Just over two years go we celebrated our sixteenth wedding anniversary in one of the most magical locations in Ireland. Our first time visiting Adare Manor and we were awe struck at the beauty of this “calendar” stately home, built in the 1860’s, home to the Earl of Dunraven, this unique property housed 52 windows and 52 chimneys, seven pillars and four towers.
It was without a shadow of doubt an architectural masterpiece and had been operating as a five star hotel in Limerick for many years. During our visit we discovered the property had just been bought by Limerick local, millionaire businessman JP McManus and was due to close for two years of renovations.
Fast forward to 2018 and renovations are almost fully complete and the Manor has been reborn, attracting visitors and media from all over the world. As we drove up the winding and impressive private road through the world class Tom Fazio designed golf course (which is due to open at the end of March this year) we were eager to see what changes had taken place since we last passed through their palatial gates.
Anticipation for the Adare Manor’s re-opening has been palpable for some time, especially with the local community, many of whom have been employed by GM Paul Heery. The additional rooms and revised course are due to bring a huge influx of overseas visitors particularly, if as Mr McManus hopes, the Ryder Cup will soon be hosted here.
We passed through the impressive archway, part of the new extension that looks as though it has always belonged there, and took a moment to take in just how extensive the renovations have been to this sprawling 842 acre estate.
The lobby at Adare Manor with its roaring open fires, plush sofas and ornate tapestry is unlike anything you will see in a five star property in Ireland.
Unlike many similar luxurious venues, Adare exudes a unique warmth and not just from the flames but from the staff and atmosphere that has been carefully curated to ensure wary travellers feel at ease the moment they pass through this cathedral-like threshold.
The lobby remains very much as we remembered it, with a slight change to the check-in area now being recessed to the left leaving the mammoth black marble fireplace to take centre stage.
Adare is just over two hours from Dublin, another feather in its cap, easily accessed and yet it still manages to make you feel as though you are a million miles away from the capital city.
Opening the door to our Dunraven stateroom, which was originally the private apartment of the Earls of Dunraven, we immediately noticed the high tech tablets next to our sumptuous king sized bed, which not only control the temperature and lighting of the room but also act as a virtual concierge.
Each room is individually designed and decorated with ornate cornices, vaulted ceilings and mahogany furniture modelled on 19th century Georgian antiques. Gone are the rich reds and burgundy drapes we last saw. Now you will find soft creams and golds exuding opulence and comfort, a Victorian slipper bath overlooking the manicured gardens and a rainfall shower big enough for two. Oh and did we mention the Acqua di Parma toiletries generously dotted throughout…
The pièce de résistance, in our opinion, is The Gallery, this exquisite space had on our last visit been rather underused, being closed to the public and only used as an event space. What was once the Dunraven family’s favourite room with its ornate design, gothic inspired oak carvings and breathtaking original stained glass windows it is now being fully utilised as the ultimate dining space.
Afternoon tea and breakfast are both served in this stunning room, opening up the space to non residents should you wish to indulge in the Manor’s copious amount of pastries which are all made in house and baked fresh everyday.
Prices for this unforgettable Afternoon Tea experience start from €55 and Executive Pastry Chef Xavier Torne and his team have ensured every detail of this ultimate treat have been refined to the highest standards.
Apart from the sweeping changes to the property, the biggest overhaul has been of the culinary kind. Adare Manor always housed beautiful dining spaces and candlelit dinners however the calibre of chef, provenance and the overall vision for their food offering has been elevated to a whole new level.
With the appointment of Loughlin Druhan as Director of Culinary it is clear the McManus family are very serious about the food offering being a huge draw for people coming to the Manor. Druhan was headhunted from Dubai where he was Director of Food & Beverage of Jumeirah at Etihad Towers.
With an impressive CV spanning 20 years of experience working in the some of the world’s leading hotels and Michelin starred restaurants, Druhan knows a thing or two about pulling together a dynamic team and the importance of fresh, high quality local produce.
Druhan took time out earlier in the day to give us a tour of the cavernous kitchen facilities which include a pastry room, multiple prepping areas, butchery spaces, fish prepping areas and the list goes on…most chefs would kill for the amount of gadgets dotted throughout.
A key appointment in Adare’s massive recruitment drive was chef Michael Tweedie, (previously Head Chef of Ballyfin Demesne) and a finalist in the esteemed S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition.
Druhan and Tweedie took some of the team on a culinary journey around Ireland in their now famed camper van on the hunt for the best local produce our delicious Island has to offer.
This proved to be a lot more than a bonding experience as we found out when we dined in the stunning surroundings of The Oak Room, which coincidentally was once the Dunraven family’s own dining space.
This is fine dining at its best, the menu an impressive reflection of the abundance of top quality produce we are proud to call our own. Contemporary and innovative even in the layout, there are flexible options of mixing and matching dishes from the five course menu which starts at €90 per person – and it is worth every single cent.
We began with a delicate Veloute of Leek, with Galway mussels, potato and tiny droplets of roe surfacing to the top like little orange beacons.
On the other side of the table arriving at the exact same moment was a beautifully plated Cured Brill dish, complete with smoked eel, caviar, pickled kohlrabi and cucumber, which turned out to be not only striking to look at but also a real treat for the senses.
With an abundance of top quality seafood to hand it is no surprise to see so many fish based dishes feature on the menu. Light in texture and easy on the eye, it’s understandable that Tweedie leans to seafood on many of the menu options.
Our second dish was a tale of two Salmons, firstly a salmon tartare which was one of the most flavoursome we have ever sampled, and secondly a small fillet which has been cooked in a waterbath at 50 degrees, thus giving the fish a stunning texture, served with pickled radish and pickled apple and a wasabi mayo to give it a slight kick.
Next up was the Veal Sweetbread, not something we see a lot on menus but definitely a dish we welcome, if you are not familiar with them don’t google it just taste them and you will be sold. Tweedie had paired these tasty morsels with some roasted cauliflower puree and a soy and veal jus.
So far so good and impressions of the Oak Room were certainly elevated from our previous experience. Two fish courses followed; some Thai spiced, poached Dublin Bay Prawns with vanilla foam and a lime puree, which can only be described as sublime – no pun intended. And the second was a chunk of Turbot, cooked sous vide and quickly flashed in the pan to give it a beautiful hue, topped with lashings of truffle shavings, some celeriac and scallop in a heart stoppingly good bresage sauce.
Pausing from the food for a minute, it is worth noting that the wine list which has been created and is still being added to, is quite a sight to behold. The list has been developed by Adare’s Head Sommelier Jurica Gojevic, who was away on a prestigious trip as one of the eight individuals from the UK and Ireland to be given a scholarship by New Zealand Winegrowers as part of the 2018 International Sommelier Scholarship.
That aside, clearly Gojevic’s previous experience, in particular his time in The Greenhouse, has really stood to him as the list is not only well balanced but more importantly it is diverse with some incredible vintages listed should you wish to loosen the purse strings and drop €500 on an ’05 Petrus. We didn’t, so instead opted for a well priced elegant German Pinot Noir, a 2012 Ziereisen Schulen Spätburgunder more reasonably positioned ay €75.
The Spätburgunder turned out to be a fantastic pairing with our next dish of Vension, Smoked Sausage, Braised Red Cabbage and Chestnut Puree. The deep claret meat almost came alive with the first sip of the Pinot, quality produce cooked with so much TLC and respect you simply have to admire what the kitchen in Adare is rocking out.
The venison was probably one of the standout plates on the night but our Mallard, Foie Gras, Spiced Lentils and Pak Choi didn’t fail to impress either.
Generally at this stage of most reviews that very full feeling would be creeping in on us, but the dishes are well thought out and measured. Just as well because having sampled the Afternoon Tea offering and glimpsing the pastry trolley earlier, we knew dessert simply had to be sampled, all in the name of research of course.
Baked Custard and Apple listed on the menu didn’t give much away but a striking plate with Michelin-like presentation arrived and a quenelle of apple ice cream to top off a super dessert.
However every meal has a pièce de résistance and for us it was hands down the Peanut Butter Bar, two layers of peanut butter joined together smothered in a chocolate ganache and peanut butter glaze, a drizzle of toffee sauce and served with a coco sorbet, what is not to like? It was almost too pretty to eat…almost.
We finished our night in Adare off with a nightcap in the uber chic cocktails below quarters, The Tack Room which resembles something you would find in a Chelsea speakeasy with its blush tones and velvet seating.
Worth noting, Adare Manor has an impressive whiskey list from all over the world in addition to a talented mixologist named Ariel who more than impressed with his “Windham Preserve” creation which consisted of a Lapsang infused Slane Whiskey with plum, chocolate port and mint.
After a more than substantial breakfast in the spectacular Gallery we explored the grounds of the golf course and had a look at the last piece of the puzzle due to open next month The Carriage House. A more casual offering with seating for over 300, made up within the bar, terrace and private dining area, this will be no “19th hole”. Instead the team hope this will become a premium destination restaurant and if the rest of the property is anything to go by we have no doubt that’s exactly what it will become.
Adare Manor’s slogan is “Beyond Everything” and we can safely say they are in no way over-promising, it is the ultimate fairytale location with so many exciting aspects that we can guarantee you one visit will not be enough. The manor has indeed been well and truly reborn and we look forward to celebrating many more anniversaries in this truly magical place.
Overnight rates with breakfast start from €325, however we would recommend the Taste of Adare experience which includes a five course candle dinner in the Oak Room from €485.
Keith & Jules Mahon are the founders of TheTaste. We want TheTaste to be a culinary kaleidoscope to champion every taste, food, wine, cocktails, whiskey, etc. We are delighted to be part of such a creative and fast moving industry and are very passionate about sharing with you our unique journey around Ireland finding the best culinary hotspots.