When Peng Loh snapped up the Castlemartyr Resort in East Cork, Ireland, and announced plans to open a new restaurant, people started talking. The Singapore-based hotelier owns a coveted collection of Michelin star eateries scattered across the globe, including the three-star Zen in Singapore and London’s two-star Da Terra.
So, from the moment the exclusive resort welcomed guests to Terre this September, restaurant critics were all asking the same question: how long before the Michelin inspectors come knocking?
Cork has already carved out an impressive reputation for its gourmet food scene. The county is home to four Michelin star restaurants – Ichigo Ichie, Bastion, Dede, and Chestnut – and might just be set to welcome a fifth.
It’s not the first time Loh has set his sights on the Emerald Isle. The hotelier grew up in Dublin and counts the Trinity Townhouse and Sheen Falls Lodge among his burgeoning Irish portfolio. For his latest venture, Loh brought in Vincent Crepel – a fiercely talented French chef who honed his skills at some of the world’s most prestigious kitchens.
Terre is Crepel’s first venture outside France and the chef has relished the chance to explore Cork’s incredible bounty of produce while keeping his dishes firmly rooted in classic French technique.
Hailing from the French Pyrenees, Crepel cut his teeth at some of the planet’s most esteemed restaurants including the three Michelin-starred Arzak in the Basque city of San Sebastian and Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville Crissier in Switzerland.
But it was in Singapore that the talented chef met his mentor André Chiang and became sous chef at the Taiwenese chef’s eponymous restaurant.
At just 29 years old, Crepel set up his first eatery, Porte 12, in a former lingerie and textile atelier in Paris’s trendy 10th arondissement. Backed by Chiang and Loh, Crepel served modern five and seven course tasting menus, inspired by his time spent in Asia with a focus on intense umami flavors and fresh seasonal produce.
Porte 12 finally closed its doors during the pandemic. So, when Loh floated the idea of opening a new fine dining restaurant at Catlemartyr, Crepel was ready to leave France and embark on a new challenge.
As well as scouring Cork to find the highest quality produce, Crepel has once again stamped the menu with his signature style, blending classic French cooking with Asian touches. He also uses fermentation and dry aging techniques to further bring out the vibrant flavors of the ingredients.
As was the case at Porte 12, local, seasonal produce is very much the star of the show at Terre. “From the first moment I saw the green fields of Ireland surrounded by its spectacular coastline, I felt a connection with the land and its people, drawn energy from the sea, and inspiration from its bounty,” Crepel explains.
Highlights from the menu include chawanmushi (a steamed egg custard dish popular in Japan) in a rich parmesan broth, cod topped with a generous mound of caviar and dotted with white rose petals, and rhubarb Earl Grey cream served with smoked strawberries and a wonderfully refreshing fromage blanc sorbet. There’s also an impeccable wine list with a focus on small, family-owned producers and organic wines.
Steeped in history, Terre sits within a beautiful 17th-century manor house located next to the ruins of an 800-year-old castle. A corridor lined with glass jars of pickles and preserves leads to the main dining room, where Crepel and his team can be seen putting the finishing touches to dishes in the open kitchen.
The intimate 24-seat restaurant has been decorated in a rich earthy color palette emulating the surrounding Irish landscape and adorned with bespoke furnishings crafted locally by Modet in Kinsale and beautiful tableware from Fermoyle Pottery in County Kerry.
Terre is open Wednesday-Saturday. The tasting menu costs €140, with a wine pairing for an additional €120.