A midweek stay at Kilronan Castle gives you all the facilities of a top-class hotel at a bargain price, says Lucinda O'Sullivan, and its restaurant serves excellent local produce with an international twist
Kilronan Castle is located at Ballyfarnon, Co Roscommon, an area that is quite wild, remote and romantic and not at all over-visited. Kilronan, once a Gothic-revival ruin, was developed into a hotel a couple of years ago at a time of considerable optimism, and certainly no expense was spared. It is an imposing pile which has been converted into a plush hotel, yet it retains an intimate feel. The walls are wood panelled from top to bottom, the drapes, furnishings and paintings are magnificent, and it is all extremely comfortable.
En route to Donegal, we phoned at the very last minute and were offered a midweek price of €89 for a double room including breakfast -- terrific value for a top hotel. We were well pleased with our room on the second floor, a junior suite, with gorgeous Gothic windows and views over Lough Meelagh. We repaired to the beautiful drawing room, which has a large inglenook fireplace, and, while Brendan had a pint (€4.30), I spotted two ladies having afternoon tea and couldn't resist. Afternoon tea is €19.50, but there is also a "small" tea option at €14.50, which includes three finger-sandwiches and two scones with jam and cream.
The Douglas Hyde Restaurant is named after our first president, who was born in Co Roscommon, and is a splendid room with a certain gravitas and serious food sourced from local producers -- including game and fish -- with an international twist in the presentation and cooking. An amuse bouche of Port Salut cheese, stuck with a fraction of black cracker, a walnut and a sprig of thyme, and drizzled with honey, was an unusual, but nice, kick-off. Starters, (€7-€12.50), included pekin duck spring rolls with warm foie gras, crispy vegetables, remoulade and a plum dressing, while Arabian-style mezze included stuffed vine leaves, hummus, olive tapenade and feta cheese. I chose crab stuffed baby calamari (€11.50) with crispy squid tentacles, presented as though emerging from a red pesto risotto. Across the dish lay a brace of asparagus spears wrapped in smoked salmon. It was quite a substantial starter, but very pleasant and different. Brendan had a delicious country-style rabbit pate (€11.50) with chicken liver parfait and red onion jam, which he thoroughly enjoyed.
Mains included loin of venison coated with black pepper and brown sugar, served with red cabbage, roasted sweet potato and a port jus. Fermanagh beef fillet was served with smoked scallops, honey mustard dressing, glazed carrots and Burgundy jus, while a trio of seafood had Cajun spiced prawns, curried crab claws, sauteed mussels and creme fraiche potato in a mild curry sauce. There was also pan-fried John Dory with wild garlic gnocchi, butternut squash and anchovy butter. Brendan had slow-roasted guinea fowl (€24), which he deemed excellent. It was wrapped in bacon and served with chorizo, pine seeds and risotto with crispy pancetta. I had a confit of pheasant (€26.50) atop caramelised chicory, with an apricot compote, asparagus spears, potato and a Jameson infusion. To the side was a fine dish of cauliflower, carrots and green beans. There was also cote de boeuf -- 500g (20oz) at €45 for one person or 800g (32oz) for two people at €70. We washed the meal down with a half bottle of Hugel Gewurztraminer 2008 (€15), a half bottle of Principe de Viana Crianza (€14) and a large bottle of mineral water (€4.50).
Puds included rum cake with passion fruit, coconut jelly, stewed pineapple and Malibu sorbet, and a mini tarte Tatin with apple compote and vanilla ice cream crumble. We shared a beautiful dark chocolate and olive oil mousse in a tuile basket with mascarpone cake and poached figs (€8.50).
It's a lovely place with very pleasant staff. Our total bill came to €219.60 -- really excellent value.
Douglas Hyde Restaurant,
Kilronan Castle Estate and Spa,
Tel: (071) 961-8000