Kelly's opens new chapter in its book of welcomes
The fifth generation of renowned hoteliers has joined the family business
AS I thumbed through The Book of Kelly's, a fascinating history of Kelly's Resort Hotel at Rosslare Strand, Co Wexford, I thought, 'This is going to have to be updated!'
The book, published in 1995, tells the story of how, 120 years ago, William Kelly, an accountant, opened Kelly's Refreshment Rooms at Rosslare Strand and how the four generations of Kellys have made their eponymous hotel into one of the most popular destinations in Ireland.
The nostalgic photos of the Kelly family and staff members who have worked at the hotel are a real reflection of local history.
There are pictures of many of the staff who are still working there: manager Eddie Cullen and restaurant manager Pat Doyle, who have seen generations of visitors return year after year, for whom they always have a warm welcome.
I think too of other Kelly's staff I have encountered over the years who made our family visits so special, from Eamonn Dempsey to Paul O'Keeffe and Theresa Kelly in the restaurant and Mary Kehoe on reception, who delighted us this time with news of her recent nuptials.
However, the perfect excuse for a whole new chapter to the book has arisen as the fifth generation of the Kelly family, Laura, daughter of Bill and Isabelle, has now joined the family business.
In addition, for the first time in all the years since inception, the Kelly family returned to their roots as it were with the opening of a satellite business, a modern day 'refreshment rooms' – the fabulous new Kelly's Cafe in Drinagh Business Park on the edge of Wexford town.
Laura, aged 26, has returned to Ireland after graduating from Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne, the prestigious hotel training school in Switzerland where her father Bill met his wife, Isabelle, in the Eighties.
Isabelle's family, the Avrils, have been producing the outstanding Clos des Papes, Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines for 120 years and she had gone to Lausanne to train in the hospitality industry. A marriage made in a heaven of hotel hospitality and wine. They have six daughters, of which Laura is the eldest.
"I always loved being around the hotel all the time. Even when I was 10, I would be up at the pool reception – you couldn't even see me behind the desk," laughs Laura. "I worked in La Marine Bistro [the hotel's more casual dining option] during the summer for a good few years."
On leaving school Laura studied commerce & Italian at UCD. She then decided on hotel management, and her dad told her that if she was going to do it, she was going to do it properly.
"We visited Switzerland and I applied over there. I loved the school, how it was and what it represented, and I got accepted.
"I spent four years there. I also did an internship in London in the Lancaster Hotel at Hyde Park, which was really good as they moved me to lots of different departments.
"The next year, I worked in the Grand Hyatt, Singapore, which was tough going but great. They have a multicultural restaurant, Mezza9, with nine individual open kitchens within the restaurant, so you could have six people at a table all wanting food from different kitchens.
"It was quite a cool concept, and I got good muscles from carrying all those trays!"
Laura then went to New York for six months and worked in the uber hip boutique hotel, The Standard, on the Lower East Side.
"I did the opening as a manager of one of their restaurants, which was really interesting. My last stint then, before I came back to Rosslare, was working for Club Med in Turkey and Morocco."
Laura's role now is in the accommodation sector, in staff recruitment, and to develop and create events at the hotel. A craft beer tasting, Wexford artisan cheese tastings, artisan food nights, health talks in the SeaSpa, as well as events in the new cafe are all being lined up and should be of great interest to the community.
Kelly's made its name over the years with food, hospitality and top-notch service. Bill Kelly visits every table at dinner each evening, chatting to his guests. The food, now under the baton of executive chef Eugene Callaghan, is always fabulous, and the service second to none. Likewise the new Kelly's Cafe is bang up to date in design and culinary ethos.
The emphasis is on fresh local food, served in a relaxed, casual contemporary atmosphere, which is perfect for all-day dining. The breakfast menu ranges from field mushrooms on sourdough toast with ricotta cheese, and spelt pancake with winterberries or maple syrup, to the traditional Kelly's breakfast of O'Neill's bacon, sausage, egg and roast tomato.
From noon to 4pm you can chow down on fabulous fresh posh sandwiches as well as hot dishes such as Kelly's Cafe beef pie, or baked chicken and broccoli crumble with salads. Quiches have proved very popular, as have the delicious Duncannon fish pies.
A smoked chicken and red onion quiche was going down a storm at neighbouring tables on our visit, as was sweet chilli baked salmon and a chicken curry mayonnaise and Romaine salad baguette.
The cafe has also incorporated a pizza bar with an Italian Morello flat bread pizza oven – and what was coming out of it was only divine. To train the cafe chefs in the art of the great pizza, they brought over chef Bruno Trehu who runs a pizzeria in the French ski resort of Megeve. The secret to the ultimate great base apparently is a blend of four types of flour, using just 1.5g of yeast per kilo, and a three-day prove.
Pastries and cakes, produced by the hotel's pastry chef Stephane Rochard, are totally seductive.
The format at Kelly's Resort Hotel is all inclusive. Everything you could want by way of activities, wining and dining, pampering in the spa to hairdressing, golf clinics and evening entertainment is there, set amidst an amazing art collection nurtured by Bill's mother, Breda Kelly.
I always feel as if I have embarked on a great luxury liner where I am going to be pampered and spoiled for the duration – everything is on board at Kelly's. All meals – which are very lavish – are included, as well as endless coffee and afternoon tea. You have the option of sitting down to breakfast or lunch in the formal Beaches restaurant or the less formal extensive buffet in The Ivy Room.
Bill says serving lunch in the dining room is a traditional feature they like to keep up.
"It allows us to showcase things that we wouldn't put on the dinner menu – such as tripe and onion, steak and kidney pie, silverside corn beef, Kassler, traditional things you don't see any more. People like the formula we offer. They know at the start everything is included in the package, and that is important to people."
Kelly's has wonderful two- to five-day midweek breaks which encompass all sorts of interests from cookery demonstrations to wine appreciation courses, painting to bridge, art to gardening, ballroom dancing, health and beauty.
This coming week sees a two-day midweek break of ballroom dancing with Flora Miller. From March 9-14 there are wine appreciation events involving Dominique and Kristine Mary Piron from Beaujolais, and Eric Forest, who produces amazing wines from Pouilly-Fuisse, Saint-Veran and Macon-Vergisson.
Check them all out on the hotel website. There will be something for everyone – and lots of fun as well.
Here's to the five generations of Kellys.