It’s a miserable Sunday afternoon. It’s almost as if somebody flicked a switch on September 1st and it suddenly became Winter. We are just one week back from our holiday in Puglia and we couldn’t be further from sunny Lecce as we motor down the M9 in the lashing rain. We park up outside Sha-Roe Bistro in the scenic, sleepy village of Clonegal, Co. Carlow. We make a dash for the door to avoid getting soaked and are quickly seated in the small yet perfectly formed dining room. It’s cosy and intimate and although they do manage to fit a good number of tables in, you never feel too close to anyone else. It’s busy, even at the relatively early time of 1.30 pm and there’s a lovely atmosphere in the dining room – happy staff and customers chatting and enjoying themselves.
The menu is what I consider to be the ideal Sunday lunch menu. In other words, there is NOTHING here I wouldn’t like to order and Ali wonders if we might get three starters between us rather than one each! We decide to stick with convention and my Lobster Cocktail, Avocado and Toasted Almonds served with Battered Deep-Fried Tiger Prawns and Tartare Sauce is soon on the table. The cocktail is luxurious with the avocado providing the creaminess required. It’s velvety soft with just a little crunch from the almonds. The tiger prawns are succulent and perfectly cooked but it’s the tartare sauce that steals the show – adding just a hint of aniseed, the tarragon lifts it to new heights. I use freshly-cooked bread rolls to ensure I’ve eaten every last morsel of it. An exceptional start to proceedings.
For main I’ve gone with an old favourite, 7 Hour Slow Braised Beef Cheek with Vichy Carrot. The cheek is meltingly tender and could come apart with a spoon instead of a knife. It’s perfectly seasoned with a well-flavoured jus while the Vichy carrot provides a nice sweetness and texture to the dish. The carrot puree is smooth and luxurious while the mashed potato is as all mash should be – smooth and buttery. I often judge a restaurant on their side dishes and applying that logic here, Sha-Roe is top of the leader board. The baby potatoes are sprinkled with herbs and a generous coating of butter while the courgette ragu is the side dish of my dreams – tender slices of courgette in a rich tomato sauce with lashings of toasted breadcrumbs on top.
As with the other two courses, dessert is a tough choice. I eventually settle on Peanut Butter and Pecan Parfait with Spiced Orange Cake and Caramel Sauce and it arrives to the table with Ali’s Dark Chocolate Marquise with Black Cherry Sauce and Vanilla Ice Cream. I have to admit to a little food envy when I see Ali’s plate but that all vanishes once I taste the parfait. It’s much lighter than expected with a well balanced flavour. The spiced orange cake is subtle enough not to overtake, the caramel sauce is sweet and sticky and all is brought together by the sweet and chewy candied orange peel. My only criticism of the entire meal is that the spiced orange cake could have been cut a little neater but I’m being particularly pedantic here.
The food may seem like the main draw to a restaurant but the service is just as important. The service at Sha-Roe is exceptional. Not too formal, the staff are relaxed, friendly, knowledgeable and they add so much to the experience. We had actually booked in for lunch the previous Sunday but, unable to make it due to sudden work commitments, I phoned the evening before and with little notice, they were more than happy to postpone the booking by a week. I would consider their Sunday lunch exceptional value for money: we paid €78 for 2 x three course meals with coffees, a glass of Prosecco and a bottle of sparkling water.
Very Highly Recommended
Sha-Roe Bistro Clonegal Co. Carlow 053 937 5636 firstname.lastname@example.org www.sha-roe.ie