I had the good fortune of recently being taken out for a beautiful evening in the Boathouse, Oranmore. It’s rare for me to want to take the time to write a review but after such a wonderful experience I have to share the good word!
Every element of our dining experience at the Boathouse was nothing short of superb. To begin, the most obvious aspect, the food. Each course was presented as a carefully constructed dish, well-rounded, with complex flavours. It’s clear that behind this menu is a chef who really understands food and how to showcase the very best qualities of each ingredient -- expertly interwoven so as to enhance and complement each other and best of all in exciting, modern combinations.
The wasabi salmon starter was nothing short of perfection. Delicious to taste with an incredible texture in your mouth; somewhere between a plump fresh flesh that then melted away to a velvety, whipped buttery feeling. Despite the varied and tempting selection of meat dishes, I opted next for a fish main; a fresh cod dish infused with delicate hazelnut flavours – yet another stunning combination I had never before imagined but now crave. After a “pause” for digestion (most perfectly timed by our attentive table staff) we finished with a marvellous treat of café gourmand. Rich and luxurious coffee accompanied by exquisite petit four desserts, the undoubted favourite being a crème brulée so perfect that it would make even une vraie francaise water at the mouth and weak at the knees. Every stage of our meal was presented with flair, precision and aesthetic creativity.
The superb quality of our dining experience, based purely on the food, would have in itself been more than enough to lure me eagerly back to the Boathouse but what made this restaurant stand out for me was the excellent team of people and the atmosphere they succeed in creating. The level of contagious enthusiasm, team cohesion and collective commitment shared by the entire staff of the Boathouse was impossible to overlook. Every member of the team, no matter what their individual role, was so friendly and welcoming, greeting us with genuine smiles and open ears. Subtly observant of the rhythm of our meal, they seemed to appear on cue as if by magic and pre-empt any of our requests and then just as easily, quietly slip away so as not to interrupt the privacy of our evening.
The front of house manager lead by example, completely and expertly focused on ensuring the customer had the best experience possible. When we arrived into the Boathouse, instead of being rushed into the first available table, as is so typically the case, she offered us the option of a short wait so as to be seated at one of the best tables in the house. The choice was entirely up to us, without being put under any duress or rush and I’m glad we chose to wait the extra few minutes. How refreshing it was to be looked after in a manner that was purely driven by a desire to give us, the customer, the very best the restaurant had to offer..instead of merely being treated as walking credit cards as I have, unfortunately, so often experienced in other establishments!
Not only was the front of house right on point but the behind the scenes magic of the kitchen team took customer service to the next level too. Later on during our evening, I watched as the head chef, after a few moments of thoughtful observation from the edges of the dining room, proceeded to work his way around the entire suite of tables and various different parties. Irrespective of the late hour of the evening with all meals already served to the contentment of the customers, here was a chef so committed that he had not yet switched-off. He proceeded to speak quietly, attentively, personally with every table in the room looking to better understand his clients’ experience; what they enjoyed, what they felt could perhaps be different, answering any questions and talking so passionately and enthusiastically about the food throughout. He treated each table as individuals; striking a perfect balance of engagement when the customer wished to chat or instead politely retiring, without intrusion when they preferred to continue with their evening uninterrupted. Here was a chef eagerly listening to his clientele and actively soliciting their feedback. This was not an exercise of merely “going through the motions” but someone making real eye contact, listening intently and concentrating on the reactions of his customers. How often does that actually happen these days? It struck me that it is all too rare. With a chef taking this approach in leading his kitchen, is it any wonder that the dining experience offered by the Boathouse is of such high calibre?
In my opinion the Boathouse is an outstanding find, a credit to Oranmore and one of a long overdue new wave of Irish restaurants that focus on quality of product, excellence of execution and truly understand the complexities and importance of real customer service. This restaurant is the complete package at a more than reasonable price for their product. I would unreservedly recommend the Boathouse to anyone and am looking forward to my own next visit. Thank you to the entire team for a magnificent evening of wonderful memories.