The Ashdown Park Hotel is located in the centre of Gorey, an impressive town centre hotel and home to The Rowan Tree Restaurant. The restaurant is located on the first floor of the hotel, up a Scarlet O’ Hara sweeping staircase leading from the reception.
The Rowan Tree is a large, elegant room decorated in tasteful shades. Inside the door there is a bar with a leather buttoned front in smart, contemporary gray, while the back wall is glass, all set in large wooden frames. Think posh conservatory, if your house was Downton Abbey. The tables are well spaced and set with linen, and the lighting is subtle, while high backed leather chairs are comfy and quite smart. All in all a very pleasing dining room.
French doors lead out onto a large roof terrace, the perfect open area for dining al fresco on a balmy afternoon and at Ashdown often used for their civil ceremonies as up to 100 guests can be seated.
In addition to the two Gorey hotels – here and the sister Amber Springs on the other side of the town – the family owns Redmond Farms down the road, from where most of the meat, salads and vegetables are sourced. This makes the Rowan Tree a little different than your average hotel restaurant and the food both here and in the bar downstairs punches above its weight.
The dinner menu is short. This is something I like to see, I get nervous when restaurants throw the kitchen sink at the menu. Starters include slow roast pork belly with Tiger prawns and a ginger and Asian dressing, golden fried goat’s cheese with an orange and fennel salad or a crab and coriander spring roll with an Asian salad.
Meat features heavily with the main courses, which when you own a farm is understandable, so there is a short rib, a rib eye or a T bone pork chop. The nearby sea doesn’t get ignored and you can also choose from grilled sea bass or salmon.
The wine list is short, but is very much a work in progress and by the time you read this I’d imagine the new wine list will be in situ. I had a sneak preview and it is well put together with a section of good wine from Tindal’s wine supplier, one of the best in the country,
Dinner began with an Amuse Bouche of lightly spiced cauliflower soup in a little shot glass and some very good homemade bread. I had decided on the pork belly and prawn starter and when it arrived it was very pretty on a rectangular slate, with swirls and dollops of the bright orange carrot and ginger puree dotted around. I am usually dubious of pork belly starters, they can be too big and ignorant, but this was finely judged, the pork belly pieces were slightly bigger than the prawns, and the combination of the two worked brilliantly.
Free range meat had to come next and I chose the slow cooked short rib, for the extra flavour such a piece will give. Again the presentation was very good, and it was a fine hearty dish, just the thing on a cold February night.
A good sticky toffee pudding brought up the rear, and a good coffee saw me on my way.
It seems the Ashdown Park gets a lot of people coming out that little bit further from town for dinner here, and I can see why. The surroundings are elegant and the food is really very good. They do a range of weekend and mid week breaks and you could do worse that enjoy the food, relax in the pool or take a few trips around the beautiful Wexford and Wicklow countryside.
***Cookery demostrations are held monthly in the Ivy Bar & Cafe under the watchful eye of Chris Farrell our series of Cooking Demonstrations is an opportunity for the hotel chefs to share their expertise with you.
The idea is for them to share dishes that can be traditional, brimming with flavour with the leaning towards home comforts but with the twist of a chef’s expertise. On my visit Chris was doing a menu that would have been typical in 1916,
Classes are relaxed and interactive. Costs are €10 for the class or €25 with lunch and a glass of wine.