Where: Chapel street, Castlebar, Co. Mayo
“If I had to open another normal, boring restaurant I would not have bothered. I would have no interest as there are loads of them. There was no challenge in that.” – Barry Ralph, Head Chef/Owner
Having eaten here 2 nights ago, I can assure you the menu is anything but boring. Castlebar, and pretty much the whole of Mayo, has been crying out for a restaurant where the menu doesn’t include the usual dull options of; Lasagna, fish and chips, curry or burgers…Welcoming staff, unique decor (verging on hipster, ya know, re-purposed pallets and galvanise), House of Plates focus on top quality locally sourced and artisan foods from the surrounding region. The resulting menu is different to anything else you’ll find in Castlebar, in fact you’ll struggle to find anything remotely as exciting in any nearby town.
The waiter advised, as the name would suggest, that the menu consists of small plates, “starter sizes” and diners should chose 2 to 3 plates with a side. The menu is broken down into snacks to enjoy while you’re perusing the menu/waiting for your plates to arrive, and small plates divided in 3 sections from Land, Sea and Earth, as well as a good selection of sides.
I ordered a snack of ‘Puffed pork crackling with black cajun powder’ or Chicharron for €4 and we were provided with a water for the table with some complimentary sourdough bread and house oils; raspberry and balsamic and an orange and fennel oil – an indication of the great food to come.
Between 3 we ordered plates ranging from €8.50 – €11.50, ‘Crazy Bastard chicken wings, sticky pineapple, lime & horseradish creme fraiche’, ‘Slow cooked Andarl Farm pig cheeks in panko crumb, granola, baby gem, rhubarb jam’, ‘Medallion of Irish sirloin, bone marrow butter, confit tomato, celeriac puree’, a pheasant special and sides of ‘Double cooked chips, aioli & parmesan’ and ‘Sweet potato fries with lime creme fraiche’, and we each got a side of ‘macaroni and cheese with bacon dust’ all priced at €3.50. If anything contains “bacon dust”, I will order it, no exceptions.
The highlight for me was the panko fried pigs cheeks which were moreishly tender, with an added zing from the lightly pickled carrots and rhubarb jam. The wings were perfectly sweet and sticky with a slow creeping heat. The only plate I took issue with was the pheasant special, which had a complete lack of seasoning. All other dishes however, could not be faulted. The sides were all exceptional, notably the double cooked chips, with the macaroni coming in at second place.
We finished with 3 desserts, a lemon curd with meringue shards, sponge and fruit salad. After a long deliberation I ordered the Chocolate brownie with textures of raspberry, popping candy and Coole Swan chocolate sauce and Amy ordered the sticky toffee pudding with salted caramel and a fig and date jam. Again all of the desserts were delicious, the lemon curd was the lighter dessert of the 3, the sticky toffee pudding was particularly dense and filling, at this point I had pretty much attacked everyone else’s food and was pretty fucking full, a spoonful of pudding with the salted caramel nearly killed me. My favourite was the chocolate brownie, although I debated over entire dessert menu for far too long, everything sounded great, it was the very definition of food porn.
The total bill including a couple of minerals came to around €85. All of the dishes are meticulously thought out with so many different elements to each plate, almost all perfectly executed (minus the pheasant). Service was friendly and initially very attentive, got a little shoddy as the restaurant filled up. This is definitely the place to eat in Mayo.