The Cliff House

Middle Road, Ardmore, County Waterford, Ireland

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The Cliff House has considerable culinary history. The restaurant, set in a hotel that dates back to 1932 but was rebuilt in 2008, was first awarded a Michelin star in 2010 under chef Martin Kajuiter. He left in 2020 and was replaced by Ian Doyle for two years, retaining the star.  The kitchen is now run by Tony Parkin, who formerly ran the kitchens of The Tudor Room. Mr Parkin formerly worked at The Vineyard at Stock Cross, Noma, Northcote, Gordon Ramsay and at Adam Simmonds at Danesfield House. The Cliff House, a boutique hotel with 39 rooms, is set in the village of Ardmore looking out to sea, 60km (about a one-hour drive) due east of Cork and 68km south west of Waterford. The restaurant and lounge have a spectacular view out over the sea, and there is a terrace for drinks when the weather is good. The menu is a tasting only format, priced at €150 (£128). The dining room can accommodate 40 diners, with eight chefs in the kitchen tonight. 

The wine list had 93 labels and ranged in price from €45 to €375, with a median price of €80 and an average markup to retail price of 3.2 times. Sample references were Lyrarakis Voila Alagni Heraklion Assyrtiko 2022 at €45 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for €18, Hernando y Sourdais Antidoto 2020 at €72 compared to its retail price of €23, and the lovely Donnhoff Tonschiefer Dry Slate Riesling 2020 at €85 for a wine that will set you back €28 in the high street. For those with the means, there was Domaine de Montille Clos du Roi 2019 at €375 compared to its retail price of €200, and Biondi-Santi Rosso di Montalcino 2018 at €200 for a wine whose current market value is €107. The wine list featured quite a lot of biodynamic wines, and the preponderance of reds with a mostly seafood menu felt a little unbalanced.

The meal began with some canapés. Turbot cheek was deep fried and flavoured with Australian black truffle, garnished with shaved truffle. This was accompanied by an aerated sauce of parmesan and jalapeño finished with espelette pepper, the latter being rich and spicy and nicely setting off the turbot goujons, which were lovely. Also very good was a blue corn tostado on which was knuckle of lobster marinated in chipotle with guacamole and a slice of pineapple that had been marinated in tequila, brown sugar and chilli, finished with lime and coriander. The gentle spice nicely lifted the flavour of the local lobster and the base had good texture. There was also crisp potato rosti topped with a ketchup of acidulated onions, grated parmesan, Iberico ham and shaved Australian truffle the latter bringing a luxurious note to the humble potato. There were also local oysters from Dungharvn, freshly shucked and the juices replaced in the shells with Thai nahm jim dressing and coriander oil. A final canapé was pickled cucumber and frozen mojito with top class kaluga caviar from high end supplier N25. A classic mojito was made without the rum, adding cucumber juice instead of soda. This was then made into a granita with the use of liquid nitrogen and placed in an oyster shell filled with cucumber compressed in lime juice and cucumber juice, finished with a quenelle of caviar. The cucumber nicely balancing the richness and salinity of the caviar (17/20 canapés).

Guinness and treacle bread, essentially a lighter version of the traditional Irish soda bread, was glazed with a reduction of Guinness and treacle and finished with oats served with house salted cultured butter. This was served warm and had excellent texture, offered with butter from a local creamery. The first formal course of the meal was tuna tataki, the lean part of the Spanish tuna seared and rolled in sesame oil and black sesame seeds. This was topped with tartare of the tuna belly, seasoned with fish sauce and dots of galangal and tomato ketchup, dill, coriander and chive (16/20). The tuna used was sustainable Balfego bluefin tuna from Spain, killed using the ikejime method to preserve its flavour. 

Lobster was caught in pots in the waters beneath the restaurant and had been delivered that afternoon to the kitchen. The lobster tail was poached mi cuit, dressed in a relish of Australian finger lime ginger oil and ginger brunoise, garnished with tiny San Marzano tomatoes that had been marinated in watermelon juice and tomato ponzu and then partially dried in the oven. There was also watermelon that was compressed with lime and watermelon juice, the dish finished with a coriander oil and a hot and sour jungle curry inspired Thai broth. The lobster was unusually good, being very tender and its natural sweetness nicely brought out by the ginger and finger lime. On the side was a dish of poached claw of the lobster pickled and served cold with fresh ginger and coriander, seasoned with fish sauce and lime topped with puffed wild rice, which provided a pleasing textural contrast. This was a lovely dish, the spicing nicely judged and just enough to enhance the natural sweetness of the lobster without overwhelming it (18/20).

This was followed by hen of the woods mushrooms roasted with rosemary and brown butter and finished with shio koji (Japanese fermented condiment) and sherry vinegar, along with date ketchup, lardo and roasted shiitake oil. This rested in a mushroom broth, an extraction of hen of the woods, chestnut mushrooms and shitake mushrooms cooked for 24 hours then reduced and seasoned and poured over the dish at the table. This dish for me was pleasant rather than thrilling, the broth lacking a little intensity, but the date ketchup enlivened the hen of the woods quite effectively (15/20).

Wild turbot fillet from a locally caught 8.5 kg was cured and then grilled and carved. This was served with elderflower and jalapeño ketchup, cucumber balls dressed in dill oil, a quenelle of n25 kaluga caviar and finished with a veloute made of the roasted bones of the turbot and fresh elderflower. The turbot was precisely cooked and had excellent flavour, nicely enlivened by the quite spicy chilli kick of the sauce (17/20). Often in French restaurants, if a spice is used it usually turns up in extremely mild form, but the chef here is not afraid to let spices off the leash a little, which I enjoy.

The final savoury course was lamb from noted butcher Michael McGrath in Lismore in county Waterford. The meatwas slow roasted and barbecued, with lamb loin and fillet, truffle and chestnut puree, broccoli emulsion, lemon gel, braised French morels, pickled celeriac and black truffle. This was all finished with a lamb jus gras seasoned with bonito vinegar, pine nuts and chopped black truffle The meat had very good flavour and the morels were better than many I have had this season (16/20). A pescatarian alterative was also excellent, pan-roasted fillet of John Dory with a puree of cauliflower and truffle, roasted cauliflower florets, black truffle, micro watercress, lemon gel and a veloute of the roasted fish stock, truffle juice and oloroso sherry.

The first dessert featured raspberries picked from a farm just 25 miles from here. Raspberry sorbet was set in a mould resting on a granita of lemon and elderflower frozen in liquid nitrogen, garnished with fresh lemon verbena sprigs then finished at the table with Vaille de Bois olive oil from Provence. The raspberries had lovely flavour, the lemon sherbet a touch sharp but bringing freshness to the dish (16/20). A strawberry dessert used fruit from County Wexford. Marinated strawberries were compressed in strawberry consommé, served with a salted white chocolate biscuit, strawberry gel and strawberry sorbet topped with a dehydrated honey tuile. This was very enjoyable, the fruit bang in season and having lovely flavour. A final element was a pretty gateau of creme fraiche and strawberries resting on a delicate sable biscuit base. The gateau had lovely texture and was extremely well presented (17/20). Coffee was an Ethiopian coffee from a company called Drury coffee in Cork and was pleasant enough. This came with a tray of petit fours: a craquelin choux bun was filled with coffee and whiskey whipped custard, alongside a yuzu and white chocolate bonbon and salted praline bonbon. 

Service was very good throughout the evening, with dishes arriving at a steady pace and the waiting staff being friendly and attentive. The bill came to €227 (£194) each with good wine and both pre dinner drinks and dessert wine. If you just shared a modest bottle of wine then a typical cost per person might be €190 (£162). This seems to me quite fair given the high standard of ingredients and cooking here. The Cliff House has a spectacular setting and the food here now offers a culinary experience to match.


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User comments

  • Ben

    We live relatively close to the Tudor Room in Egham, and were very sad to see Tony leave. Really delighted he has found a superb new home, and that he's as good as ever. We'll be popping across asap.

  • Gerald McIntyre

    Agree with your comments completely. We are frequent visitors to Ireland and try to include a visit to the Cliff whenver we can, our last visit being in April. There have been changes in the kitchen but these have been seamless. The staff are excellent, friendly, informative but not intrusive.....a jewel in the Emerald Isle.