Castlemartyr Resort, Grange, Castlemartyr, P25 X300, Ireland

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Terre is the premier restaurant of a golf resort hotel called Castlemartyr, set in an 18th century house with 220 acres of grounds, located about twenty miles east of Cork. The Castlemartyr name is taken from a nearby village based around a castle built by the Knights Templar in 1210. The resort hotel opened in 2008 at a reputed cost of €70 million. It was bought in 2021 by Singapore based Stanley Quek and Peng Loh. Incidentally, if travelling here from Cork and you do not have a car, it is worth trying to arrange a cab for the return journey well up front, as it seems to be curiously difficult to get a taxi back to Cork at night from here.

The head chef of Terre is Vincent Crepel, who had previously worked at prestigious restaurants including Arzak and Hotel de Ville. Dinner was priced at €210, lunch at €110, with wine pairing at €110 or €250 for posher offerings. The wine list ranged in price from €48 to €1,750 and included offerings such as Moulin de Gassac Pont de Gassac 2020 at €56 for a wine that you can find in the high street for €23, Pheasants Tears Saperavi Sighnaghi 2020 at €74 compared to its retail price of €25, and Alois Kracher K 2016 at €95 for a wine that will set you back €18 in a shop. For those with the means, there were grander offerings such as at Poggio al Vento Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 2001 at €550 compared to its market value of €182, and Etienne Sauzet Puligny Montrachet Champ Canet 2020 at €445 for a wine that retails at €233.

You enter the restaurant via a little corridor lined with cabinets full of glass jars of ingredients, some pickled and some fermented. You then proceed to the kitchen for some canapés and a showing of some of the ingredients to appear. These included, white asparagus from France, local lobster and crab, Italian cheese, artichokes from France, smoked pork belly and lardo from Andalusia. There was Sturia caviar from Bordeaux, samphire, lemongrass from Thailand, white endive from France, finger limes from Australia and horseradish from nearby Cork. The most local ingredient was strawberries grown in the garden of the hotel. In the kitchen were a couple of fridges with aged ingredients, including bluefin tuna from Spain, saddle of Irish lamb from Ireland and quail from Anjou, which had been aged for a week. Seven chefs were working in the kitchen today.  

We then moved before to the dining room, which had three separate sections with generously spaced tables and a view out over the extensive grounds. A maximum of 32 diners can be accommodated. A nice touch was that we were brought a hot towel to begin with, something that happens a lot in restaurants in Japan. This was a proper towel and not one of those weird little gimmicky stringy blobs that fluffs up when hot water is poured over it but has the texture of a dishcloth. For a time it seemed like every other restaurant had bought some of these, but they have mercifully fallen out of fashion. An eclectic selection of music played quietly in the dining room, ranging from Aretha Franklin to The Clash.

The initial canapés were Japanese aubergine in a blond beer tartlet casing with miso and praline, which was very pleasant if a touch unexciting. I preferred crab in maple syrup tartlet casing with kohlrabi jelly, nori powder and finger lime oil, which was pleasingly refreshing. Better still was a tartlet of local blue lobster with lemon cream, horseradish and chive flowers in a celeriac pastry case (16/20 canapés on average). Another canapé followed. Vegetarians were offered edamame beans that had been smoked over binchotan charcoal. Carnivores had A5 Miyazaki beef that had been smoked over whisky barrel wood, along with barley, nori, piquillo pepper and 46-month Vacche Rosse Parmigiana. This had a lovely smoky taste and richness from the cheese and the beef (17/20). 

Next was otoro with Irish “truffle” seaweed that was reduced to powder, along with trout roe, Verjus vinaigrette of unripened grapes and daikon. This was a very enjoyable dish, the dressing with just enough acidity to cut through the richness of the belly tuna but not too sharp, the daikon providing a crisp textural contrast (17/20). 

This was followed by chawanmushi, a steamed seaweed custard flavoured with wagyu beef ham, foie gras, smoked eel and a broth made with Jabugo ham and 46-month aged Parmesan. The chawanmushi had excellent silky texture and rich flavours from the meat and cheese. My only minor criticism is that it seemed a little salty even to me, but this was still a lovely dish (17/20). Blue lobster and king crab came with hamachi, samphire, artichoke, kaffir lime consommé and oil of verbena from the garden. This dish had a vaguely Thai feel to it though spicing was very mild, the lobster slightly to the firmer end of the texture spectrum but certainly not chewy (16/20). 

The next dish was cod poached in katsuboshi butter, served with French caviar, miso and vermouth beurre blanc, white asparagus and rose oil, garnished with white rose petals. The beurre blanc was a touch sharp but this worked quite well with the cod, which is a difficult ingredient for me to get excited about. The very end of season white asparagus was good and this was a cleverly balanced dish (16/20). The final savoury course was Anjou quail with soy sauce and mirin, French morels and roasted endive glazed with orange juice, sansho pepper, black rice vinegar, ginger oil and vin jaune. The quail had good flavour, the morels had good texture and the gentle numbing bite of the pepper worked well. On the side was some really excellent olive oil brioche (17/20).

Pre dessert was ginger granita with lemon and lime foam, lemon grass oil, dried hibiscus powder and opaline. This had particularly good ginger flavour, the kitchen not afraid to let the ginger really sing out (17/20). The main dessert was rice and jasmine tea with rhubarb compote, jasmine infused milk, matcha and jasmine tea powder, strawberries from the garden and a little rhubarb root oil. The strawberries were nice enough and I am a big fan of rhubarb, but for me the matcha flavour really dominated the dish. It is such a strong flavour and I think the dish could have been really nice if it had been toned down or removed entirely. Even if you are a matcha fan, this dish would seem to me to be rather unbalanced (14/20). Coffee was filter only, from a supplier called Cloud Picker in Dublin. It was an Ethiopian coffee and wasn’t really to my taste, mild and quite thin in flavour. I am not sure why in this day and age you would not at least offer an espresso option.  Petit fours comprised raspberry with clove sugar and a pleasant madeleine with chestnut honey.

Service was superb, our French waiter patient and attentive, the staff seeming  to genuinely want the customers to have a good time. The bill came to €378 (£323) per person before tip, with a bottle of Cuvee Frederich Emile and a few other glasses of wine between us. If you instead shared a modest bottle of wine then a typical cost per person might be around £240. Overall, Terre was a very enjoyable experience, with a pretty setting, inventive cooking using high quality ingredients and charming staff. 


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