Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Neven Maguire’s MacNean House and Restaurant

Some images from the stunning MacNean House and on top, with Neven!

If you are a true lover of quality Irish food, excellently prepared and executed, served in an elegant setting by the friendliest, most welcoming staff, you will want to be putting MacNean House and Restaurant in Blacklion, County Cavan, on your foodie bucket list.

The man behind the Cavan phenomenon is Neven Maguire – an inspired chef, a friendly and engaging person, a true gentleman.

So, just to take you back a few months. I am Christmastime baby and last year as a birthday/Christmas gift combo, I received a shiny silver envelope from my two most thoughtful of sisters, with a voucher for MacNean House enclosed. Talk about a suitable present! The excitement levels reached Santa Claus heights!

And so to August 2013. After many months of anticipation, I am now on the other side, with so many great things to say and share with you about this unforgettable experience.

When you enter MacNean House, it feels like one of those places that hugs you in and makes you feel at home. It is certainly very pretty and elegant, but there is nothing at all stuffy about the atmosphere here. Each and every one of the staff greet you in a gracious and genuine way. Everyone smiles and nothing is too much trouble. We chose a deluxe room for our stay, priced at €77 per person B&B. It was a good size, with a substantial en-suite, however, there was no bath, which I would have liked. There was a cream-coloured vintage style radio playing calming classical music in the background. It immediately added to that sense of calm that envelops you at MacNean.

Our dinner was booked for 7.30pm. After showers, beautification on my part, and a little waiting and channel hopping on his part, we made our way downstairs with about ten minutes to spare.  We were seated in the luxurious and relaxed setting of the bar area, and while sipping an aperitif, the two menus were explained to us. We chose the four-course dinner menu, which could just as easily be called the “Actually way more than four courses and you’ll be very pleasantly surprised menu!” We were even brought an amazing dish of canapés while enjoying this pre-dinner drink!

So, to the main event. I chose…
  •          The Quail Plate to start
  •          The Assiette of Thornhill Duck to continue
  •          The Monkfish to finish
  •          A Cheese Platter of five cheeses as dessert – unusual for sweet tooth lady as I am!

And, he chose…
  •          Castletownbere Sea Scallop to start
  •          West Coast Lobster to continue
  •          Saddle of Oisin Venison to finish
  •          The Chocolate Plate as dessert
A selection of our edible delights, main courses in top and bottom largest insets
Our desserts to the top, delicious extra surprises below

For our wine, we opted for a bottle of Grenache from the Languedoc in France, it was delicious and reasonably priced at €30. We also had tea/coffee with the most adorable petits fours served to us, just to ensure we were well and truly satisfied!

For me the quail stood out hugely. I had some reservations as I haven’t eaten game many times in the past, yet it was quite a delicate flavour and all of the components of the dish worked together so harmoniously. The seared and barbecued quail breast was really something special! The duck dish was very tasty but it didn’t appeal to me as much as the quail, unexpectedly. The duck springroll was definitely my favourite element – the flavour really popped! My main of monkfish was TO DIE FOR! Monkfish is probably my favourite fish and it was so beautifully cooked and presented. The barley risotto and veal shank ravioli, which it was served with, complemented it so well. A delicious main course! Most of the various cheeses on the menu were from Ireland, highlighting again Neven’s passion and enthusiasm for fantastic Irish produce. I chose four Irish cheeses and one French cheese. They were presented so nicely and served with a yummy selection of crackers/biscuits and a lovely chutney. I think it was fig but I can’t remember with absolute certainty. Anyway, it was lovely and worked perfectly with the tasty cheese selection.

My husband was also most impressed with his meal. He was blown away with the scallops, and kindly let me taste some too - yum! And oh, that caramelised pork cheek which the scallops were served with was literally melt in the mouth! The lobster was served in three different ways and again, was a delicious and very interesting dish. The venison was cooked to perfection, and though it was relatively small as a main course, there were so many extra courses throughout that you couldn’t but be very satisfied. Then, the chocolate platter appeared and I momentarily suffered with that awful affliction of dessert envy! But I was offered and gladly accepted a teaspoonful of the most amazing chocolate fondant. Wow!

Throughout the meal, we were served at least three intermediary courses, such as a sweetcorn velouté prior to our first starter and also a passion fruit jelly with natural yogurt. These were gorgeous and worked so well as palate cleansers, appetisers, refreshers and so on. For our main course, we were also served a side plate of delicious al dente vegetables and delightfully cheesy and moreish potato gratin. We were well and truly spoiled and left the dining room with happy tummies and smiling faces, as did each and every other diner around us!

Neven made his way around the bar and kindly greeted everyone, with such grace and friendliness. We took a few photos with him, and he even gave us one of his cookbooks, which he also signed for us. He really is a gentleman and with his superb talent for cooking and his kind and welcoming nature, it is no wonder at all that MacNean House has become the success it is!

To finish this post, I need to say very little more. A few words and two pictures should suffice for this – two-course breakfast, MacNean Porridge, Eggs Benedict on brioche, with Burren Smokehouse Salmon – this is a step up from “sexy breakie”! This is an extraordinary experience in food and an overnight stay with breakfast, to me, is a must, and it completes the whole wonder of the MacNean experience perfectly! 
The most delicious breakfast!

I hope you have the opportunity to visit and dine at Neven Maguire’s MacNean House at some point and please do share your experience. It is a very special treat to a true haven of fine food and marvellous hospitality.

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