The Irish in America


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DAY 8: Ashbrook Arms

Photos of The Ashbrook Arms Restaurant and Guesthouse, Durrow
This photo of The Ashbrook Arms Restaurant and Guesthouse is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Last October, I had an incredible meal at the Ashbrook Arms with Regan, my cousin Jimmy, and his wife, Helen. It was our last night in County Laois, which usually makes me a bit melancholy, but on this night there was a distraction.

We had arranged our special dinner in part because it was our last night, but mostly as a decoy. Jimmy had planned a surprise party for Helen’s birthday and needed to get her away from her stomping grounds in Rathdowney while all the guests converged upon Touhys Bar for the party.

Helen and Jimmy McCormack

Helen and Jimmy McCormack

Since Jimmy was concerned that dinner would not take long enough, I took the opportunity to make my last dinner in Ireland really count. Beginning with a starter of delicious goat cheese on toasted brioche, with a tomato (I believe) chutney. I don’t recall what my dinner companions had that night, but I savored a delightful free-range chicken breast, and ended my meal with the Eton Mess. What’s an Eton Mess? From the Ashbrook menu: Crushed Meringue bound with Whipped Cream and a Raspberry Compote and Served with Vanilla Ice Cream. Divine!

Planning a surprise for Helen is no easy task; she knows everything that goes on. I confess, it was hilarious to see Jimmy fidget each time we would meet a friend in town the week before the party. He was so paranoid that one of them would blow the surprise. When we arrived at the Ashbrook Arms in Durrow, County Laois, Jimmy may have been sweating bullets, but I felt relaxed and looked forward to a great evening.

Jimmy wanted to be sure to give all the invited guests enough time to arrive at the party, so following dinner we stopped across the road for a drink at Bob’s Bar.  Bob’s is a great place. But it was back to Rathdowney and a bar-full of friends and family waiting to celebrate Helen. She was surprised, although she claimed to know we were up to something.

We had a great night, and Ashbrook Arms became my favorite spot for a special meal in Ireland.

Ashbrook Arms, photo courtesy of TripAdvisor

Ashbrook Arms, photo courtesy of TripAdvisor