Adare Manor is situated in the lush heartlands of County Limerick on 840 acres of beautiful parklands, with trout fishing on the river Maigue and a renowned 18 hole championship golf course. The property dates back to 1830 and was home to the Earl of Dunraven and his family over several generations. The exceptional Neo-Gothic manor has been laid out as a calendar house boasting 365 stained windows and 52 chimneys, there are also references to the 7 days of the week and the 12 months of the year.
On entering the main reception area you will immediately be overwhelmed with the grandeur of this property with the large Waterford crystal chandeliers overhead, the presence of the stone columns and the balconies above; if you get the opportunity to do a guided tour of the manor take it, it is fascinating and steeped in history.
The award winning Oak Room is the main restaurant of the hotel, located to the back of the resort overlooking the River Maigue on one side and the perfectly manicured gardens from the other. The room is an imposing space with highly ornate ceilings, large windows and heavy curtains creating a baroque elegance. To the right of the room is a colonnade which in the evening is enchanting, lit only by candle it is extremely romantic and has seen its fair share of proposals
Head Chef Mark Donohue trained in the classical 5 star Connaught Hotel in London’s Mayfair. From there he moved to Dromoland Castle in the position of Demi Chef and in 1998 Mark joined the team at Adare Manor and worked his way up to his present position of Head Chef. Mark has catered for several major events in recent years including JP MacManus’ ProAm and the Senior Irish Open, both held at Adare.
Under the careful hands of Mark and his team, fusing a contemporary Irish approach with strong classical influences – dishes and flavours change with the seasons. Concentrating on the finest of fresh, locally sourced produce, they combine this with respect for the quality of the produce and it’s all complemented by a vast and continuously updated selection of over 300 wines from the Manor’s Cellar. We chose a bottle of Huia Marlborough priced at a modest €29.50, other choices were a great Pouilly Fuisse 2011 for €70 or a 2010 Chateauneuf du Pape for €78 with many available by the glass or in half bottles
The 8-course tasting menu is priced at €75 each, and for an extra €35 you could experience the accompanying wine pairing. The menu features many exciting twists and turns with delicate turbot, foie gras, partridge and a string of sorbets, roulades and mousses, a must-try for the intrepid foodie. If however you feel an eight course indulgence is beyond you, there is always the almost abstemious 5 course affair. With a daughter in tow, this seemed like the sensible option.
An amuse bouche of chilled gazpacho with wild herbs to open the taste buds started us off, delicious and very refreshing, a great start of what was to follow. With three of us at the table it gave us a great opportunity to try several dishes, I started with the grilled loin of yellow fin tuna which was seared and prepared just as I like served with sautéed pak choi and drizzled with a sesame and chilli dressing while my husband went with the roast breast of quail, braised leg and a quail egg croquette served on a potato and thyme veloute, delicate in texture and rich in taste.
Our daughter enjoyed the confit trout fillet served with seasonal asparagus and a baby potato and pea salad and a lemon butter sauce. All dishes were perfectly presented and just the right portions given that there were another three courses to enjoy. Other starters we could have enjoyed were pan fried foie gras, smoked Irish salmon or a crab, citrus and herb tian.
The middle course was a choice of cream of onion soup with chorizo which both Fred and Keisha chose, or pink grapefruit and lemongrass granite or a cherry tomato and mixed leaf salad which was my own choice. The soup was well flavoured, while mine was refreshing and acted as a palate cleanser before the main event.
When it came I loved the most delicious pan fried John Dory and prawns with a sweet bouillabaisse sauce, and wonderful samphire, which was a lovely taste of the Med. Fred went with a succulent roast rump of Irish lamb with kohlrabi and crispy sweetbreads; a dynamic duo of lamb. Keisha enjoyed a roast fillet of Irish beef for with a bordelaise sauce, and enjoyed the rosti especially. The main courses allowed the ingredients to shine through, and cafe and flair ensured we were spoiled little diners by the end.
When it came to desserts none of us thought we could until we read the selection; Earl Grey crème brulee, passion fruit set cream but we couldn’t resist and decided to share the honeycomb soufflé with caramelised bananas. It came with a bitter chocolate sorbet and salted caramel sauce, and has to be the best dessert I have ever had. If you think the description sounds good, the reality was sublime. Fluffy soufflé, salty sweetness and hard textures, it was a triumph of engineering as much as anything. Keisha had a little person’s plate, homemade ice creams with warm peanut butter doughnuts, a raspberry gel and caramel custard. Again this was fabulous, and we have to take hats off to pastry chef Louise Hedderman on these creations.
We finished with coffees which were served with a lovely selection of petit fours which we just had no space for and they very kindly boxed them up for us to enjoy the following day. Sitting back and reflecting on the evening you can see exactly how they recently won the best hotel restaurant in Ireland, a well deserved and earned accolade.
Brian Lawlor and his team run the front of house like clockwork, and the candlelit setting is magical. This is dining as a holistic experience, and if a special evening is called for I can’t see how anywhere else could out do Adare, it’s fabulous.
**The Carriage House is another dining option on the resort for a more casual evening meal. Afternoon tea is served in the Library, and is a treat. It is served daily between 2 and 5pm and can be accompanied with the tour of the property if booked in advance.