Sometimes you have to be a little selfish… For whatever reason (or no reason at all) the occasional retreat is the least you owe yourself. As opportunities to indulge in such self-centered sojourns are usually few and far between, being discerning in choosing your sanctuary is an absolute necessity. At times like these, I simply won’t settle for run of the mill – run of the manor is the only way to go.
A long and winding driveway snakes through fairways and woodlands leading to a majestic 18th century mansion, looking out over its sprawling grounds. I pull in and am transported to another world – Faithlegg House awaits me. Stepping into the opulent reception lounge to a warm greeting from staff who seem genuinely happy to see you is always a plus. Chandeliers, marble columns and golden hues all spelled luxury in this oasis of seclusion – I checked in and mentally checked out of any stress from the preceding week.
Before heading to my room I wandered through a luxurious piano lounge, lit in the Winter by a grand fireplace, and perused the Afternoon Tea menu, narrowly managing to resist before making my way upstairs. There can be a fine line between classic and creaky and there are obvious pitfalls with any period property, dated decor and lack of facilities being key concerns. Happily, the only throwback to decades gone by apparent in my extremely spacious room was the landline phone in the bathroom, which was also equipped with a separate bath and shower. An in-room Nespresso machine made my eyes light up as did the mason jar of homemade chocolate chip cookies beside it – these little touches make all the difference.
While the decor is traditional, I like this as it is true to the manor’s roots and in no way betrays its rich heritage. Crisp linens and mountains of pillows on an ample bed – all that was left to do was pluck a fluffy robe from the wardrobe and sink into a state of serene relaxation, and perhaps indulge in a sneaky snooze.
For the less leisurely, outdoor offerings on the beautiful sprawling estate are varied; Faithlegg has recently been awarded Best Golf Resort in Munster by the Golfer’s Guide to Ireland and boasts an 18 hole course on the banks of the River Suir. As my backswing is ever so slightly rusty I chose not to avail of this, but discounted green fees were on offer to guests, had I wanted to embrace my inner Bubba Watson. I also spotted options such as falconry and, curiously, owl encounters, but I had already made the Estuary Spa my prey and opted instead to pop downstairs for some pampering.
Stepping out of the lift, I entered a cosy and intimate spa lathered in Byzantium purple – I was ready to sail away. Some spas are ultra modern and somewhat clinical but Estuary is warm and inviting, a little cocoon of comfort. The lovely spa manager Jackie talked me through all my options, with both Voya and Eminence treatments on offer. I hadn’t heard of Eminence but upon learning that it is entirely organic, Jackie tells me they don’t even allow tractors on their land, I figured au natural was best. A Four Seasons Organic Facial(€85) tailored with fruit, vegetables and herbs to create a bespoke treatment for each unique client, was chosen to re-balance the PH of my sensitive skin and was just what the doctor ordered.
Sour plum aromas, a spritz of chamomile and a focus on flushing out toxins with a brisk arm and back massage, this was a delicious sensory experience, leaving me feeling entirely invigorated as I lounged in the relaxation space afterwards. After a long week before it, my dark circles were all but a distant memory and I saw visible improvement in my skin for the entire week afterwards. Needless to say, I would highly recommend this as a Sunday afternoon treat.
Whiling away the afternoon in the lap of luxury can certainly work up an appetite, so having come back to Earth after my treatment I looked forward to heading to the Roseville Rooms Restaurant, where chef Jenny Flynn would flex her culinary muscles. Opulent greys, luxurious suede covered seats and fleur de lis printed wallpaper ensured that there was nothing outmoded about the dining room, looking out over manicured gardens and inviting you in.
I was presented with an extensive menu and deliberated for quite some time over the varied offerings. I opted for Ardsallagh Goat’s Cheese Mousse (€10.50) to start as I was fascinated by the accompanying element – saffron coffee syrup with goat’s cheese?! This I had to see. And, I concede, along with floral elderflower this worked a treat – I’m always interested in trying new sweet foils for cheese so this was a delight for me. I thought such a generous amount of cheese would defeat me but the mousse was whipped and airy and quite delightful I was pleased to discover.
Main course beckoned and although an Assiete of Pork (€27) caught my eye, I went for a more traditional route – Dennison’s Free Range Duck Breast (€28). Duck and orange is classic or passé, depending on your standpoint, but the addition of whiskey and a nettle crust intrigued me. Upon ordering, the attentive but never intrusive server Joe asked was pink alright with me – I said the pinker the better and I got exactly what I asked for, which isn’t always the case. The rampant carnivore in me was pleased and added a glass of Tempranillo (€8) to complement the melting game, which was fanned out on a bed of vibrant orange and carrot pureé. Tempura oyster mushrooms added texture, pleasant if a little on the oily side, and the umami-rich nettle heightened the richness of the duck breast.
The key to this dish’s success was the subtle orange, an element of the sauce but not a sickly centre point, with the addition of whiskey this was like an old fashioned on a plate – well done Jenny. This whiskey jus was so good I gladly accepted the offer of more – my needs were anticipated perfectly. That’s the thing about Faithlegg – they ascertain what you want and give it to you – nothing is lost in translation.
Choosing a dessert, I went against my natural inclination towards chocolate and decided on Green Apple and Tarragon Parfait(€9). An iced apple and tarragon sorbet disk sat atop a cool custardy vanilla parfait, surrounded by delicious, crisp gingerbread crumbs. I don’t particularly like apple crumble but this riff on a classic hit many high notes with me.
The delicate anise hint of tarragon was not perceptible as a distinct element but rather heightened the marriage of apple with sweetness – I love these little flavour hacks and mentally noted the addition for my own next apple creation. It has been said that pink and green should never be seen – Nigella disagrees and with this stunning plate I concur with the domestic goddess, I was really impressed with this summer dessert.
Needless to say, after a three course feast I was more than ready to retire to my sanctuary upstairs, but a little night-cap could surely do no harm so I stopped by the bar on the way. Picking a Yellow Spot (€10.50) on the rocks from the extensive list of Irish whiskeys on offer, I noted that the bar itself was bustling with a fantastic atmosphere, with guests and locals alike enjoying the vibe.
They say a Sunday well spent brings a week of content and sinking into bed, I happily drifted off, completely satisfied with my day. Waking rejuvinated and opening the (blackout) curtains, the view of sun-soaked rolling green hills was enough to make me want to carpe the diem and I strolled downstairs to be spoiled with an array of tempting breakfast options. A tower of pastries and traditional Waterford Blaas caught my eye, as did a selection of self-service jars of Nutella and peanut butter to top them – Faithlegg wants you to feel at home at breakfast and I most certainly did. I feasted on some fresh melon, yoghurt and Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon before saying my goodbyes to what had been the perfect Sunday night sanctuary.
This whole break was about me time, a refreshing retreat, like Botox for the soul. The word resort is thrown around quite frequently in hotel parlance but not all properties live up to that billing – Faithlegg most certainly does. Kick your shoes off and slip into a robe, you needn’t leave the grounds. Park your car and forget about it completely until you have to be pried from your palatial pad to return to the real world. Book in for the night and surrender to having all your needs and wants catered to… because after all, you’re worth it.
Growing up with the name Darina, I was constantly asked if I could cook like my namesake. With that (and greed) as the ultimate motivators, I quickly realised that home-baked goods make excellent bribes and an obsession was born! With bachelor’s and master’s degrees in law I undertook a PhD, but a preference for cookbooks to textbooks persisted. As a (self-confessed!) demon in the kitchen, I am the only person to have contested both Masterchef and the Great Irish Bake off, which fuelled my desire to set my focus on food in a serious way. Working with The Taste allows me to satiate this craving and marries my food fascination with my love of writing and ranting. Follow me as I share my food adventures and hopefully inspire others to indulge their passion for cooking and food in the process!