Dingle is dingin but if it’s far from the madding crowd you wish to be then the Phoenix Restaurant and guesthouse will make your wishes come true. Rising from the side of a busy road just beyond Inch beach, is the wonderland that is Lorna Tyther’s baby. Pull in and park your car and you’ll soon forget about everything in the outside world. Lorna, who is now twenty years in her business, runs first and foremost a restaurant that specializes in organic, vegetarian food. Much of what smiles up at you from your plate will be salad and veggies from the garden and tunnel in the grounds. You can even walk around the back of the house and see the lush salad beds and promising apple trees. Freshly baked deserts, crumbles and pies seem to sidle their way from the kitchen in the morning and onwards, lazily into the day. The garden is enchanting, mature and full of colour. Here and there are places to sit and stare and to notice all manner of unexpected treats. The gypsy caravans are a sight to behold so we decided to overnight in one. When would we get the chance again.
After a long and lovely day on a nearby beach we arrived, hungry and happy into the restaurant. Full of pictures that tell stories of Lorna’s travels and other life as a belly dancer, the room is cosy and inviting with a mish-mash of seating and objets a plenty. Fish has become a recent addition to the offerings here, mainly due to demand, but we went veggie, as you do when in Rome. The Phoenix salad was basically everything on a plate, olives, feta, humus, artichoke hearts and a hefty helping of their signature ten-a-day salad that’s bursting with freshness and flavours from the garden. For mains the chick pea, sweet potato and tofu curry was top of the list. This came with steamed brown rice and a generous mixed salad. The curry was full of contrasting textures and colours, it was fun to eat and even the rice had the best bite. The main of lentil quinoa bake is heaven for a non wheat eating, vegetarian who loves lasagne or moussaka. It comes with a punchy tomato sauce and plenty of green salad and is full of flavour and texture.
As we sat, happy as vegan clams, desert was next up. But our cosy caravan was calling and we just couldn’t decide on what to have, but it had to be in bed. Jane, a woman with a calling for hospitality put much care into choosing four deserts for us and even grilled some apricots to make the most magical tray of sweet treats. We brought it to our nook with a tray of tea and lovely mismatched china cups. We devoured, like happy children, every scrap of the heavenly pies, cheesecake and much too sexy chocolate shortbread semi-fredo. Somehow I didn’t have the crumble, it wouldn’t have gone with the orange polenta cake. If you come here for nothing but deserts, then at least do that.
The caravan was warm and comfy. As spacious as you would expect and lovingly renovated. Little lamps lit the way as we dozed off to a sugar-induced, full- bellied sleep. We were warned that Marcel the cockrel would wake us up and he did, but that’s the charm here too. You can stay in the guesthouse in one of the quirkily painted but really comfortable rooms if you need more space.
This place is so relaxed I wandered round in my pyjamas until lunch-time and had my home-made spelt bread toasted and served up with their own eggs for a breakfast. Sitting in the restaurant is a bit like being in a welcoming local shop as folk pop in and out wishing Lorna well with her recently launched cookbook. Here is a woman who puts every ounce of love into what she does, and she does it so well. If you need an escape, a treat, to relax or just to eat some really excellent good, clean food, go here. It’s something for everyone and it certainly won’t be your only visit. You can stock up on locally made organic cosmetics or ingredients for your larder and treat yourself to a bottle of organic wine.
Dinner, caravan and breakfast for two €120
The Phoenix Restaurant
Open for lunch and dinner, kitchen closed 9pm