REVIEW: The Stillhouse of Moira

A couple of weeks ago I heard that Stuart and Barbara Hughes of Hughes Craft Distillery had taken over the Four Trees in Moira. I also heard that they were doing something special and revolutionary. So, I collected my son from work and headed down to the all-new Stillhouse in Moira to see how special.

As we drove down I thought how old and tired the previous establishment had become. I knew that Stuart and Barbara were innovative and had all ready succeeded in building up an international award-winning craft spirit producer, but could they transfer their success to Moira.

The Stillhouse may have been the same structure, but as soon as I walked in I immediately knew that the soul of the place had been resurrected. The feel was of an old country lodge with a seating area front and centre, full length bar and various nooks and crannies for couples or those seeking more private dining. The décor was wooden panelled walls antique lamps and plank floors. Curiosities filled the walls and customers filled the seats. There was a calamity of conversation and the staff were deftly moving from client to bar, kitchen to table, taking orders and serving food. This place was alive.

Hannah met us within seconds and led us to a drawing room area near the front window. She took our drinks order and left us with the Chefs tasting menu. Dave McClelland has taken charge of the kitchens in the Stillhouse. I could tell from his selection for the evening that he wasn’t going with the usual bistro pub regulars. The ever-attentive Josh came and took our orders.

The starters were a choice of monkfish cheeks or handmade pasta. The monkfish cheeks were fantastically moreish. The cheeks were battered so lightly they almost floated. Each was set on a blush of sweet and sour tomato relish and surrounded with lures of curried aioli and rapeseed. The handmade pasta was delicate, so perfectly balanced with the sauce and when the confit hen’s yoke broke over the pasta it added delightfully to the indulgence of the truffle and parmesan in the dish.

I had ordered the smoked loin of cod for mains. Swimming on a sea of wild garlic, pea and courgette puree it was flanked by a small jug containing a voluptuous velvety velouté and a bowl of palate cleansing aerated potato. I wanted to order a pint of the velouté at the bar. This was seriously grown up food here. Ben, my son, went with the Cherry Valley Duck breast with duck gravy. Served on a potato pavé, which was beautifully buttery, it came with carrots done two ways; puréed with cumin and lightly roasted whole carrots. My only annoyance was the word gravy, it doesn’t do justice to what Chef produced. Indeed, both the velouté from the cod dish and the duck gravy where under represented in the menu. Dave McClelland produces the best sauces I have had in a very long time.

Desserts where worthy of ending any banquet. Moist textured and light the Stillhouse Guinness sticky toffee pudding came with butterscotch sauce and salted caramel ice cream. It was presented with a miniature glass of Guinness which was so surprisingly refreshing. At first, we thought it just a very amusing visual gimmick, but it complimented the pudding and especially the butterscotch sauce. Very clever indeed. For me, great as the pudding was, the star of the desserts was the tonka bean crème brulee. I have never tasted tonka bean before. It gave tastes and aromas; deep vanilla tones, cherry, almond, and something spicy, a bit like cinnamon. Paired with a homemade cookie, this all new experience was wonderful to me.

The team assembled at The Stillhouse Moira are creating an experience. The staff are enthusiastic and attentive to every detail. The Chef is producing great food with an ambition befitting of his setting, and the setting is exceptional. The new Distillery bar out through their court yard is opening soon for live music, private functions and a gin school. The Stillhouse has taken the gin craze to the next level. They have a fantastically modern building purpose made to distil your own gin. Yes, you can book an event for you and your friends to blend gin with various botanicals, bottle it and take it home. It is so innovative and new that I tell you The Stillhouse Moira is going to be the go to venue summer 2018 and beyond.

When I drove home Ben and I recalled every course, the flavours and those sauces. I will not pass through Moira again without being hugely tempted to stop in at the Stillhouse. Just wonderful.

Paul McMath

The Stillhouse of Moira can be found on Main Street, Moira, and is open until 23:00 everyday except Friday, and Saturday when it opens until 01:30. Find them online at and on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram.

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