Eating Out: The Cattle raid of Camlough
The Yellow Heifer
16 Main Street
028 3083 0505
I ALWAYS thought that Cuchulain should get the Hollywood treatment. Those juicy tales of Irish mythology are just ripe for someone like Peter Jackson or Ridley Scott to turn them into an epic, sprawling spectacular. Michael Bay need not apply.
Whichever director picks up the challenge would need a hefty herd of cows at hand as many of Cuchulain's adventures involved some form of bovine creatures. Take the Cattle Raid of Cooley – or Táin Bó Cúailnge – when the artist formerly known as Setanta single-handedly kept the army of Connacht queen Meabh at bay as those crafty westerners attempted to rustle the prized bull Donn Cuailnge.
Not far from where the action all kicked off, and where Cuchulain's mates from the Red Branch Knights liked to puck a sliothar or two around, a modern infatuation with all things bovine has seen hoards of hungry visitors flock to the village of Camlough.
The Yellow Heifer restaurant, ensconced in the village's square, is a heaving hive of activity, particularly on a Saturday night. It was on one such evening that we joined the stampede.
The restaurant is accessed through Quinn's bar and while wetting our whistles, we perused a menu bursting with pride at its various selections of cuts of beef. There was a separate section devoted to steak, as well as a couple of specials on the night, such as the Butcher's Cut, which was described in such anatomical detail that I fully expected to see a chef in surgical scrubs.
Being the indecisive sort, who likes a little bit of everything, I opted for the special of 'beef and reef' – The Yellow Heifer's take on surf and turf. As proud of its excellent selection of beef as it is, there's still a warm welcome for non-meat eaters and my vegetarian other half was delighted with three viable main courses on the menu. She decided to go for the panko crumb-coated haloumi which came with roasted red pepper and garden pea risotto.
After ordering such hefty mains, we plumped for an antipasto starter to share – a diplomatic choice allowing me to feast on the cured meats and olives and my wife to prepare her palate with some homemade bread, fresh pesto and hummus.
When my main course arrived, I was glad we hadn't pigged out on starters. The beef and reef consisted of an 8oz sirloin with roast fillet of hake on buttered samphire with creamy celeriac mixed seafood chowder. The chips ordered with it barely got a second look as I marvelled at the array of food in front of me.
Despite this feast for the eyes, which was soon to be converted into one for the stomach, my first remark to my dining companion was how nice the tableware was. The plate looked like it had been lovingly crafted by one of those hermit potters you come across on Ireland's wild Atlantic coast.
I quickly snapped out of my wistful rememberings of visits to Kerry, Galway and Donegal and set my mind to tackling a well crafted piece of Co Armagh beef. Medium rare was my choice and the chef got it spot on – tender enough not to require a relentless back and forth with the steak knife and firm enough not to require a month's chewing.
The hake, although a smidge on the dry side, was a welcome contrast to the steak and each mouthful of this main was a fresh experience – even the wrestling match my teeth got into with the samphire.
My wife's main was, in her own words, as good a vegetarian main course as she had come across. A taste of the crumbed, salty – dare I say, meaty – halloumi confirmed this and the accompanying risotto seemed inspired.
For afters, we took advantage of the Yellow Heifer's 'Greedy Coffee', which is a sweet intended for one, giving you your choice of coffee and two mini-desserts (on this occasion an extremely nutty brownie and apple crumble) but which is ample for two.
I would have preferred a touch of custard or ice cream alongside it, but getting either to sit on the slate it came on might have proved tricky. Needless to say, the slate was wiped clean and it would take the might of Cuchulain to keep me away from this place again.
Antipasto platter £5.95
Beef and Reef – 8oz sirloin with roasted hake and seafood chowder £21.95
Panko crumbed halloumi with roast red pepper and garden pea risotto £10.95
1 x Greedy Coffee £5.95
1 x glass of Sauvignon blanc £3.80
1 x glass of Shiraz £3.80
Total – £54.40