Bellinter House is situated just off the M4, at the Coolooney exit, the one before Navan. Turn left at the Ard Ri pub and it’s a five minute drive down a windey road. The house is up a short drive and a is a fairly impressive example of Palladian architect, designed by the architect Richard Cassels, who was also responsible for Leinster House. Cassels was the starchitect of his day, and rich city merchants lined up to get him to design their country retreat. In fact Bellinter, or Bellinter as it was then known was his last commission before his death in 1751.
There is a granite stairway leading up to the front door, and just inside the main entrance hall is a very fine fireplace that dominates a fine, high ceilinged space. This level has the games room, library and drawing room, while the dining room is down a spiral staircase in the basement, with the guestrooms above.
Bellinter has taken a different tack that other fine country houses, the décor are more shabby chic that gracious elegance, and there are quirky design touches throughout. This a country house crying out to be cool and it works fairly well most of the time.
The dining room is a domed room very starkly decorated in whitewashed walls, an orangey brown carpet and brown leather swivel chairs at the tables. Small windows look out towards the river Boyne, and the overall effect works in a counter intuitive way. We have visited Bellinter several times, and it’s obviously at it’s best on sunny summer days, but the dining room is comfortable in a windy April evening.
The menu is a set affair, offering two courses for €30 or three for €35. The food is rustic and hearty, with plenty of game, as well as interesting fish dishes and a couple of vegetarian options that look good. If you haven’t been before, try the Smokies, they are kind of famous for them, and you won’t find better, but on this visit we started with the scallops and pork belly, and the roasted breast of quail with Foie Gras. For main course, I stayed in aerial mode, with a duck breast, while the brunette with off piste and unusually enough ordered the vegetarian wild mushroom and spinach tarte tatin. One driver and an abstemious mid week diner meant there was no wine, so still and sparkling water completed our order.
The slice of pork belly was crisp and contracted very nicely with the sweet and delicate scallop, while a honey and soya dressing added some zip. The roast quail and Foie Gras was a rich combination, but was balanced with a hazelnut salad and a roasted fig.
The highlight of the mains was the vegetarian tart tatin, light and delicious it packed a flavour punch, while the roast Magret of duck with Savoy cabbage and a potato rosti was good but simply overshadowed on this occasion.
We finished with a plum clafoutis served with ice cream was delicious; think bread and butter pudding with roast plums and you’ll be close enough. We set off from Bellinter a happy pair, it’s a charming spot with a personality of its own, and once back on the motorway we were home in less that an hour to Dundrum.