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For most people, a visit to a courthouse is not something to relish. But in Kinlough The Courthouse is another different experience, where its role is to dispense culinary delights and see that justice is done, in terms of good food.
Piero Melis and staff take great pride in providing guests with the most exciting and authentic Mediterranean dining.
There is a legend that Sardinia was the last place God made – with some thin soil and rock that was left over he tossed the lot into the sea then stepped on it and, voila!, Sardegna was born.
The myth is only completely wrong: Sardinia was probably amongst the first place in its region to be created: it is older than Italy, older than Sicily. Piero Melis was born there, a day before 1960 became 1961, in the deep south west of the island, on an islet called Sant'Antioch.
The Sardinians are an ancient people. Almost forty centuries ago, their strange nuraghe – tall, beehive-shaped stone constructions that could reach more than 20 metres in height – were the most distinguished architecture of their time. “Sardinia has stayed older”, wrote Waverley Root. “Man reached the island in the Stone Age, and it is arguable that he has never emerged from it”. Sardinia was invaded time and again, but no one ever got under the skins of the Sardinians.
This, surely, explains why Mr Melis seems different: you feel you could take his blood line back, not just for centuries, but for millenia. He seems ageless, and vitally youthful. He seems solitary, capable.
He established The Courthouse, in quaint and quiet Kinlough village, in 1996, when County Leitrim was beginning to assert itself, and for fifteen years he has practised what he learnt from Richard Corrigan when Mr Melis worked at Bentley's in London as manager of the oyster bar: make it stylish, keep it simple. There is no arrogance about his cooking, which is beautifully logical, and he navigates through the needs of a conservative local audience with aplomb. He understands food in a profound way, he is a servant to his ingredients and has the intuitive touch that characterises someone who reads his ingredients with natural ease and contemplation. He is hands-on and hardworking: he will bid you goodnight as you head upstairs to bed after a delicious dinner, and he will be there in the morning to make sure your breakfast is just as perfectly executed as dinner. His food is artfully, transcendently simple, and best matched with the striking wines he imports himself from Sardinia, vivid with ancient tastes.