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Starters at the Cliff House restaurant in Ardmore included beet macaroons and salmon marshmallows. Photo by David Lansing.

Here’s what it says on the menu at the Cliff House restaurant in Ardmore, called The House: “Martijn Kajuiter, our Executive Chef, has sourced as many of our supplies as possible from as local an area as possible, even going so far as to grow our own vegetable garden…From Tadgh O’Foghlu’s honey in nearby Ring, David Brown’s fresh fish from Helvick and Ardmore Bay, to Sean Twomey and Michael McGrath, our butchers in Youghal and Lismore, the quality of the produce has given Martijn the inspiration to cook dishes that can rely on the seasonality of the ingredients.”

Well, you have to love that. I mean at home, my own cooking revolves around whatever I’m currently harvesting in my garden, whether it be peaches or heirloom tomatoes, arugula or Italian Roma beans. But I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of the Ferran Adrià-style of molecular gastronomy. So I was a little taken-aback when the starters arrived at the table.

A box of beet macaroons. Photo by David Lansing

First off, we got a plank of alder with a salmon marshmallow on it, a big gooey square of orange with overtones of fishiness. That was followed by a square rock garden topped with Easter egg-colored beet macaroons.

Really? This is what we do with the gorgeous salmon caught by David Brown in Helvick and Ardmore Bay? We turn it in to marshmallows? And the lovely beets Martijn grows in Youghal are transformed into puffy macaroons?

This may be great fun for chefs who have perfected the art of perfectly-poached Irish salmon and want to do something out-of-the-box to show their skills, but I think the only people at the table who professed a love of Kajuiter’s fishy marshmallows were infected with a bit of “emperor’s new clothes syndrome.”

That said, once Kajuiter was done showing off, the rest of the dishes were outstanding, from the plump West Cork scallops that were lightly seared, just for a minute or two, and served in a puddle of green peas, bacon, and garden herbs, to the moist Helvick cod, baked with its skin on, and seated on a light sauce of brown crab and saffron sauce.

Now if only Kajuiter (and other chefs) would get back to truly bringing out the essence of all the ingredients they work with and get over proving that they can make marshmallows that taste like salmon.

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We’ve moved on from Cork to Ardmore, a little seaside town about 60 klicks to the southeast. We’re staying at the Cliff House Hotel, so named because…well, because it’s literally perched on the cliff here.

The original hotel, called Kelly’s, after the owner, a Mr. Kelly from Connemara, was built in the 30s. Mr. Kelly ran the hotel until his death in 1983. After that, they tell me, the hotel fell into disrepair. Until the O’Callaghan family, who’d been coming to Ardmore on holidays forever, purchased the rather decrepit ol’ gal in 2005. They pretty much gutted the place and then spent three years rebuilding, re-opening five years ago this month.

When we checked in we were met by a lovely woman with sad eyes but a lovely smile who introduced herself as Honor. I just couldn’t resist: “I’m Justice,” I told her. She looked at the reservation and seemed a bit confused until I informed her of my poor joke. “Yes, I see,” she said, her pale blue eyes lighting up, “Honor and Justice. Just so.”

Honor escorted us down several floors (the lobby is actually on the ground floor and the rooms are terraced on the cliff below) to our room which was resplendent in pink—pink bedspread, pink armchairs, pink curtains. Above the pink couch was a bookcase with a book I’d heard about but never actually seen: Let’s Go Disco. It’s not what you think. It’s a very stylish cookbook. By Martijn Kajuites, the hotel’s Michelin star chef. Evidently “Let’s go disco!” is what Martijn shouts at his kitchen brigade when things get a little tense in the kitchen. We’re eating there tonight. With Honor, of course. I can hardly wait.

Let’s Go Disco above the pink couch in our room at the Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore. Photo by David Lansing.

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