Ferrycarrig. Say it out loud: it rolls off the tongue like the mists off the River Slaney Estuary, over which – impressively – every one of the hotel’s 102 rooms has a view. Located roughly 5kms from the centre of Wexford town and just 2 hours from Dublin, Ferrycarrig is neatly tucked away in the crook of Ireland’s “Sunny South-East.”
The hotel has developed a well-earned reputation over the decades, being the go-to destination in the region for everything from romantic breaks away, weddings, conferences, family breaks, and more.
We had a packed 24 hours in which to enjoy a lunch, treatments and dinner – and indeed we were almost late for lunch, so a hurried (but very warm) check-in was followed by a dash downstairs for the first meal of our stay…
The Dry Dock Bar is a high-ceilinged and bustling room with a maritime theme in-keeping with the hotel’s seaside location. Wooden pillars the colour of bog oak contrasted with sun-bleached beams, edges are trimmed with brass, and an antique buoy sat squatly in the centre of the room.
We were given a seat by the window, which afforded us our first proper view of the estuary for which Ferrycarrig is famed. The seawater came so close it was virtually lapping at the bar’s decking, a space which would be incredibly idyllic on a warm summer’s day; curlews pecked away at the muddy shore; tall reeds swayed gently in the breeze; across the water a train quietly glided into Wexford town.
Our reverie was broken by the arrival of our menus, which covered a large range of tastes and styles and were categorised as Small Courses, Sandwiches, Main Courses, and Desserts. Prices were extremely reasonable, with the most expensive dishes clocking in at just €13.95. There’s even a new, separate healthy menu if you’re so inclined.
We started with a shared portion of Scotch Egg encased in Pat O’Neil’s black pudding, a meaty, hearty delight, which I followed with the Kilmore Fisherman’s Pie Au Gratin – the nearby Kilmore Quay would feature on most if not all of Ferrycarrig’s seafood dishes during our stay.
It didn’t disappoint: a large bowlful packed with plump cod, supple salmon, smoked haddock, prawns and mussels, topped with gratinated piped mashed potato. I gleefully squashed the latter into the creamy chowder to ensure I didn’t miss a drop.
My wife had the Eight Hour Pulled Pork Sandwich in a soft floury bap, which was a decadently smoky, piggy delight. Its unctuous richness was offset by a vibrant – almost fluorescent – crunchy red cabbage slaw, and rounded off with the obligatory chunky chips.
To toast what would turn out to be a fantastic stay, we had a glass of the very good Stocco Prosecco and a fruity, ripe Château Pesquié Chardonnay from the Rhône, the latter being particularly suited to the fisherman’s pie.
We finished with a shared Flourless Chocolate & Orange Moussecake – purely in the interest of the review of course – which squared off the meal perfectly. There was hardly time to digest it all, however, as we had spa treatments booked perilously soon afterwards…
So we hurried down to the Ferrycarrig Leisure Centre, which with a 20m pool, sauna, steam room, jacuzzi and fully-equipped gym, has everything you could possible need.
Their new Riverwood Wellness Spa is seriously impressive, and rivals any day spa you’d find in the major cities. It’s small but very well appointed, consisting of a bright waiting room bedecked with Eames chairs, flanked by two dim, plush treatment rooms.
I was ushered into the larger of the two for a Riverwood Signature Aroma Massage by Jody, my ebullient and highly capable host. The treatment was pure bliss, and I felt the strain of months of flinging my 17-month-old around melt away.
Afterwards I unwound in the waiting room with lemon & ginger tea (juices and coffee were also on offer) while flipping through an impressive collection of the latest health-and-fitness magazines, before cooling down on the pool-side recliners while catching up on some overdue reading. Bliss.
Suitably fed, watered and relaxed, we made our way to our room on the 4th floor, and on opening the door we were greeted once again by that famous view via a sliding glass door which opened out onto a balcony, from which you could take in the vista more completely.
The room itself was simply and tastefully done in crisp minimalist white with grey accents, and the large spacious bathroom was finished in contrasting sandstone. The shower was huge, the towels were plush and soft (as were the bathrobes) and the soaps and gels were by posh brand Geneva Guild, so as far as our ablutions were concerned we couldn’t be better serviced.
The tech in the room was spot-on too: there a large, high-res flat screen HD TV and two very handy USB ports available alongside the power sockets for all our phone charging needs. Very neat.
Our arrival was made all the more welcome by a thoughtful welcome pamper package including a bottle of Prosecco (well, you can never have enough I suppose!), a strawberry and marshmallow chocolate fondue, delicious cordial and Butler’s chocolates to round it all off. All of this was perfectly timed of course: it was now 6pm and dinner wasn’t until 8pm, giving us time for Prosecco, nibbles and Netflix before our next meal. It’s a hard life sometimes!
Dinner that evening was in Reeds, where we were very ably assisted by Rom, the Maitre D. Starting off with delicious G&Ts – Blackberry Strawberry Gin and Bombay Sapphire each paired with Fever Tree – we perused the beautifully-presented menus.
Something we noticed on all of Ferrycarrig’s menus – from breakfast to lunch through dinner – was the kitchen’s reverence for their local suppliers, giving them head billing on the names of the dishes where possible. So it was that the card listed “James Walsh’s Rosslare Crabmeat” and “Meyler’s Smoked Salmon”, and if a specific supplier couldn’t be named then the provenance is promoted, such as “Bannow Bay Mussels” and “Slaney Valley Lamb”.
I started with a Warm Red Onion, Thyme and Garlic Tatin, which was a rich and sweet half an onion in crumbly pastry flanked by Crozier Blue Cheese and caramelised walnuts, while my wife had a pan-seared Kilmore Scallop (there’s Kilmore Quay again!), which was literally melt-in-the-mouth and one of the finest scallops I’ve had. It was paired with pork belly from Pat O’Neil (he of our black pudding earlier) in an age-old partnership that still hits the spot.
For main courses we both paid homage to our seaside location and each chose a fish dish: a Pan-fried John Dory and Grilled Cod, both from – you guessed it – Kilmore Quay (there’ll be no fish left there at this rate!). The john dory was served in a smooth but tangy cider cream nage, while my cod was enormous and served atop beautifully creamy, cumin-scented carrots, mangetout and bacon.
For the wine pairing we opted for the Louis Jadot Macon-Lugny, a Burgundian Chardonnay, the obvious and ultimately rewarding choice with our fish mains. The rest of the wine list was excellent, broken out by variety and served by the glass 500ml carafe or 750ml bottle. The highlights were all present and correct, though carefully selected rather than paint-by-the-numbers. Basically, you couldn’t go wrong with it, even if you selected at random (a compliment, trust me!).
For the sake of completion we felt we simply had to have dessert, a Cheeseboard for her and Rhum Baba for me, a dessert I had heard much of but never managed to try. Alas the rhum baba was a bit too punchy for my unaccustomed palate, though the cheeseboard (with very thoughtful birthday message!) ticked all the right boxes.
At breakfast the next morning we were lucky enough to nab a corner seat once again in Reeds, although this time the weather was more benevolent and we enjoyed a full view of the estuary with day freshly breaking over it. As we sat basking in the glow of a lot of pampering in a short space of time, we set to thinking what made Ferrycarrig unique.
One thing we couldn’t fail to notice was the real country welcome experienced all throughout our stay. Everyone – not only front-of-house but even the porters and bedroom staff we bumped into – were unfailingly polite, albeit in a genuine and honest rather than rehearsed and polished way.
Another thing was how the Ferrycarrig played a pivotal role in the community in general: on the day we arrived the hotel played host to a communion, confirmation and a wedding; children were learning to swim in its pool, the adults were at a spin class, and a group of elderly men had a regular meet-up in its bar. It appeared that all stages of life passed through Ferrycarrig, which at times seemed to resemble a relative’s house more than a hotel.
So the Ferrycarrig is as warm and welcoming as a familial home – yes, we were happy with that description. And so we finished our breakfast, had one last longing look at the view, and departed.
T: +353 (0)53 9120999
The Motley Cru has been working in the wine industry since 2008 and is currently studying the WSET Level 4 Diploma in Wines & Spirits.