The Smuggler’s Inn restaurant, nestled on the Kerry Coast, has been serving great food forever. Henry Hunt is the newest member of the family to cook here at the family business. This young man is an enthusiastic, competent chef very willing to boast about his menu.
When we arrived, he was happily welcoming guests with a glass of homemade lemonade and a run-down of the dishes of the evening. Henry learned his trade beside his father Harry, who cooked here before him. Harry has a string of references to his name.
‘I worked in the kitchen from the age of twelve, beside my dad’ says Henry. Of course as a keen young chef anxious to travel and gain experience, his wanderlust took him to L’Ecrivain in Dublin, a Michelin Star restaurant in Switzerland and a short spell with Heston Blumenthal at his famed Fat Duck restaurant in England. Finally, to a twelve week course at Cork’s Ballymaloe Cookery School, the home of local and seasonal produce in Ireland. Henry returned full of ideas about fancy cookery tricks and five star presentations. But he soon realised that isn’t what The Smuggler’s Inn Restaurant is really all about.
My dad had always focussed on using local produce here. Because of our location there was always a great choice around us. So I guess I just had a rethink on featuring local as we always have, but use the experience I gained while travelling to create my own style’. Henry has done just that, combining freshness of ingredients with stylishly simple presentation.
This restaurant is still a huge favourite with local families, but it’s attracting the attention of food lovers from further afield these days. Down to the charm and culinary magic of young Henry, and that old fashioned Irish welcome from his mum, who still serves front of house. She greets her clients with an ease and grace which only comes from longstanding experience. This lady is very comfortable in her role. That resonates in the dining room. She’s as likely to be recommending a menu choice as dishing out local knowledge on places to visit. Dad Harry has retired, but he still keeps an eye on his son and is often to be found meddling in the kitchen! Henry feels lucky to have his vast cooking expertise at hand if he needs it.
The conservatory style restaurant in Waterville’s Smuggler’s Inn is one of the ‘musts’ to visit in Kerry. Henry Hunt bases his menus on local and seasonal produce, specialising in fresh fish and shellfish from the waters here. Freshly dug vegetables come from his market garden across the road. This year’s patch has radishes, beetroots, lettuces, carrots, celery, peas and beans, all headed for the menu here.
The Smuggler’s kitchen is a haven for cooking enthusiasts. Homemade stocks and sauces simmer gently on the stove, a slow cooked stew bubbles in the oven, fresh baked breads cool gently on a wire rack in readiness for dinner. Henry is happy in his work. You’ll be more than happy with the results. Menu browsing takes place in the cosy bar area by the entrance to the restaurant.
The lobster, crab and crayfish tank tempts, so if you fancy spoiling yourself you can pick your own and it will be freshly cooked to order when you sit down. Something of a house special, well worth splashing out on. Henry’s mother or one of the proficient restaurant’s waiting staff will show you to your table in the conservatory dining room.
In early evening watch the sun go down over the bay. As dusk falls, table candles add their glow to the room. This open and spacious dining room is just as pleasant if you are eating alone, as it is if you are with a group of friends or family enjoying a special occasion.
Lunch and early evening diners will enjoy the Bistro Menu. An a la carte menu runs at lunch and each evening. Read the Smuggler’s Inn philosophy on the front page, then ponder over the supplier list and resulting menu. Here is where Henry’s cooking experience meets homely traditions and turns into magic. Homemade citrus sorbet, sophisticated soups, fresh fish and local meats meet every taste.
Specials are clearly explained by the staff. These change daily according to what’s available and what the chef fancies doing with it. Henry’s desserts are to die for. Enjoy an Irish coffee with yours – find the irresistible list on the dessert menu along with a fine choice of after dinner tipples including aged cognac and premium Irish whiskies.
The wine list here is also well put together. House wines by bottle, half bottle and glass and some classic wines come in half bottles too. If we were to try to describe the essence of Smuggler’s Inn, we’d have to say it’s the family welcome that makes you feel right at home, and the quality and provenance of ingredients that underpin the menu.
We are very glad we found the supremely talented Henry and his divine part of the world. Read more about The Smugglers Inn with this GuestHouse Review.