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The Square Table, Blarney

All the best places to eat, shop and stay in Ireland. A local guide to local places.

We'd give Martina and Tricia Cronin their own restaurant-and-cooking television show, starting tomorrow, and we'd call it “Round Pegs in The Square Table”

These twin red-headed sisters – Martina at the stoves, Tricia out front – are a blast. They're voluble, self-deprecating, funny, talented and iconoclastic.“We're culchies”, Martina will tell you – they hail from Kilnamartyra, just up the road from Blarney – but they're not culchies, they're just rooted.

You only have to eat their mashed potatoes – “Butter and salt, our mother told us” – to know that these girls know their stuff.

That rootedness shows in Martina's cooking. She makes a bowl of mushroom soup, using Ballyhoura mushrooms, and whilst the dish has the sheen and polish of high-end dining – Ms Cronin has worked in both Chapter One and Restaurant 41 in Dublin, and it shows – what is notable about the soup is not just its glamour and its smart use of cep oil and creme fraiche, but it's almost-depthless charge of flavour. It is stunning – soup as showcase for talent, and great and good sourcing.

And then a simple salad with roasted butternut squash, roasted pumpkin, chestnuts and Toonsbridge feta with green leaves is just as deft, just as intricate a play of ingredients to fashion culinary tactility.

A dish of pan-fried hake with celeriac purée and kale shows how Ms Cronin balances the ruddy with the delicate, and it's her balancing act that makes the food such a pleasure to eat – flaky, rich fish; chewy, energising kale; a smooth, subtle purée as the background to the embrace of flavours.

The high-end polish really plays on a dessert of Breton biscuit with lemon cream, fresh raspberries and raspberry sorbet, which is potently gorgeous in both taste and appearance, whilst a superlative chocolate brownie with salted caramel ice cream is a wow, just as good as their lovely macaroons.

The room is petite and simple, and it's all their own, a place for their graft and their craft to shine, the square table in which these round pegs work. We will be heading back for the warm Millbank smoked salmon with potato purée and leeks, the carpaccio of Tom Durcan's spiced beef with foie gras and roasted hazelnuts, the East Ferry chicken with celeriac, ham, and Coolea gratin, and their monkfish with fennel confit and spinach and mussel velouté.

We expect to have a smile on our face with every bite. The Square Table, No 5 The Square, Blarney

021 438 2825

http://thesquaretable.ie

John McKenna

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