We headed for a drive, planning to go to Donadea Wood for a walk, but instead found ourselves heading for Maynooth. As we were in the area, we decided to step into Carton House for a light lunch. For those who dont know, Carton was one of the great houses of the Earls of Kildare, and the hotel website has a decent history as well as short history on Wiki. Whatever one might think of this great country house being a hotel and golf course, at least it was spared the fate of its sister dwelling, Frescati House, demolished and replaced with a shopping center.
We ate in the new lounge, which quite neatly blends the old and the new (reminiscent to me of Lyrath in Kilkenny), ordering chowder, a turkey sandwich and tea/coffee. The lounge was vibrant, with a convention beginning and its members registering and getting drinks from the bar, a lot of families and I guess residents sitting reading papers, eating and drinking. A glass and steel modern gas fire in the center (not to my taste but hey…) gave a focus.
Alas, and to our disappointment, things on the food front were at best so-so. For a top hotel to serve pressed turkey, the sort one gets in the cheaper parts of the deli aisle, with a pile of badly broken powdery corrugated crisps (which looked and tasted like Hunky Dory to us) is not on. The sandwich was served on doorstops of processed looking white bread, with a distinct lack of finess. “its like something youd get in the pub” was the comment.
And alas the chowder was no great shakes, for sure not worth the €8.50 (and not a patch on the same priced dish in Barberstown) . Chowder , recall, is supposed to be “a thick, chunky seafood soup” . Well this had seafood in fair profusion, but was thin, and frankly not very tasteful. It was slightly oily, perhaps in fairness from the large amount of salmon, but unusually for me as I rarely use it i had to salt it up. There was a lot of what I think was diced celery, and some shredded white fish. It wasnt bad, it just….wasnt good. Hungry, I ate most of it. It came with two thin slices of what again to me seemed (but hopefully werent) commercial brown soda bread. A more different bread to the treacle feast in Ennis couldnt be imagined. No butter, but when I asked it arrived, cold as bankers heart and utterly unspreadable. So, a workmanlike chowder at best but well below what a top rated hotel can and should produce, especially at the price.
In fairness to the hotel, and to their credit, when I went to pay I mentioned the above, and the lounge manager didn’t demur, listened attentively, said she would pass the critique on, thanked me and gave a rebate. We are not good at criticism in this country and my experience is that good establishments want critical, in the best sense, feedback. So, mediocre enough in Maynooth.