sound, there is not too much food. It’s a tasting menu with real flow, a coherent succession of plates rather than a tortured slog and litany of look-what-I-can-do show-offery. There is nothing gratuitous. It is the mature cooking of a skilled chef, grounded in the instinct and love of someone who has grown their own produce.

Homestead Cottage is quite extraordinary. It is rare to find a convergence of so many important elements in one place. It is an incredibly beautiful room – a 200-year-old cottage with an unusually high ceiling, stone walls, a Luogh flagstone floor and an impressive fireplace lined with bunches of dried herbs. The rustic tables impart the warmth of a homestead, and painted chairs and small vases of flowers add accents of colour.

Service is equally beautiful, with Normandy native Mallary Geffroy, who also worked at Gregans Castle, bringing that elusive combination of friendliness and professional polish. At lunch, which is more casual, service is managed by Sophie, McCauley’s wife. And then there’s the food, the home produce which is soon to include poulet de Bresse, Aylesbury ducks and Oxford sandy and black pigs, the skill of the chef, and that very reasonable price that slips in neatly below any of the fine dining restaurants locally – Gregans Castle, Wild Honey Inn and Oar Restaurant.

It is so gratifying to enjoy that generous sense of wellbeing that only a very special meal can deliver. A snapshot of summer, a moment of sunshine in the pouring rain.

Dinner for two with a bottle of wine was €192.

The verdict: An incredibly beautiful new restaurant from a seriously talented chef.

Music: Janice Joplin.

Food provenance: Liscannor fish, Burren beef, lamb from Kilshanny, Fanore and Kilfanora, vegetables from chef’s garden, Moy Hill and Liz Griffith.

Vegetarian options: Vegetarian menu available with 72 hours’ notice. At lunch, dishes such as courgette with peas, couscous and St Tola.

Wheelchair access: Accessible room and toilet.

Corinna Hardgrave

Corinna Hardgrave

Corinna Hardgrave, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes a weekly restaurant column