Sitting on the N4 on Saturday night, watching the car temperature gage climb dangerously in the not-moving traffic and the clock moving much faster than we were able to, I was glad that I was heading off to dinner at Richard Corrigan‘s Café La Serre rather than continuing on with the crowds to Barbra Streisland’s first Irish concert in Castletown House, near Celbridge. We were taking my American Cousin and her Fiancé for a long-awaited dinner in advance of their August wedding – we didn’t realise that our trip to their Celbridge home was going to coincide with one of the flashiest traffic jams in years. Tickets, after all, were priced from €118.50 to €885!
After we had called the restaurant to let them know we would be late for our 8pm booking, we relaxed, kept our fingers crossed that the engine temperature wouldn’t climb too far into the red, and started to play a game of Spot the Barbra Fan. That expensively-coiffed couple in the chauffer-driven Merc beside us? Definitely. The girl in the Mini, with the sound of Kings of Leon floating out her open windows? Perhaps not!
After more an hour-and-a-half crawling through traffic, we were delighted to turn out of the concert traffic and towards the Village at Lyons, picking up the AC and Fiancé en route. Our little red Fiesta was a little dwarfed by the giant gates which mark the entrance but fortunately the sensors recognised that there was a small waiting car and slowly swung open. The setting, all mature trees and beautifully restored buildings, is wonderful but we didn’t have much time to appreciate it as we ran through the rain, searching for the discrete – in other words, we couldn’t see any signs for it – entrance.
Finally settled at our seats in the large, airy Victorian conservatory on the side of the building, we were served with a generous basket of decent bread – our appetites had been greatly whetted by the delay in getting to dinner – and a little tub of whipped butter. A bottle of Domaine Bellevue Lugagnac Bordeaux (€35) set the stage as we ordered – for me, asparagus (€11.50) to start, followed by slow-cooked lamb, served with puréed potatoes and peas cooked French-style (€22.75). The asparagus, served in a little fan with some salad leaves and vinaigrette dressing, was a light opening for a main course that was more substantial than it looked. The lamb had been shredded, reassembled in moulds or ramekins and unmoulded on top of the creamy purée, with bacon-flecked peas and lettuce alongside. It was a satisfying dish, so much so that I didn’t even ‘help’ the AC with her fish pie (€18.50). We were also presented with a simply dressed bowl of green salad to accompany our main courses but, unfortunately, this wasn’t the freshest and, after picking through the leaves, most of it was left behind.The other three in our group had deserts – a Crème Brûlée and Apricot Mouse were the ones chosen, with a rather long espresso for me. By this stage in the meal, night had fallen and the conservatory, only lit by the small candleholders on the tables, looked incredibly romantic. We lingered over tea and the last drops of wine, wondering why the huge fireplace at the back of the room was flanked by large bunches of vaguely communist-style garden implements that had been sprayed with plaster in the same neutral shade as the rest of the room.Dinner for four, with four starters, four mains, three deserts, one espresso, three peppermint teas, one regular tea and a bottle of wine came to the grand total of €200.25. From the moment I rang to make the reservation, service was prompt and friendly and their relaxed attitude to our traffic delay was enormously helpful during a stressful trip there. We really weren’t too badly off, though. To read another blogger’s account of the traffic and the Barbra Streisand concert at Castletown take a wander over to Dermod’s account of the evening at a bit of bonhomie.Cafe La Serre in the Village at Lyons, Celbridge, Co Kildare, 01 6303500, www.villageatlyons.com