Old Church Restaurant at the An Grianán Hotel

On New Years Eve, Kieran and I decided to go out for a nice meal. So we hopped over the border into Donegal and went to the posh looking An Grianán hotel, where they have a restaurant called the Old Church. Surprisingly enough, the restaurant is an old church and was richly decorated inside. I wish we’d got to see more of the building as the photos on the website look lovely, but we were seated on the ground floor, so just got a peek of the stained glass windows and not much else really.

The service was very good; attentive without being overbearing. (They did look us shiftily however when I was taking pictures – so I had to embark on a covert operation to get pictures). We didn’t drink alcohol, so can’t comment on the wine – but the coffee was lovely. After glancing at the menu, we found it to be small (always a good sign) and you also get a bonus amusé bouche and pallet cleanser. Bonus. It was looking good so far.

For starter, I ordered a seafood tian. A creamy potato mix was on the bottom, with crayfish and a smite of lobster around the edges and a good helping of smoked salmon on the top and dots of marie rose sauce. The lobster was overcooked. The smoked salmon was gorgeous though and all the flavours worked together really well.

Kieran had Rabbit spring rolls. Amongst the rabbit, was sliced vegetables, wrapped in crispy pastry, served with pineapple salsa. The rabbit was soft and tasty but apparently the dish was ‘just alright’, which is as technical a review as I think I’m going to get. One thing we can say about this restaurant is that they don’t skimp on the portions. Everything was massive!

We then got our pallet cleanser of mango sorbet.

For mains, we both ordered the duck done three ways. There was to be a pan roasted breast, confit leg and a duck spring roll. We didn’t get a breast, but instead got two legs – one pan roasted and one confit. All that did was display to us how superior the confit one was, and we didn’t really enjoy the pan roasted one. I think they should have told us when we ordered if they didn’t have all the component parts of the meal. It was bloody massive though – look at the size of that spring roll! It was served with an array of sides and sauces, that in my opinion, though tasty, were not a natural blend. We got one fondant potato, a blob of curried flavour mayo, salsa and spinach leaves on top. This was all laid on top of a bed of cabbage leaves with a honey and clove sauce (which was rather lovely). For flavour and presentation purposes, it was all extremely busy.

For dessert, I ordered my favourite dessert, creme brulee. The best version I ever had of this was a cappuccino creme brulee at Francs in Altrincham, but the next time I went, alas, it was gone from the menu.

Anyway, back to this one. It was a good and large portion with a crispy, sugary top and a gorgeous creamy texture dotted with vanilla seed. Perfect. Until I dipped my spoon into the ‘strawberry compote’, got a whole spoonful and put it in my mouth. I nearly spat it across the table. I don’t know what alcohol they’d put in there, but whatever there was there was way too much of it. And I suspect the shortbread was shop bought and just dusted with icing sugar. However, ignoring these things, the dessert was the best course of the night for me. I polished the main part of the dessert off in no time and wanted more.

Kieran doesn’t do dessert – so he got the cheeseboard. We asked what cheeses were on there, and the waitress didn’t know and looked quite surprised we’d asked (I was thinking of ordering it, but not if there was too much blue on there). We were told two blue – but then there were three when Kieran got it – which is fine, as he loves blue cheese. He also got some brie, camembert and goats cheese. No hard cheese. It was nicely presented and came with salad and grapes.

And that was that. Altogether we paid €65, which I think is fairly priced for a meal of that quality. Overall, the price, service and ambience was excellent, but was let down by the lack of duck breast and the paint stripper compote with the dessert. 6/10.