John McKenna at the Park Hotel, Kenmare

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  • The Park Hotel, Kenmare

John McKenna says Bruce Mulcahy + Park Hotel Kenmare = bliss

It's a sensual world, Bruce Mulcahy’s cooking. The spiky bomb of a sea urchin shell contains the silkiest scrambled eggs, mixed with urchin roe. Lamb comes as both roasted loin and slow-cooked shank wrapped in a blanket of the most perfect cannelloni, with the plate painted with a swathe of pea purée.

An astonishing – I’m tempted to say perfect – piece of halibut is countered with tiny, toothsome samphire and sweet grape. Beetroot is candied and framed by mellifluous feta, while the cricket-ball exterior of a chocolate bomb reveals a melting interior. Buttermilk pannacotta has sweet rhubarb. Little white chocolate candies come in a dish wafting almost-frozen dry ice.

Throughout the courses, technique and intent ally perfectly, as every dish over-delivers its promise, making for food that is good to eat, and good to think. Vitally, for a cook now entering his maturity, Mulcahy has the very thing that used to elude him, and balance is beautifully maintained throughout the meal.

What seems to have happened with Mr Mulcahy’s move uptown to the Park Hotel is that his influences have been sharpened, and explicitly focused: the influence of Tetsuya Wakuda and Sydney is here, but framed through Mr Mulcahy’s prism. The Asian note is here, but it is controlled rather than rampant. The savoury, bistro-style punch he likes is more muted: he has it on a leash. If you have known someone’s work for fifteen or more  years, it is the greatest thrill to see them establish their own voice, and to be able to perform with such confidence, to be unafraid to hit the High C’s.

With Bruce Mulcahy’s arrival in the kitchen, The Park now has the best kitchen team it has enjoyed in two decades, since its glory days with great cooks like Colin O’Daly and Matt d’Arcy. The management of the hotel and the charm of the service could not be bettered. Once again, the food in this iconic destination is wildly exciting, and goes straight to the first rank of contemporary Irish cooking.

The Park Hotel, Kenmare 064 664 1200