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John McKenna is blown away by the discipline of Barry Liscombe and his team in Harte’s of Kildare

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Barry Liscombe is one hell of a cook, and he heads up one hell of a kitchen in Harte’s of Kildare.
It’s the kind of kitchen that never lets up. If you are in Harte’s on a cold November Thursday lunchtime, you might suspect that the kitchen will take it easy. After all: the weekend is coming, and they are going to get hammered on both Friday and Saturday evening.
Not a bit of it. We were in Harte’s on a cold November Thursday lunchtime, and the attention to detail in every single thing we ate bordered on the miraculous. The brown bread. The chowder. The shepherd’s pie. The flat bread with Parma ham. The parsnips. The potato skins. The mayo dip. The date sticky toffee pudding with a Trouble Brewing ale sauce. The flat white. The espresso.
Everything was perfect. Everything. No one in the kitchen in Harte’s was sitting back just because it was Thursday lunchtime, and they were going to get hammered over the weekend. They were going for it, with every element of every dish.
This isn’t a surprise, of course. Mr Liscombe is a driven talent who has built a good team. But what blew us away was the respect shown to the simplest things – the way the potato on top of the shepherd’s pie had been gratinated; the use of smoked fish in the chowder; the chewy tension in the flatbread. The lightness of the sticky toffee pudding, and the sharpness of the ale sauce that cut the sweetness. The crispness of the parsnips.
And the potato skins! How does he do that? Perfection! We have already tried to replicate the Harte’s potato skins several times at home. Every attempt has failed. Every attempt hasn’t even been within a million miles of what they achieve with their potato skins. Potato skins, for Chrissake.
It’s more than a little humbling to eat dishes wherein each part of each creation has been shown such respect. But then everything about Harte’s – the style, the service, the atmosphere; the food itself – is understated, all the better to blow you away.
And we were blown away. You don’t expect that on a Cold November Thursday lunchtime in Kildare town.

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