CHASING THE MAP

Authentic Irish Fare at Holy Grail of the Lakes

There’s a new restaurant in town. Where once you were served communion wine in your Sunday best, you now can choose from a whole menu of adult drinks. The former Evangelical Baptist Church is now Holy Grail of the Lakes, an authentic Irish restaurant and bar, an important addition to a struggling downtown area hoping eagerly to revive itself with new and interesting businesses. If “The Grail” is any indication, Laconia, New Hampshire should soon be booming with new life.

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My husband and I had held off on making our first visit to the restaurant. Months before, they had a “soft opening,” which was met with some mixed reviews. The menu was limited. The crowds were large. Like any new place, they experienced some minor growing pains.

We weren’t sure what to expect when we decided we wanted to try something different one late Sunday afternoon, and our destination would be the Holy Grail. We were hopeful, and eager, and looking to eat some delicious Irish fare.

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The Holy Grail did not disappoint. First off, the decor itself retains much of the architectural integrity of the converted church, and is spectacular. The wood is rich and dark, with the downstairs booths resembling church pews (just more comfortable). The cathedral ceilings are lofty and have gorgeous metal ceilings and hanging chandeliers. There’s a large U-shaped bar with plenty of chairs. The former choir loft upstairs has been converted to a dining area, some of which overlooks the downstairs area.

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What caught my eye the most, however, are the magnificent stain glass windows surrounding the entire building. Beautiful bursts of color drench the rooms, especially on sunny days.

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Now, the food. The menu looks fantastic, and I dare say if you can’t find something to suit your tastes, you’re probably more fussy than most. There are quite a few appetizers, from Irish nachos to Scotch eggs to drunken mushrooms. The “drunken” refers to the beer batter which cocoons the mushrooms.

There are at least 6 salads and a variety of broth and creamy soups and stews. You’ll find sandwiches and burgers. Heartier fare includes seafood entrees, steaks, and pastas. Then there’s the Irish choices, which is really why you came here in the first place, right?

I’m a sucker for shepherd’s pie, even when it’s not made from a traditional Irish recipe. But when it is, hold your hat folks. I was sold, and eagerly looking for a tasty meal. This did not disappoint. Both ground lamb and beef are used in the dish, along with carrots, celery, corn, and onions. All of this is slow cooked in a rich burgundy and tomato sauce, and then topped with mashed potatoes and a parmesan crust. The veggies were tender but not overcooked. The meat, drenched in sauce, was luscious and the flavor of wine and tomatoes complemented each other beautifully. I would have licked the bowl clean if given the chance. You can tell that I loved it from the empty bowl which remained.

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My husband chose the boiled dinner. The results are in, people, and he resoundingly stated that it was the BEST boiled dinner that he’s ever eaten. That also includes any boiled dinner that he’s ever made, and that’s saying a lot! Slowly cooked red corned beef is served in an incredibly flavorful clear broth, and surrounded by cabbage, turnips, carrots, and potatoes. He loved the broth so much, he asked for more, and for bread in which to sop the excess up with. The corned beef was fork tender and the vegetables were cooked to perfection. Yep, another clean plate!

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The drink menu is also quite vast with wine and beer, mixed drinks, alcoholic coffee drinks, martinis, and spirits. Lots of options, almost too many! I narrowed it down and ended up choosing the French Queen, a mix of Grey Goose cherry noir, Chambord, St. Germain, and champagne. Different from many martini’s I’ve tried, I just had to have 2, and really loved the blended flavors. My husband, ever the traditionalist, chose a draft beer.

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The food was delectable, the portions just right, the ambiance spot on, and the prices very reasonable. For these reasons and more, I highly recommend you try the Holy Grail of the Lakes. I honestly can’t wait to go back and try another dish that I’m sure won’t disappoint.

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