East meets west in a Michelin star collaboration

Two chefs, one tasting menu, as country pub visits manor house hotel

A manor house hotel’s fine dining restaurant and a country pub with rooms, both of which have a Michelin star, join forces for collaboration on Tuesday, March 29th. On that night, guests will join executive chef John Kelly of the Lady Helen restaurant, and Aidan McGrath, from Wild Honey Inn in Co Clare, at Mount Juliet Estate in Co Kilkenny for a tasting menu created by both chefs. Later in the year, Kelly will take his place in McGrath’s kitchen in Lisdoonvarna.

“East meets west,” is how Kelly describes the project, which will see both chefs bring their personal cooking styles to create a collaborative tasting menu. “We’ll divide up the menu; we want a bit of the Wild Honey here and when we go there, we want to bring a bit of the Lady Helen, to give the customers a taste of both. We won’t over complicate it, just make it a real, original experience,” says Kelly, who came to the Lady Helen almost 11 years ago, after five years at Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud.

The local man, who comes from between Gowran and Paulstown, reveals it’s the first time he has done something like this. “I’m interested to see the context of how a Michelin star environment runs in a pub. I want to learn from it as well, as much as the customer.” For the diners, it should be a relaxed night, as well as a gourmet experience. “It’ll be a bit of fun too, and that’s what it has to be about.”

The Lady Helen dinner sold out soon after it was announced, but tickets will be released later this year for the return match at Wild Honey Inn.


The menu will include dishes from both chefs and ingredients from both locations. “We might do rosé veal, we’ve had it on the menu six, seven years now. We get it straight from the supplier, there’s about 12 different farmers that do it, all organic. I took beef off the menu about eight years ago,” Kelly says. “I was fed up buying the best of beef, and it’s not consistent, and people want it cooked differently, this way, that way.”

The chef is also streamlining the bread offering at the restaurant, currently experimenting to find one special loaf to serve to the table, rather than a selection of breads, along with a locally produced butter. “We are going for a mix between a rye and a rye sourdough. But it won’t go on until its 100 per cent consistent, it’s no good having it great three days out of four.”

The event with Wild Honey Inn is part of a move to establish the Lady Helen as a standalone restaurant, as against a hotel restaurant. A new logo and a separate website for the Lady Helen are part of the process, and a reworking of the entrance to the restaurant, to build anticipation, is also under consideration.

New china and cutlery have also been introduced, to differentiate the appearance of the dining room at night from its role as the hotel's breakfast room.

“We want the Lady Helen name to sell itself,” Kelly says. Next year, as part of a kitchen upgrade, a chef’s table will be created. “It gets the younger chefs up talking to the customers, breaks down barriers, and gets them confident in what they're doing.”