Dingle's Castlewood House won our readers' 'Best Irish Breakfast' award. Brian Heaton shares his secrets...
“I don’t eat breakfast,” laughs Brian Heaton, who runs Castlewood guesthouse in Dingle, Co Kerry with his wife Helen (below).
“I start at 6am so I tend to eat later and when I do, I have a weakness for eggs Benedict, which also happens to be the most popular dish on the breakfast menu.” That’s along with the postcard-worthy pancakes, the full Irish and the poached fruits, which, I’m told, always come back empty from the buffet table.
This is no ordinary breakfast spread. Our readers agree, having voted it Ireland's best breakfast in our Reader Travel Awards 2017.
First, there are the mouthwatering views of Dingle Bay.
Then there's the staff, many of whom have been there since the guesthouse opened 11 years ago, are eager to please and happily engage guests throughout.
Finally, there are the breakfast options themselves, a winning combination of cold meats and cheeses, pastries, breads, scones, porridge topped with Baileys or a dash of Cooley whiskey, mueslis, homemade bread and butter pudding, a table of cooked fruits — plums cooked in orange and honey, melon with pomegranate — a dedicated omelette menu or Dingle Bay kippers. Every dish is cooked from scratch.
Brian is not a trained chef, but always had an interest in food, inspired by his mother’s love of baking and his grandmother, who was French. He and Helen, both hotel management graduates, met while working at Ashford Castle. They went on to work for various four and five-star hotels around Ireland before deciding to move to Dingle.
“It was a risky move,” admits Helen (pictured with Brian, above). “We were in our mid-30s and were giving up our jobs, borrowing money and moving to the other side of the country to build a house. But, we always believed in it.”
They saw a niche in luxury amenities at affordable prices, and it paid off. This is not Castlewood’s first award... far from it.
The house itself doesn’t have history or rustic old-world beauty; rather the air of a boom-time build but with plenty of charm and comfort. A short stroll from Dingle town, it’s thoughtfully decorated, with antiques and contemporary art interspersed with squishy sofas, flickering candles and crackling fires. All 12 rooms are ensuite with smart TVs, Jacuzzi baths and Egyptian cotton sheets, making for both a homely and elegant feel — what the couple would like themselves from a night away.
But back to the breakfast... Brian uses local suppliers like Thomas Ashe (sausages), Ted Brown (smoked salmon) and O’Connors (fruit and vegetables) wherever possible, taking quality Dingle Peninsula produce and turning it into a sensational spread, often with signature twists — a recent addition is a black pudding omelette, inspired by a black pudding, feta and goats cheese salad, for example.
The full Irish remains the first choice of Irish guests (taking it off the menu would be “blasphemy”, he laughs), but his ultimate favourite is the pancakes (see recipe below).For these, Brian separates the egg whites, whips them, and then folds them into the batter, creating auburn, pillowy pancakes as fluffy and light as air.
Honest, tasty local Irish food is the mantra here, and Helen and Brian’s personal attention to detail is the cream on the proverbial porridge.
Details: 066 915 2788; castlewooddingle.com; B&B from €48pp.
You will need:
Firstly, separate your eggs and beat the whites in a bowl until stiff peaks form. In a separate bowl put the four eggs yolks and some of the milk.
Put the flour in a third, larger bowl. Pour the egg/milk liquid into the flour and start mixing with an electric hand whisk.
Add more milk until the mixture resembles a thick but runny consistency. Fold in the Eggs White in to the mixture.
Put a Two pancake pans on the heat and add a knob of Butter – do not let the Butter burn. Ladle on a large spoon of the mixture and cook until little bubbles form – then carefully flip over to the other side. Repeat.
The butter gives them a lovely crispy outside and yet they are still fluffy inside.
We serve our pancakes here with maple syrup and fruit compote but you can try bacon, chocolate sauce… the sky is the limit, really.
More from our Reader Travel Awards 2017: