Meal Ticket: Step House Hotel, Carlow

Step House Hotel
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Address: Borris, Co Carlow
Telephone: 0599773209
Cuisine: Fusion

The Step House Hotel is a great stopping off point after exploring the banks of the River Barrow or hitting the heights of Mt Leinster. Options for eating include the dark, but classic Irish bar – 1808 – or the downstairs Cellar restaurant. The latter is in the kitchens of the original old house, which has 20 bedrooms, and is a series of interconnected rooms with views out to the gardens (think Bellinter House, Meath or Hunter’s Hotel in Co Wicklow).

Head chef Alan Foley, formerly of Peacock Alley, Sheen Falls Lodge and Chapter One, is enthusiastic about all things local and cooks traditional dishes with modern twists. A veggie menu is available – you’ll need to ask, but it’s there – and features Ardsallagh goats cheese and mushroom and sweet potato pithivier. The main menu offers an impressive range of meat (ham hock terrine with baked artichokes and beetroot; free range pork; local ox cheek) and fish dishes (gravlax of salmon with pickled dill jelly, white radish and cod and crab croquettes).

The most surprising dish was roast plum tomato soup with rabbit and oregano. Yes rabbit. It was an inspiring “chef-ey” dish that tasted as good as it looked. Leave space for dessert – a strawberry salad that sounded too fussy for my taste with rhubarb foam and rose petal granite, was a dish of summer goodness.

Two courses €36; three courses €40. There is also Sunday brunch and a full tasting menu. Lunch in the bar is 12.30pm-2.30pm and mains in the bar average €14 from 6pm-8pm.

Leonie Corcoran

Leonie Corcoran

Leonie Corcoran is a contributor to The Irish Times