Mount Falcon Estate, once a beautiful family home which dates back to 1876, and now a luxury hotel full of the original period features is situated on 100 acres of woodland. It’s on the road that runs between Foxford and Ballina in Co Mayo on the banks of the River Moy. Approached up a long drive through the woods, you pass the lodges and herb garden and suddenly across the lawn this beautiful country house appears, romantic and wonderful in its isolation.
The property has been sympathetically extended between 2002 and 2006 by the Maloney brothers. A romantic get away with a loved one, a gourmet escape or for fun with family and friends, Mount Falcon is the perfect answer. Alan Maloney is owner/manager and your host in this boutique hotel with only 26 rooms and 48 lodges, a mix between fully serviced and self-catering.
The house was originally created from the love of one young man for his new bride – Miss Nina Knox-Gore of Belleek Manor. He thought her so special that she deserved to live in a castle and went about employing the finest architect of that time, James Franklin Fuller, also responsible for Ashford Castle, Kylemore Abbey and Farmleigh House, to construct a palatial home at Mount Falcon, an estate on 2,200 acres on the west bank of the River Moy.
Between 1932 and the present day it has been run as guest accommodation, firstly by the Aldridge family - Connie was best known as founder of the Blue Book - and right up to the present day and now under the new owners, the Maloney family, who come from the area. They have restored the main house to its former glory, and down the years it has hosted many well known guests from Peter Sellers to Jack Lynch and more recently Tiger Woods and Nick Faldo.
Dinner is served every evening in The Kitchen restaurant which is set in the original kitchen and pantry of this grand house, a room divided into two quite distinctive spaces. In charge is Maura who oversees everything and has been part of the house for many years; and who can relate old tales dating back to Mrs Aldridge. With high raised ceilings, exposed brick and many of the original features you really get a sense of space and although the atmosphere is relaxed and casual, the experience is special.
Mount Falcon have a fine selection of wines spanning over twenty pages, they also have an excellent restaurant manager Bart, who has an extensive knowledge of every wine on the list.
There is a choice of either the Table d’Hote or a five course tasting menu. I have to say I am partial to a good tasting menu, so that is what I chose.
A selection of warm breads were brought to the table with soft butter; dangerous breads, designed by the devil to tempt even the most abstemious, I had to force myself to stop eating them as there was more interesting things to come. An amuse bouche of lightly pickled roast beetroot served with horseradish cream was a triumph. I am not particularly partial to beetroot, and it is ubiquitous at present, but perhaps because this one journeyed only from the kitchen garden, it was delicious, and a better taste bud teaser I haven’t had in some time.
The first course proper brought an Andral farm ham and foie gras terrine with shimeji mushrooms, pickled pear, wasabi mayonnaise and honeyed mustard seeds. This came on a black plate, beautifully presented, with slivers of pear, dots of wasabi Mayo alongside the mushrooms, with little specks of the mustard seeds. Meaty, hearty and nicely balanced with the piquant wasabi, this was a terrific plate of food..
The next course was Dozio’s Swiss style goat’s cheese, with truffled espuma, hazelnut crust, lemon basil and crab apple. This dish was light and elegant, with a mixture of textures that really worked, and the crab apple cut through the creamy cheese beautifully. Killeen scallops and Newport clams, with watercress risotto, maple roasted salsify, heritage carrots and saffron vanilla foam introduced an element from the sea. Perfectly cooked risotto, with just the right consistency, while the watercress was underplayed and allowed the sweet fish to shine.
The star dish of the evening for me came next. Scarrif wild mallard duck, with Jerusalem artichoke, purple sprouting broccoli, blood purée, potato terrine and thyme jus. Two pieces of perfectly cooked mallard duck breast, perfectly pink and tender were accompanied by a confit leg. Amazing flavours from this rich meaty dish, and one of the best plates of duck I have ever had.
Warm financier, with strawberry ice cream, garden berries, and strawberry balsamic berries brought up the rear, and some good coffee.
Bart had paired the food with wines throughout, and on the table d’hote each dish has a matching wine, which I always think is a nice touch. There is a new team in the kitchen and they tell me the menu is still a work in progress, but it’s bloody good right now.
Couple that with an elegant house, comfy rooms, lovely, friendly staff and a delicious breakfast and there really isn’t anything missing. A fabulous destination.
I would also suggest, weather permitting, a stroll down to the garden to visit head gardener Alex Lavarde and his team which is where all the vegetables, salads, herbs and edible flowers that you see on your plate originate from. Highly recommended.