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Kilkenny restaurant with Michelin ambitions becomes latest fine dining establishment to close

Keith Boyle at The Bridge House closes as executive chef and manager have their employment terminated

A fine dining restaurant in Kilkenny city, Keith Boyle at The Bridge House, has closed its doors, less than four months after opening. Last Friday afternoon, ahead of dinner service, executive head chef Keith Boyle and his wife Carmel Boyle, the restaurant manager and sommelier, received notification that their employment was being terminated. The notification came within the couple’s six-month probation period.

“Carmel and I are sorry to confirm that our time at The Bridge House in Kilkenny has been very short-lived and is now at an end,” the couple said, speaking to The Irish Times on Monday. “The run-up to Christmas was very, very busy. Give or take an odd table it was full, including private book-outs,” Keith Boyle said.

The Bridge House, which has 12 bedrooms as well as a restaurant, is owned by the Neville Group of hotels, which relaunched the property as part of the adjacent River Court Hotel, in July of this year, after a €2 million investment following a fire in 2018.

The Neville Group is a family-owned company that also owns and operates the Royal Marine Hotel in Dún Laoghaire, Druid’s Glen Hotel and Golf Resort in Co Wicklow, the Tower Hotel in Waterford and the under construction Ravensport Resort in Co Wexford.

A statement from Anthony Smith, general manager of The Bridge House and The Kilkenny River Court hotel, said: “It is with regret that we announce the closure of Keith Boyle at the Bridge House restaurant. Unforeseen circumstances beyond both parties’ control have led to this decision. The Bridge House accommodation will remain open for business as usual, with further announcements expected in the coming weeks regarding the restaurant.”

Keith Boyle at The Bridge House, which was named Best Restaurant in Leinster at the recent Food & Wine Restaurant of the Year Awards, was due to be included in the prestigious Michelin Guide. On October 27th, the restaurant received an email from the guide’s UK and Ireland office, stating: “We are preparing to feature your establishment in the upcoming Michelin Guide selection and require photographs to update our records.” The guide publishes new additions to its digital listings on the last Wednesday of each month, with the latest update due next week.

On November 1st, the Michelin guide posted four food photographs from the restaurant on its social media account at X, formerly Twitter, noting “precision and technical wizardry from @kboylechef @BridgeHouseKK”.

The restaurant, which served a tasting menu costing €120 at dinner and €80 at lunchtime, had been favourably reviewed by critics in several national newspapers since opening. Reviewing the restaurant for The Irish Times Magazine in September, Corinna Hardgrave said it was “Impressive enough for Michelin to be watching the progress here very carefully”, and noted that “the attention to detail is top-tier Michelin playbook”.

A statement issued by Keith and Carmel Boyle, who previously ran Restaurant Lady Anne in Castlecomer, said: “We now begin our search for a new home to continue our journey and we look forward to welcoming guests old and new to join us when we find the right location. We also aim to keep our great team together so that what we had started to build together can be completed elsewhere.”

In what has become a turbulent time for Irish restaurants, hit by rising operating costs, another high profile Dublin restaurant on Monday signalled its intention to close next month. Clanbrassil House in Dublin 8, owned by Barry Fitzgerald and Claremarie Thomas, will have its last day of service on December 23rd, having opened six years ago.

At the weekend, it was announced that The Park Café in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, owned by Irish chef and restaurateur Richard Corrigan, was to close at the end of 2023, after just over a year in business.

“In what has been a very challenging time for the hospitality industry, it unfortunately no longer makes commercial sense for us to remain open,” an email sent on Friday evening to regular customers of The Park Café stated.

Earlier this month, Belfast chef and restaurateur Michael Deane said that his flagship Eipic, which has been open for 26 years, winning a Michelin star within its first year and retaining it, would close at the end of 2023, citing rising costs and changing customer preferences.

In Cork city, Takashi Miyazaki, chef patron of one-starred Ichigo Ichie, revealed on social media earlier this month that in January his kaiseki restaurant will transform into “a casual bistro style restaurant”, specialising in teuchi soba (handmade buckweat noodle dishes).

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