Sunday, June 29, 2014

Review : Zuni Restaurant & Boutique Hotel, Kilkenny

It was time for a break. A staycation, if you like.  We had three days off together and didn't know where to go.  A few weeks ago, I was a guest of Trail Kilkenny at a wonderful long table dinner in Smock Alley which really showcased the best of what the county has to offer, from both a food and craft perspective.  The decision was made - we were off to Kilkenny.  I've eaten at Zuni many times before and love Maria Raftery's style of cooking so decided to take advantage of Zuni's great midweek offer : 2 nights accommodation in their boutique hotel with breakfast and one dinner in the restaurant for €250.

Zuni is as central as you can get in Kilkenny and has complimentary car parking facilities for guests so you can leave the car and walk around the city (no, it's not a town...) window shopping and people watching. The rooms are simply furnished with lots of mirrors, comfortable beds, spacious bathrooms and lots of power sockets.  The mirrored surfaces create a light and elegant feel and we felt very at home.  The free wifi was a great bonus.  After an afternoon of shoe shopping for the birthday boy at The Shoe Box, we returned ready for dinner.

Zuni restaurant is on the ground floor of the building and it's a calm and welcoming space, with neutral walls, lots of windows and a view of the open kitchen to the side.  The staff are friendly, charming and very attentive and the food is consistently excellent, using lots of local produce.  We sat at a window table tucked away in the corner and started our meal with a glass of prosecco while we negotiated our way through the menu. An amuse bouche of Ardsallagh goats cheese with beetroot textures was the perfect complement to the fizz.

Every time I go to Zuni, I seem to gravitate towards Goatsbridge trout and this evening was no exception, choosing the smoked trout pate with trout bon-bons, pickled cucumber and wasabi dressing (€8.50). The Hubs had the Kilkenny Pork Plate featuring pork rillette and belly, ham hock, Clonakilty black pudding sausage roll (€10.50).  The combination of hot and cold trout with the sharp cucumber and heat from the wasabi was light and refreshing on a warm summer's evening.  The pork plate was packed with piggy goodness : small bites of porcine deliciousness including the unexpected black pudding sausage roll - rich and salty and the tangy apple puree was a perfect foil.


After a suitable interval and a top up of our drinks - Dungarvan Brewing Company Helvick Gold for himself (€6.30) and a glass of Domaine de Montredon Picpoul de Pinet (€6.55) for me, our main courses arrived.  My Roast Kilkenny lamb rump with a lamb shoulder pithvier, baby vegetables and pea & mint puree (€24.50) was packed with flavour although the puff pastry was a wee bit soggy - the only low note of the evening.  The Hubs opted for the Szechuan spiced Duck with apricot puree and spring vegetables (€24.50).  Maria cooks the lamb and duck to medium rare which suits both meats, any more and you'd lose the tenderness which makes the duck and lamb so delectable.  I admitted defeat halfway through my lamb. The servings in Zuni are sized to appeal to people who like their plates full - a country portion as my friend Paul calls them - and I struggled with them all.  Hence, a long break before I could even consider looking at the desserts.

Eventually, we started negotiations and I insisted on the Zuni Bounty dessert with coconut icecream (€8.20).  I adore all things coconut and wanted to be sure this was mine.  Plan B would have been the Salted Caramel Cheesecake (€7.90) which The Hubs chose.  I should mention that this trip was an early birthday celebration for himself and he died of mortification when his dessert arrived out on a specially decorated plate complete with candles and singing.  My Bounty dessert was sensational, full of chocolate, sponge and coconut all enrobed in chocolate and sprinkled with coconut, three hillocks of toasted meringue and a scoop of coconut icecream.  The Birthday Boy demolished half of it, together with his own Salted Caramel cheesecake which was rich and decadent, when I admitted defeat once again. We declined tea and coffee in favour of a very long walk around the city as the sun was setting.  The meal was included in the midweek package so we just had to pay for our drinks.  Exceptional value.


The following morning, we had breakfast in the cafe which faces onto Patricks Street.  Hotel guests get to choose from a small but comprehensive menu which is served to you at your table.  No need for giant buffets when food is so well cooked.  Superb Illy coffee greatly added to the experience as hotel coffee is generally appalling.  We had Eggs Benedict on our first morning with fresh orange juice.  Our final breakfast was granola with compote, yoghurt & fruit for me and french toast with maple syrup and bacon for The Hubs. The cafe is also very popular with locals popping in for takeaway coffees and breakfast on the go.

In conclusion, you really can't go wrong.  The hotel is in a great location, the rooms are very cosy, the food is exquisite and the staff are utterly charming.  Put Zuni on your wishlist...

Zuni Restaurant & Boutique Hotel
26 Patricks Street, Kilkenny, Ireland
Tel : +353 56 7723999
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