There are few idioms I like less than ”hidden gem.” Adjectives like “bespoke” and “artisan” provoke a similar irate feeling in me, countless chain food companies advertising their “artisan sandwiches” and “bespoke coffee” – but the term “hidden gem” really gets me riled. How can you define something in this way when it’s in the middle of Dublin City and full to capacity for 10 hours everyday? That being said, there are times when these turn of phrases are apt, when a restaurant truly is a secret find, when they really are using traditional, homemade, high quality ingredients, but maybe bespoke should never be used to describe food?
Burtown House is a hidden gem.
Burtown House and Gardens is located just off the M9 motorway, close to Athy in Co. Kildare. It is run by husband and wife James and Joanna Fennell from the Fennell family home. I haven’t had a good walk around the gardens as of yet, so for the sake of this review, I will stick to the food. The Gallery Cafe is open Wednesday to Sunday and also opens on Friday evening for dinner. All the vegetables and leaves come from their organic garden and are picked twice daily to ensure the freshest of produce. On Friday, Ali and I drove the short journey from our home to give it a try, having been drawn in by the beautiful pictures on their Facebook page and website. The cafe itself is cosy, inviting and quaint with a wood fired stove at one end and a counter at the other. We took our seats and were promptly handed menus and the specials board to choose from. Our host was friendly, enthusiastic, passionate about the food on offer and was always willing to give suggestions when asked.
For starters I went for the small Antipasto Board while Ali went for the Scallops with Spinach, Parma Ham and Mint special. The board was a mix of homegrown vegetables served in different ways, cheese and cured meats with a sun-dried tomato pesto dip. The homemade breads which accompanied were delicious, while the herb butter was the perfect balance of herbs and well, butter! Not overpowering in any way. For main course I chose James’ Special Pizza with Parma Ham. This was a pizza like no other. The extra thin base was expertly rolled, topped with tomato sauce and cooked before a mountain of fresh vegetables, Parma Ham and goat’s cheese were scattered on top. I’ve never eaten so many vegetables in my life and have never known them to taste so good – even my nemesis, beetroot, was irresistible! For dessert, we both ordered the Chocolate Fondant which was served with a sharp raspberry coulis to cut through the rich chocolate and ice-cream. It all worked incredibly well together and not a vegetable in sight this time!
My only critique is for the post meal drink. Now that I’m working as a baker and am up at a ridiculously early hour in the mornings, I can no longer enjoy my double espresso in the evenings, so I ordered a tea . I was left a little disappointed when I noticed a teabag in the pot – with everything else so good, loose leaf tea would have been the perfect ending. I suppose I had to pick on something! Burtown House was incredible value for the quality of food and service on offer. We paid €73 for 2 x 3 course meals, a glass of Rosé, a Kombucha, a sparkling water, a tea and a latté. The service was impeccable throughout and the food was stunning: fresh ingredients, wonderfully cooked and beautifully presented.
Very Highly Recommended