Chef David McKane has recently joined the team at the magnificent Kilkea Castle in Kildare, Ireland, just one hour south of Dublin. Recently appointed as Executive Head Chef and Culinary Director, Chef McKane’s menus focus on using local artisanal produce to create classic Irish food with a modern approach. His menu approach can be experienced at Kilkea Castle’s Restaurant 1180, afternoon tea in the Drawing Room, Hermione’s Restaurant, and The Bistro.
Ahead of our visit to Kilkea Castle next week, I recently spoke with Chef David McKane where we discussed the importance of utilizing local produce, his three essential ingredients for cooking, an overview of the signature dishes on the menus, and so much more.
I understand you like to cook with local produce and high-quality ingredients. Why is this most important to you?
The food offering for the resort must be based upon the key relationships that we have with the local farmers and suppliers. My team of chefs here at Kilkea partner themselves with artisan producers from across the island of Ireland. They deliver to us on a daily basis a wide variety of high quality ingredients that showcase the best of the land and sea. We take these ingredients and use them in very simple ways to highlight the best flavours from each ingredient. We create dished that have simple flavour pairings that match the surroundings of our 12th century castle. We marry classical concepts with a modern touch.
What are three essential ingredients that you prefer to cook with on a regular basis?
I like to use ingredients that are significant to the Irish culture and highlight the best of what we have to offer as an island. Ireland is famous for its smoked salmon and I cannot find a better purveyor of this than Duncannon Smokehouse in Wexford. Kai and his wife Lee have continued the family Smokehouse business originally set up by Kai’s father Frank in 1974.
Dexter Beef is a breed of cattle native to the Island of Ireland. Killenure Castle in Tipperary is one of the last suppliers of this Irish “warrior” breed of cattle. Since 2007, Eavaun Carmody and her team offer chefs the chance to work with a truly organic native Irish product. The Dexter beef they produce is tender, highly marbled and regarded for its sweet, slightly nutty taste. Shellfish is championed throughout the menus hers at Kilkea.
One of my favourites to work with is Crab from CS Fish in Doonbeg. Established in 2011, CS Fish specialises in catching, sourcing and delivering fish of the highest quality. Drawing on over 30 years’ experience from well-respected West-Clare fisherman Cathal Sexton and his family. From the family boats the sexton family catch and process their own crab. The meat is delicate and sweet to taste.
Which food and cocktail pairings are your favourites?
On a recent trip to Kilkenny, I was relaxing with a friend and came across an interesting pairing of Gin & Tonic with Mussels. The Gin was from a local Distillery in Kilkenny called Ballykeefe. They are a newly founded Distillery that are winning al the major awards throughout the country. The Gin was paired with a simple garnish of tonic, Lime and Cucumber. Whist enjoying my Gin overlooking Kilkenny Castle I decided to order some Moules Marinières. Freshly cooked mussels in a creamy white wine sauce paired perfect with my refreshing gin and crusty sourdough.
I understand Kilkea Castle will be receiving two new pastry chefs. Tell us more!
I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of two new pastry chefs, one of which is coming from the 5 star Ballyfin Demesne. This is a very important part of our kitchen as everything is baked freshly on the premises from our great variety of breads to afternoon teas and no meal is complete without a sinfully sweat treat, that rich, satisfying, scrumptious delight that one waits patiently for at the end of a great meal is by no means an afterthought.
For those visiting Kilkea castle for the first time, what would you wish for your patrons to notice first? What sorts of memories would you like them to leave with?
When our guest arrive to the castle, I would like them to notice the wide variety of dining experiences available to them. I want their stay to be comfortable and for us to offer them a dining option that best suits their mood. We offer a wide variety from casual dining, afternoon tea and fine dining. I wish for them to experience all aspect of the dining journey here at Kilkea and feel that each is a splendid as the last. The memories that I would like the guest to leave with is of the high quality produce that we serve here at the Castle. I would like them to be longing to return to try our wide range of culinary offerings and varied tastes throughout the resort.
Describe the signature dishes on the menu. Which ones are your favorites?
We have many dishes on offer throughout all of the dining outlets of the resort. Some of my favourites include the Chicken wings with spicy BBQ sauce and Belgian waffle in the Clubhouse Bar; The Fish & Chips from the Clubhouse Bar with its creamy Hake and chunky chips; the duck and orange main course from our 1180 fine dining restaurant; and our range of afternoon tea served throught the afternoon.