Sunny Spells and a Super Sunday Lunch in the Garden of Ireland04 November 2018
Sunday lunch is an end of the week ritual designed to restore and comfort. It does this with aplomb, with platefuls of homely joy, but for the cook it can be less of laid-back affair – anything vaguely resembling rubber gloves and washing up is not a good Sunday look.Many flock home to gather round with family for the day of rest and indulgence, but with my mother’s kitchen a solid four hours away, a recent comfort food and countryside craving brought me to the garden of Ireland for a Sunday treat.
Druids Glen is one of those resorts capable of injecting a little magic into your week, even if you don’t have the option of a night or two away. Just 30 minutes from Dublin, in the lush green hills of Wicklow, it is a sanctuary from reality. Whether you’re seeking solace in the spa or a feast in the cosy surrounds of a luxury cabin in the woods, it is a five-star getaway from the hassles of daily life.
Keen to hang up my apron for the day, Sunday lunch was on the cards and Hugo’s Restaurant beckoned us in the from the crisp October chill. With floor to ceiling windows, the dining room is bathed in the autumnal sunshine and each corner is alive with families coming together to mark birthdays and celebrations.
Hugo’s is a two AA Rosette award winning restaurant, so we were expecting good things from Executive Chef Anthony Duggan’s menu. Ex Mount Juliet and The Shelbourne, Duggan’s Sunday offering seemed to tick all the boxes, with tempting contemporary dishes appearing alongside classic and traditional Sunday fare.
While the turquoise banquette seating and crisp white tablecloths are fitting of the hotel’s five star status, service is anything but stuffy and we are very well looked after from the arrival of deliciously warm Guinness Brown Bread through to post dinner coffees. For me, the end of October is within touching distance of the festive season, so Ham Hock Terrine was the perfect way to kick off the Sunday ritual. Served with an almost flamboyantly yellow cauliflower picallily, as vibrant in razor sharp acidity as it was eye-catching, the rich tranche of robustly flavoured terrine made for an indulgent start indeed. Judge not – there was a week of dull dining al desko to atone for!
Across the table, a traditional starter of Smoked Salmon was brought up to date with crisp shaved fennel, capers and orange. A hint more citrus would have made this just perfect, but that said, scooped up with a side of their malty Guinness bread, neither of us were complaining.
Another light yet satisfying choice and a break from traditionally hearty Sunday lunch choices, Pan Fried Fillet of Plaice was nicely cooked, butter seared and tender, served with a lip-puckeringly zesty confit lemon and citrus bulgur wheat. This was far more than just an appeasement for pescatarians, and I was also impressed to see a seasonal veggie option of Pumpkin and Sage Risotto on the menu.
While light and delicate dishes are a welcome addition to a traditionally heavy meal, it would be impossible to judge a Sunday lunch offering without a roast, and choosing between roast chicken and roast beef was by no means an easy feat.
With the mentality of in for a penny, in for a pound, Slow Roasted Sirloin of Beef won the toss and arrived with a mastodon of a Yorkshire pudding, puffed up like a hot air balloon. With lashings of rich and glossy gravy, sides of crunchy beef dripping roasties and a copper pan of carrot and parsnip, this was the kind of comfort food every one of us craves.
Although tremendously full, ending our lunch on a sweet note was non-negotiable after a pleasant break between courses. Perhaps more fitting of late summer than the last throes of autumn, a perfectly pert Panna Cotta was studded with vanilla seed and paired beautifully with a well-made tart raspberry sorbet, finished with necessary crunch from a scattering of shortbread crumble.
Ensuring my spoon also wandered across the table was a Passionfruit and Mango Cheesecake. Well matched with an intense and creamy coconut sorbet, this Solero-like slice tasted like the very last day of summer before the chill sets in, one last tropical treat before every dessert menu is over run with stodge and steamed puddings.
With warm staff playing with kids, birthday celebrations galore and nobody worrying about leaving any time soon, Sunday lunch at Druids Glen envelops you in a bubble of home comfort. What you sacrifice in leftovers, you make up for in well-deserved relaxation and every likelihood of a week of content after.
Like the most stylish ski chalet you can imagine, lunch ends on the perfect chilled out Sunday note with a digestif in the beautiful Garden Bar, and leaving begrudgingly left me thinking of excuses to return and cosy up in Druids Glen once the frosty winter sets in.
A three-course lunch (minus the sneaky Old Fashioned in the Garden Bar after) costs €32 per person.