Mikey Ryan’s bar and kitchen in Cashel was always likely to be excellent. Its owner, bloodstock magnate John Magnier, bought and renovated what was a defeated pub which has long had links to the equine industry. So, this was likely to be a very personal project. A sister property, the Cashel Palace Hotel, and which was previously owned by Magnier’s father in-law. is next door and is a work in progress.
Once a snuff factory, the building has been standing for over 250 years and having an owner with deep pockets meant that the restoration could call upon many talents. The work is led by Trish Conroy, proprietor of the much celebrated Tankardstown House and Conyngham Arms in County Meath, whose experience and attention to detail can be seen in what is a truly handsome build.
The kitchen team is headed up by a chef I wager we will hear much more about for years to come. Liam Kirwan is the kind of chef I like, a cook who has earned his stripes over a varied career, and has been quietly and confidently firing out some of the best cooking in Tipperary.
Kirwan has spent his career working with some of the best in the business around the world and now he has returned to his native Tipperary. He started in Kilcoran Lodge in Cahir, then trained in the RTC in Cork (now Cork institute of Technology.) After graduating he made straight to London where he worked with a succession of chefs and mentors that reads like a roll of honour in the hospitality industry: Richard Turner (Hawksmoor, Pitt-Cue, The Albion); Rowley Leigh (Kensington Place, Café Monico); Tom and Ed Martin (The Gun); Jeremy Lee (Quo Vadis, Blueprint). And there were stints in New Zealand, Portugal (Quinto Do Lago) and The Caribbean (The Pink Sands Club).
Kirwan is quick to praise the network of Tipperary suppliers he has built around him. He knows them all personally and it’s more than lip service, as he goes out of his way to understand their business. He talks about Annie Dalton of Annies organic vegetables; Comfrey Cottage who supply microherbs; John Purcell of the Good Herdsman; Ciulan Loughnane of White Gypsy Brewing, and Donal Walsh, his neighbourhood butcher.
The kitchen is anchored in classical technique, with the best of Irish inputs. Sourdough bread is made each day, along with the butter that goes with it, and Mr Kirwan he has even built a kiln smoker out in the back garden.
When we first sat down together I mentioned I was from West Cork, an area long renowned for its produce. Kirwan is on a mission to turn Tipperary into a food region to rival West Cork and based on the meal I enjoyed in Mikey Ryan’s recently, the Tipperary producers are well and truly throwing down the gauntlet.
Photographs: credit Shantanu Starick