Markree Castle Hotel is 11kms outside of Sligo heading towards Galway in Collooney. Dating back to the 1600’s this castle is steeped in history, originally the home of the McDonagh clan it has now been in the Cooper family since 1666, and is run by Charles & Mary Cooper.
The impressive castle is set in 300 acres of land and is entered through large gates and up a long winding driveway. Once through the inner walls you are surrounded by manicured gardens and lakes; the perfect setting for relaxation or long country walks.
Inside the castle doors there is a massive stone, red carpeted staircase hung with stuffed animals overhead. In the reception area there is the largest fireplace with a roaring fire, and everything from the staircase to the furnishings and artifacts are original.
It’s all a little Downton for the weekend shooting party, and charming for it. The décor is shabby chic with sophistication and elegance to boot. There are plenty of large sitting rooms, perfect for catching up with friends or to find a bit of peace to read the book you’ve been dying to finish
The dining room is pure Victorian elegance; light green paneled walls with gold carvings, cornices and a magnificent ceiling rose all provide that classic feel. Huge windows and double doors lead to the gardens via a winding set of steps, and massive mirrors all add to a bright space
Restaurant Manager Jeremy has overseen the running of the dining room for the past 9 years and is always front of house ensuring all his guests are well taken care of. He is always introducing new additions to the offering and this evening was no different. In the bar for pre-dinner drinks he was telling us about this fabulous new vodka he had discovered from Dingle Distillery, Irish vodka – I had to try this, and yes it was fantastic, I thought it was stronger than your usual vodka but with a very distinctive flavour, and with a slimline tonic it was the perfect aperitif
Dining in the restaurant is always a special affair and with people from outside as well as hotel guests there is always a great atmosphere. The a la carte offers a selection of six appetizers priced between €6.50 for the pea and asparagus soup to €9.00 for the pan fried quail breasts, while there is also a seafood chowder or an Ardsallagh goats cheese mousse. For mains there was a choice of another six well chosen dishes starting at €18.95 for the vegetarian option of Mille Feuille of Knocklara sheep cheese to €25.50 for the award winning Kettle 21 day dry aged rib-eye, while you could also have gone with lamb neck & shoulder or a confit rare breed pork belly.
The wine list was extensive and covered every corner of the world. All house wines were €24.50 and the Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc were available in half bottles for €14.40. After that they ranged in price from €25.45 up to €179.50 for a Pauillac Chateau Lynch Bages. On the wine we went with a recommendation of Jeremy’s, a bottle of Fleurie 2010 well priced at €32.45, light enough to compliment my fish while a good accompaniment with the beef for Fred.
I started with Donegal crab salad served with lime and vanilla pickled cucumber and a goat’s bridge trout caviar, while Fred had the hamhock pork cheek and savoy cabbage terrine which was garnished with pear puree, hazel nuts and pickled pear. Both were so different but special in their own right, the crab salad was all crab and full of flavour while the pork cheek was so full of different textures and flavours.
We followed with the pan fried fillet of hake which was served on a bed of cauliflower puree and was decorated with Lissadell cockles and buttered samphire. It was cooked perfectly, juicy and full of flavour, a work of art on a plate. Fred chose the rib eye which was cooked exactly as he had asked and came with all the trimmings, a generous portion and absolutely delicious
Desserts tempted and with a passion fruit crème brulee, an apple trifle, a dark chocolate delice or pistachio and olive oil cake, and we decided to share a citrus lemon tart with raspberry sorbet, a light refreshing choice after 2 courses of sheer indulgence
We finished with coffee’s and relaxed over the remaining of the Fleurie. Markree offers in a great setting, professional and obliging staff and an elegance overlooking the most beautiful gardens Throw in some good company and what more could one ask for on a summers evening, that was still bright till close on 11pm.