Marlfield House was originally built in 1852, one of two houses owned by the Stopfords who were the Earls of Courtown. Located on the outskirts of Gorey in County Wexford, It is considered a fine example of a rural regency-style house with architectural details including intricate plasterwork and classical-style chimneypieces.
The building was modified in 1866 but remained largely unchanged until it was bought by Mary and Ray Bowe in 1977. After extensive renovations, they opened it to guests the following year and it quickly became known as on one of Ireland’s most luxurious hotels. Marlfield House has continued to cement this reputation and is a member of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux hotel group and also a member of Ireland’s Blue Book.
On my arrival for a short stay at Marlfield House recently, I was greeted warmly by the friendly staff and shown to my magnificent bedroom. The hotel has 19 bedrooms including Cosy Standard and Classic rooms to Junior State and State Rooms all of which are tastefully decorated with antiques, original artworks and opulent soft furnishings.
My home for the night was the Print Room, the large and very beautiful master bedroom containing what I can only describe as a gargantuan bed recessed into a cosy alcove and strewn with gorgeous needlepoint cushions. The room is decorated in a soothing turquoise colour with monochromatic découpage prints and garlands which I thought were fantastic and very much in keeping with the architecture of the building.
A doorway leading off from the main room revealed a dressing room and beyond that a large marble bathroom complete with luxurious jacuzzi bath, walk-in shower and twin sinks.
Irish summers are notorious for their unpredictability but during my visit to Marlfield, the countryside was basking in sunshine so after settling into my room, I was offered Tea and Scones at the table on the terrace outside my room which I accessed through elegant French doors. I spent a relaxing hour sitting on the terrace looking out onto the impressive topiary Knot Garden before deciding to take a stroll around the grounds.
The gardens at Marlfield are beautifully tended and include a large working kitchen garden, a rose garden, wildfowl reserve and woodland walks. As I wandered around, I could feel the stresses and strains of everyday life slipping away and was really embracing the relaxed and welcoming atmosphere at Marlfield which from the moment that I had arrived had immediately made me feel at ease.
Later in the evening, I made my way down to the the Library Bar and enjoyed a pre-dinner glass of champagne before my dinner in the hotel’s Conservatory Restaurant. The restaurant is another of the hotel’s magnificent rooms and is decorated with a stunning fresco. Tables are dressed with linen tablecloths and laid with the finest silver. The overall impression is one of refined elegance without feeling stuffy or pretentious.
An Early Bird Menu is on offer from 6pm-7pm (Thursday to Sunday) but I decided to go for the five-course Dinner Menu which kicked off with a selection of breads which included a brown soda bread and a particularly flavoursome Curry Bread which I enjoyed thickly spread with butter.
A pre-starter of Gin-Cured Salmon Gravalax which comprised a ‘rosette’ of salmon set in chilled cucumber soup and garnished with horseradish cream and crispy skin ticked all the right boxes. Gin is definitely in these days and is being increasingly seen on menus.
Here it served as a very effective ‘cure’ for the salmon managing to cut through the inherent oily richness of the fish to create a dish that was light and refreshing to eat. I loved the inclusion of the horseradish cream as although I love horseradish with roast beef, I think it is even better with oily or smoked fish. This was perfect summer fare.
With my salmon I had a glass of Macon Lugny Chardonnay, Regnard 2014 produced from grapes grown in the picturesque village of Lugny located in the Maconnais region of southern burgundy. This was a lovely crisp wine with good minerality and nice citrus notes that complemented the oily salmon perfectly and married well with the gin cure.
For my starter I was initially tempted by the Barbecue Glazed Quail but after some indecision eventually decided to go for the Kilkenny Rose Veal Carpaccio lured by the accompanying roast bone marrow on toast. This is definitely my type of food where ingredients are treated simply and the quality of the produce is allowed to shine.
A drizzle of truffle oil, a shaving of parmesan and a minimal garnish of some salad leaves all served to highlight the fantastic rose veal that had been used. Coupled with the rich bone-marrow toast topped with slivers of sautéed mushroom, this was as near to perfection on a plate that you can get and chef Jeff Murphy should be lauded for his restrained touch and respect for the ingredients used.
To accompany my veal I chose a 2015 La Villette Pinot Noir – a light refreshing red with subtle raspberry aromas that I felt was perfectly suited to the subtle flavours of the meat but held up well against the parmesan and truffle oil.
A simple Garden Salad was next up using leaves which my waitress informed me had been picked from the hotel’s kitchen garden that morning. For my main course I decided on the Grilled Halibut with fennel purée, fennel salad, lemon and caper beurre noisette – another classically executed dish but one that definitely left a smile on my face.
To finish, dessert was Rum Baba with roasted pineapple wedges and rum & raisin ice-cream. This was a real crowd-pleaser of a dessert and like the rest of the meal had a lovely summery feel to it with its nod to tropics. This was a substantial dessert but I still managed to lick the plate clean.
I really enjoyed my dinner in The Conservatory Restaurant at Marlfield. The menu is rooted in the classics but has been brought bang-up-to-date with inventive additions using the best of ingredients many of which are sourced locally.
After dinner, I retired to the bar for a gin and tonic made using Silver Spear Gin from Bagnelstown in Carlow and Poacher’s Well Premium Irish Tonic before eventually making my way back to my bedroom and one of the most relaxing night’s sleep that I have had in a long time.
Breakfast the next morning was in the Conservatory Restaurant once again. From the extensive buffet selection which included Irish and local artisan cheeses, various stewed and poached fruits, fresh yoghurts, ham, salmon and cereals I chose a bowl of Poached Rhubarb topped with Killowen Natural Yoghurt.
I also grazed on Toasted Sourdough Bread topped with the most fantastic homemade Marmalade and lashings of hot tea whilst I waited for my Eggs Benedict with Baked Ham on Toasted Muffin with Hollandaise Sauce which I had ordered from the Cooked Breakfast Menu. This was absolutely delicious and when made as well as these eggs were I find it hard to think of a better way to start the day.
After a leisurely morning, relaxing on the hotel’s terrace, I made my way over to The Duck Restaurant for lunch. The Duck is located on the grounds of Marlfield in some very attractive converted outbuildings and offers an alternative, more casual dining option. The dining room is spacious inside and when the weather is favourable, the doors are thrown open and guests can also opt to dine al fresco on a terrace overlooking Marlfield’s Rose Garden.
Taking the name of the restaurant as its inspiration, the menu is divided into sections entitled ‘Beaky Bits’ (i.e. snacks and sharing platters), ‘Peckish Duck’ (lighter dishes and salads) and ‘Whole Duck’ (main courses). Those with a sweet tooth are catered for in the ‘Fat Duck’ dessert section whilst younger diners have plenty to choose from in the ‘Ducklings’ section.
I nibbled on Lucania Olives (€6)- a tasty bowl of black and green olives from Southern Italy and Rustic Sourdough Bread (€2 per portion) which was served with dipping bowls of extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar before trying out a superb Seafood Sharing Board (€17) which included fantastic smoked trout, really perfectly dressed crab and smoked salmon. These were served with creamed horseradish, dill aioli and more sourdough bread.
My main course of Vietnamese Salmon (€23) was a well-conceived dish that was packed full of appealing Asian flavours. Textural crunch was provided by spiced cashew nuts, whilst glass noodles, carrot, coriander, ginger and chinese cabbage added freshness to proceedings.
I’m a complete sucker for anything that contains lemon so despite feeling rather full from my generous lunch, I readily gave way to temptation and finished my meal with a very enjoyable Lemon Tart (€7) with fresh blueberries.
As I checked out of Marlfield House Hotel, I was truly sorry to leave. Each individual element of my stay – from the luxurious, antique-filled bedroom complete with working piano and harp to the superb food that I ate – would make my stay at Marfield memorable, but the sum of all these things underpinned by service delivery that was second-to-none meant that the whole experience was one that I will never forget.
During my visit I met two members of the next generation of the Bowe family – Margaret and Laura and from talking to them realised that in many ways family is at the core of Marlfield’s success. From the moment you arrive you feel that you are part of the extended family and although a guest you are welcomed in with open arms.
Marfield is a truly magical place.
Marlfield House Hotel
Experience Marlfield for yourself with Dinner, Bed and Breakfast packages starting from €159 per person sharing.
Niamh believes Ireland produces some of the best food in the world, and travels around the country; seeking out the best food producers, and places to eat.
An accomplished cook and baker, Niamh is also a previous MasterChef Ireland finalist. During the competition she had the opportunity to cook in some of Ireland’s top restaurants and experience life on the other side of the kitchen pass.
Working with TheTaste allows Niamh to write about her experiences and to share her passion for food and cooking with a wide audience.
Visit Niamh’s blog The Game Bird Food Chronicles.