Wednesday 19 December 2018

Is this the best view from a restaurant in Ireland? Pól Ó Conghaile checks in...

Travel Insider: Our Travel Editor takes a table in The Dunloe's new room with a view...

Dunloe Restaurant, Co Kerry. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile
Dunloe Restaurant, Co Kerry. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile
A €20 burger at The Dunloe. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile
The five-star Dunloe Hotel & Gardens. Photo: Don MacMonagle
Inside The Dunloe Hotel, Killarney. Photo: Don MacMonagle
Fairy trails at The Dunloe Hotel & Gardens. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile
Chocolate Bavarois at The Dunloe. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile
The Dunloe, post-revamp
Inside The Dunloe Hotel's revamp
Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

Is this the best view from a restaurant in Ireland?

Sitting down to dinner, with picture windows providing a peachy panorama of the Gap of Dunloe and a cute herd of Haflinger ponies gathering under a horse chestnut tree outside, it was hard to argue.

The Grill is the beating heart of The Dunloe Hotel & Gardens' recent revamp - an €18m undertaking that saw the Killarney five-star transform its restaurant, bar, lobby, lounge, gardens and car park.

the dunloe killarney 2018-4.jpg
Inside The Dunloe Hotel, Killarney. Photo: Don MacMonagle

In places, the reboot is breathtaking. Bookshelves soaring into Instagram-friendly towers, for example, or gardens offering a cleverly curated walk in the Kerry wilds (complete with fairy trails).

Bedrooms haven't been revamped to the same degree, and feel a bit tired and old-school in comparison, though I don't imagine the Liebherr family, who also own The Europe and Ard na Sidhe country house in Co Kerry, will let that discrepancy last for long.

But back to that restaurant. As previous visitors to The Dunloe will know, the six-metre windows and wide-open space are a bold new addition. Hotel restaurants are notoriously underwhelming, and many contemporary designers are trying to move creatively from white tablecloths and stuffy service towards spaces that actually reflect how we live and eat.

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Chocolate Bavarois at The Dunloe. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile

You may have noticed a growing number of hotel lobbies morphing into 'living areas' where guests can meet, eat and drink. To me, The Grill is reaching for something similar - a blurring of formal and casual, a room that feels almost like a fancy marketplace, a concept that can host everything from breakfast to scones to quick dishes and fine dining, presumably raking in more revenue in the process (the bottom line, after all).

The view invites nature indoors. Pull back, and it's framed by blown-glass-like lights, tiled columns, hanging plants, and an open kitchen that adds life and sizzle - check out its Josper Grill - but not intrusive sounds or smells.

The space also highlights the awkward reality of choices facing hotels. There is currently no bar food at The Dunloe, and I sensed a slight unease as dressed-up guests shared the space with others lounging in football shirts and shorts. With tweaking, however, I think the concept is big enough to absorb this.

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A €20 burger at The Dunloe. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile

And the food? Local produce is front and centre, and we had more hits (an excellent Dingle Gin cured gravadlax mixing tart and velvety flavours for €15; one of the best hotel burgers I've tasted at €20, above) than misses (a hard risotto at €16; a laminated kids' menu that felt like an afterthought).

Once it finds its form, this will be far more than a room with a view.

How to do it:

Pól was a guest at The Dunloe (thedunloe.com), where a one-night dining experience at The Dunloe starts from €175pp including B&B and dinner. The hotel closes for the season on October 29 this year.

Read more:

First Look: Inside The Dunloe Hotel's €18 million revamp 

Related video:

Irish Independent

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