Four Gourmet Irish Getaways
Ireland’s reputation as a gastronomic haven is well-deserved, as our recent jaunts around the country proved.
GREGANS CASTLE, CLARE
Relatively unassuming from the outside – it’s not a castle – but as soon as you walk through the door of Gregans Castle, you know it’s worth the trip. Perfectly-pitched ambient lighting and a gentle Georgian colour palette conjure up the cosy intimacy of an Irish country house with the finish of a five-star hotel.
FOOD & DRINK
The food at Gregans is every bit as high-end as the decor, with chef Robbie McCauley nicely filling the void left by David Hurley. Little details stand out, like a trio of butters (smoked, caramelised and salted Irish farmhouse) served with your house-baked bread, not to mention a dish of seared scallops dressed with cascading waves of lime-infused kohlrabi and paper-thin broccoli.
Each course almost outdoes what comes before in flourish and finesse, and the award-winning cuisine is complimented by an extensive, ever-expanding wine list that takes in continental champions and a large selection of organic and bio-dynamic wines.
A bracing stroll along the nearby slate-grey Flaggy Shore, the very spot that Seamus Heaney warned will “catch the heart off guard and blow it wide open” goes a long way to summing up the Gregans experience. That, and a few chats with John, the castle’s legendary barman. Lizzie Gore-Grimes
BALLYVOLANE HOUSE, CORK
A historic Irish country house brimming with warmth and tradition, Ballyvolane House keeps things simple. Salmon fishing on the river Blackwater? Yes, please…
FOOD & DRINK
Dinner at Ballyvolane is an experience as guests dine together, creating an old-school, convivial atmosphere. Almost everything you eat here is produced onsite, including your pre-dinner cocktail which comes from the small batch gin Bertha’s Revenge, made with whey alcohol and locally-foraged botanicals.
Ballyvolane’s magnificent walled garden teems with seasonal produce; sea kale, globe artichokes, Tuscan kale, ruby chard, figs, berries, pears and so much more. On the dinner table, you can enjoy platters of gin-cured gravlax, Ballyhoura mushrooms on toast, whole Castletownbere halibut and freshly-caught salmon, all accompanied by steaming bowls of new season potatoes and buttery wilted chard.
That’s not to mention splendid walled garden gooseberry meringue roulade and tasty artisan Irish cheeses.
Tasteful touches line this house, from the Voya products in the bathroom to a perfectly-curated selection of books in your room. All kinds of activities are available, too, from fly-fishing lessons to clay pigeon shooting, canoeing, archery, cookery & cocktail demonstrations and foraging expeditions. Lizzie Gore-Grimes
1826 ADARE & THE DUNRAVEN ARMS HOTEL, LIMERICK
A mere two-hour drive from Dublin in order to devour probably the best Sunday lunch in all the land? Sounds like a fair deal. Add in the kind of welcome that makes you feel part of the family and you’ll be hitting the road in no time.
FOOD & DRINK
First up, the rustic cottage setting of the 1826 Restaurant in Adare where a pre-lunch Bloody Mary with freshly grated horseradish and crushed vine tomatoes makes for an adventurous kick-off. Follow that up with a perfectly-cooked starter of baked Irish scallops with Connemara air-dried ham, breadcrumbs and herb butter served in the shell for a sweet yet balanced experience.
For main course, the slow-roasted, dry-aged beef is comfort food at its best: a mound of buttery whipped potatoes with bacon and crispy onions propping up a tranche of roast beef. Even if you’re not usually a pudding person, don’t miss the chance to sample the peanut butter and salted caramel parfait with bitter chocolate mousse and toasted peanuts – in essence, a deconstructed Snickers bar. Absolutely divine.
The people. Wade and Elaine Murphy have earned a string of accolades since throwing open the doors to 1826 Adare in 2013 and their dedication and attention to detail is present in every nook and cranny. Staying in the lovely Dunraven Arms Hotel, the staff have hospitality down to a fine art – nothing is a problem and every request is met with a smile. Breakfast of eggs with truffles and freshly baked Limerick ham carved on a silver trolley leads to feeling truly spoilt and wanting to return in a heartbeat. Lesley Tumulty
LONGUEVILLE HOUSE HOTEL, CORK
A vegan-friendly haven, Longueville House is an 18th century Georgian country house nestled in the heart of a hidden 500-acre wooded estate and every bit as resplendent as that sounds. Open log fires, antique family collections and fresh garden flowers add to a warm, natural atmosphere.
FOOD & DRINK
Longueville House’s owner and chef, William O’Callaghan, trained under Raymond Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons of Oxford and so his cookery skills are a force to be reckoned with. Enjoy an inventive meal by a roaring fire such as a seven-course tasting menu consisting of canapés, fresh beetroot, carrot and homemade vinaigrette and sundried tomato and pesto on toast. Delicately-fried courgettes stuffed with pearl barley, granita sorbets and lentil-filled samosas with roasted vegetables satisfy even the most sensitive of palates.
Pressed from their 25-acre apple orchard, Longueville’s own brand of cider goes down a treat, while a mint-seasoned berries and sorbet dessert makes for a light end to a delicious dining experience. Jenna Meade
FEATURED IMAGE William O'Callaghan at work in Longueville House.