Perfection at Moy House

Archive - all the best places to eat, shop and stay in Ireland. A local guide to local places.

Perfection in restaurant cooking operates on a biblical time frame.
Every seven years or so, you have a meal in a restaurant where everything is perfect. You get the 10 out of 10, the perfect score, the Nadia Comaneci, the faultless parade of food, the peerless understanding of cooking.
Having had that perfect meal, thanks to Matt Strefford’s cooking in Moy House, just south of Lahinch in County Clare, I’m already looking forward to 2024.
When I last ate Mr Strefford’s food,the cooking was simply beautiful. And yet, Mr Strefford wasn’t where he wanted to be. He had good ingredients to hand, and he cooked superb food. But he wanted better ingredients. He wanted more control.
So, he planted a garden, and erected a polytunnel, both now run by the genial Sarah Noonan, who served her time in the gardens at Ballymaloe, and wrote her dissertation on the ripening of heritage tomatoes.
But that wasn’t enough. Mr Strefford also wanted his own animals, so he now rears Tamworth pigs, Suffolk sheep, and Dexter cattle, who all graze happily in a field a mile or so from Moy House. He oversees their birthing, their rearing, and their slaughter, then prepares them and uses them in the kitchen: he makes a breakfast pork sausage and a fresh blood black pudding that I would walk to Lahinch for.
When you put these ingredients in the hands of a technically gifted cook, the result is magic, pure and simple. Every detail of dinner at Moy House has magic: the narcotic snap of the coriander grown by Sarah which rounds out a dish of hake poached in coconut milk and garam masala. The crisp sweetness of the crackling atop the perfect dish of pork belly. The crunch of the fried sage on the pumpkin agnolotti, and the little dry note of cabernet sauvignon vinegar that animates the dish. The thin-as-a-memory sugar crust on the lightest lemon tart.
It was perfect. All of it. Every dish, every detail. In a lovely room, with service by charming local girls, it was that biblical moment: the thing you are happy to wait seven years for.
To prove it was no fluke, breakfast the following morning was... perfect. Not just the benchmark home-made pork sausage and black pudding, of course, but also the freshly laid egg, the Tamworth bacon, the sweet tomato, the field mushroom, the sauté potato. The granola was as good as I’ve had, the fruit compote with yogurt had all that autumnal sweetness that we yearn for.
Mr Strefford is a searching, questing chef, and he has shown exactly how to plot a path to perfection. Moy House is a magnificent destination.