It’s not often we experience Ireland baked in sunshine but on our recent visit to the unofficial capital city that is Cork we were greeted with a balmy spell that could rival any Spanish city. When you think of beautiful landscaped gardens and Georgian period houses Cork city may not be the first destination to spring to mind, however as we discovered housed within these busy city walls is one of the most beautiful escapes you could stumble upon. Tucked away on Perrott Avenue, and only a stone’s throw from UCC’s grounds you will find Hayfield Manor, a period home which in 1996 was transformed into what has now become an exceptional five-star experience. Recently awarded Conde Nast Reader’s Choice Awards for Top Hotels In Ireland 2015, when you drive up the sleepy entrance it’s not hard to see why.
Our visit to Hayfield was a little different to the norm, as were here to meet top South African wine maker Murray Barlow of Rustenberg Wines, who’s vineyard produces some of the most beautiful wines from the Stellenbosch region. Hayfield had been chosen as one of the top venues on Murray’s tour, which we are sure was enhanced by fellow South African native and GM of Hayfield Ettienne Van Vrede.
Not many five-star destinations will you find the General Manager greeting guests at reception and again at breakfast every morning but this is one of the many things that sets Hayfield apart – its warmth and informal charm. Family owned and family run there is a huge emphasis on the small details that make a stay here something truly special.
Hayfield has several dining options from a family Sunday lunch in Perrots Garden Bistro, al fresco dining in the summer in their enclosed gardens, to fine dining at its best in Orchids Restaurant. A popular and unique option is the opportunity to dine in Hayfields stunning cellar, with regular wine society evenings, this intimate experience is one that will convert any non wine drinkers with its informal and relaxed setting.
We were fortunate to dine there ourselves with some of the regular local wine enthusiasts who availed of the €99pp seven course wine paired dinner which was hosted by the charming and informative Murray who managed to covert quite a few in the room to the beauty of these wines. Expertly paired with a specially designed menu created by Head Chef Mark Staples and his team.
We began with a Ceviche of Irish Scallops delicately plated with some cucumber and samphire, paired with a wonderful crisp Rustenberg Sauvignon Blanc 2014, the acidity cutting through the ceviche perfectly.
We followed with a Kinsale Celeriac Carpaccio, topped with summer truffles, rocket and smoked Ardsallagh goats cheese, which highlighted just how important the provence of the ingredients used in Hayfield is. This course we experienced the Rustenberg Chardonnay 2014, lightly oaked with a subtle minerality which was a popular pairing on the night.
A big, bold wine was needed to work with the flavours of our Roast Kenmare Monkfish Fillet and prawn risotto, the addition of white asparagus can often throw a curve ball for many wine pairings but our favourite wine of the evening, Rustenberg, Five Soldiers Chardonnay 2012 was ready, willing and more than able.
A little cleanser of Hendricks Gin & Toinc sorbet was just enough to prepare the palate for the rich flavours of our main course, a little slice of Cork, Middleton Lamb cooked deliciously pink, with a refined pea puree and a hint of mint jus. A rich full-bodied and robust Rustenberg Peter Barlow 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon grown from the oldest vines on the family estate, stood up wonderfully against the lamb and was the most successful pairing of the night.
A plate of strong Irish cheeses needed a strong, complex wine, out came a well decanted John X Merman 2012, although some of the group found the tobacco notes a little too overpowering, we simply loved it.
The great thing about wine dinners, apart from the value often on offer, is how the noise levels in the room rise with each course as people become more vocal with what they loved and what they hated, wine much like food is subjective and it is amazing to see how far Ireland has come in embracing new flavours and how New World wines have become a firm favourite in many Irish households.
We finished the evening with an intense Milk Chocolate and Jameson Parfait, matched with a Rustenberg Straw Wine 2015, the most feared wine pairing at many dinners is the dessert wine as so often they can be sickly sweet, however the high acidity and honey hints were quite the surprise for many at the table and the straw wine was declared a success by almost all (there’s always one!)
Luckily Hayfield Manor offer some fantastic short break packages for their wine evenings and you can enjoy an overnight and sample some of their delectable breakfast offerings from their comprehensive buffet the next morning.
For anyone looking for a city overnight break with a difference, hayfield ticks all the boxes, central location, beautiful relaxing grounds and one of the warmest welcomes the rebel county has to offer.
Overnight packages including dinner are available from €169pp, of further information see www.hayfiedmanor.ie
Hayfield Manor Hotel
T: + 353 21 4845900
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.