“Oh, the Manor!”, “Yes, it’s fantastic up there”, “I’ve heard that the family has put a lot of money into the new hotel and everyone is saying it’s beautiful!”. These are the sort of comments we received from friendly locals we encountered on our way up to Limerick from West Cork to review the newly refurbished Adare Manor & Gold Course.
Luxury hotels are not new to Ireland, with the likes of Ballyfin, Ashford Castle and Park Hotel Kenmare drawing in great numbers of local and international travellers every season. However, there is something uniquely special about the buzz created by the reopening of Adare Manor, with so many resident Irishmen and women knowing some small titbit of information about the opening and the mere mention of the hotel’s name causing cafés to come alive with a flurry of anecdotes and opinions.
The Hotel – The Arrival
A former stately home built by the Dunraven family in the 1830s, Adare Manor sits on the outskirts of the quaint village of Adare in County Limerick. It remained in the family for eight generations until 1980s when it was sold to American businessman, Tom Kane, who added the now world-famous golf course, before it was acquired by its present owner, J.P. McManus, under who the most recent 21-month-long refurbishment has taken place.
An imposing neo-gothic building seated within 842 acres of private land, the original house remains hugely impressive to this day. However, a monumental achievement of the refurbishment by ReardonSmith Architects has meant that the property has been sensitively restored and extended to include a new West Wing joined to the main house by a colonnade, The Carriage House clubhouse, and gatehouse.
We drive up to the ornate new entrance where we are greeted by the good-natured and impossibly jovial Gatekeeper, Pat, who welcomes us to the Manor and inquires about our trip. After a quick natter, he waves us through. We drive passed impeccably pristine lawns, shaded by towering examples of the estate’s 19,000 plus trees towards the main building that looms above us, its exterior peppered with natural flashes of pink that catch the sunlight and warm the otherwise austere grey limestone façade. We spy the extension that, other than its slightly lighter coloured stone that will no doubt weather and age, matches the original building seamlessly.
Our car is parked and our luggage taken for us by PJ, who leads us through the cathedral-like Great Hall with its high ceilings, vaulted arches, wood-clad minstrel gallery, impressive marble fireplace and plush, red velvet sofas that we feel an immediate desire to curl up in. Interiors throughout much of the hotel have been lovingly crafted by Kim Partridge – an impassioned designer with a flare for residential comfort and a deep commitment to creating an authentic narrative.
Guestrooms & Suites
Of the 102-key hotel, 62 guestrooms & suites are housed in the original building. All rooms have been individually designed to take the Manor’s unique architectural features into account and provide a luxurious yet homey feel.
Our room is no exception. Light green and warm neutral palette is accented by rich, dark wooden furnishings and natural themes throughout the wallpaper, oil paintings the tapestry that hangs by the bed head. The bed itself is strewn with plump, monogrammed pillows and mounted with clever, adjustable reading lights that respond to touch, ensuring that there is no need to fumble about in the dark for light switches. Sensors nearby also ensure that night-time trips to the bathroom are low-lit for added ease in an unfamiliar environment.
The bathroom is colossal and well-appointed with both a double-size rain-shower and a freestanding bathtub, as well as a double vanity, Aqua Di Parma amenities and a window seat with waterproof cushioning from which we can look over the beautifully manicured French Gardens.
A display of chocolates and a moist, freshly baked cake await us on the coffee table with a note welcoming us to our home for the evening. We enjoy a slice with a cup of tea before wandering down the ornate staircase, crested by Dunraven bird carvings, back down to the Great Hall, eyeing up intriguing design details as we do, all of which have their own stories.
The Drawing Room
We enter The Drawing Room – a spacious enfilade flooded with natural light from the large bay windows that overlook the regimented Parterre Gardens. The feel is one of relaxed formality where guests can enjoy teas, coffees, light meals and gentle twists on classic cocktails.
The ceilings have been restored with gold leaf and original plaster detailing of clustered shamrocks (a motif mirrored on the menu cover and the fine china used within this space). This impressive feature adds an opulent glow to the space in the daylight, further expressed in the choice of the pale woven fabric wall-coverings, armchairs of warm golden hue and bespoke draperies adapted from an archived 18th century French brocatelle, re-woven for Adare Manor on traditional looms.
After admiring an ostentatious pink marble fireplace adorned with carved crocodiles, a Pegasus and other much oddities, we take a seat by the line of windows and order a couple of cocktails from the bartender, David.
The Drawing Room’s cocktail menu is very different from that of its subterranean, speakeasy counterpart, The Tack Room (read our full review of The Tack Room here) and celebrates the history and setting of Adare Manor through ingredients. The Maigue Negroni (Monkey 47, Cynar, Antica Formula, Celery Bitters) proves to be very pleasant with celery lingering on the palate, proving an addition layer of gentle bitterness. However, our favourite is the Gamekeeper’s Old Fashioned where our senses are instantly alerted to orange and roasted hazelnut on first smell. Nutty bitters add a fullness, pairing well with the syrupy bourbon. A hint of chocolate sneaks through, making us think of Ferrero Rochers or another such Christmas chocolate.
Not only are the drinks lovely but the service is impeccable, with David knowledgeably talking us through the cocktails and, on hearing us sneeze, immediately presenting us with a box of tissues. Quite taken aback by this level of hospitality, we move on to The Oak Room for our dinner.
The Oak Room
The original family dining room, this oak-panelled room has been flawlessly restored and extended to encompass a stone colonnade where we are seated and treated to the sun setting over the Parterre Gardens.
The cuisine is decidedly fine-dining from award-winning Head Chef, Michael Tweedie (formerly of the two-Michelin-starred Gidleigh Park and AA Rosettes winning hotel, Ballyfin). Michael has devised a seasonal menu drawing from local Irish artisan producers, foraged ingredients as well as those grown on the grounds of the estate.
As tasting menus are somewhat unusual in Ireland and not yet fully accepted by the locals, Michael and his team have devised and interesting and incredibly flexible menu style, where diners can mix and match their courses, and be taken on a curated journey of Ireland’s distinctive terroirs.
Read all about our exquisite meal and Michael’s unusual voyage towards the creation of the menu, which involved five chefs, a campervan and a 900km tour of the country with his dog Frank, here.
The Tack Room
After dinner, we pick up our engorged stomachs and carry them downstairs to The Tack Room. Designed by the renowned David Collins Studio, the speakeasy-style cocktail and whisky bar is at once grand and comfortable. Vaulted ceiling arches are dimly up-lit from lanterns mounted around impressive stone support piers. The original limestone floor is softened with bespoke rugs featuring abstract designs inspired by the stained-glass windows within the Manor, and luxurious coral seating is arranged around beautifully grained green marble tables.
As well as a series of inventive cocktails, the bar boasts 100 rare whiskies and is headed by award-winning mixologist, Ariel Sanecki, who was recently named Best Technical Bartender and Best Hotel Bartender at National Cocktail Competition 2018, as well as having his cocktail, Japanese Garden, chosen as the competition winner.
Humble and friendly, Ariel takes us through his cocktail menu, explaining his inspiration behind his creations and offering up charm and unbeatable hospitality. Read our full review of this world-class experience here.
After a blissful night’s sleep, we head down for breakfast in the most impressive room at Adare Manor – The Gallery. Inspired by Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors, the 132 feet long, 21 feet high room is a sight to behold. Restored stained-glass windows trace the noble lineage of the Wyndham and Quinn families, throwing dappled coloured light over ornate Belgian choir stalls and oak carvings. Lavish tapestries and imposing marble fireplaces add to the feel of opulence. However, the interesting choice of sofa seating at breakfast tables and soft, simple colour choices of furnishings make the grand room feel homely and welcoming.
Still not even mildly hungry after our gargantuan dinner the night before, we solider on and order The Signature Breakfast with famous Clonakilty black and white pudding, and Eggs Benedict with local Limerick ham. Both are stunning, with perfectly poached eggs and great quality produce. We also pick at the impressive buffet spread before going on a much-needed walk around the Woodland Walk, Fairy Trail and Walled Garden, followed by a spot of Clay Pigeon Shooting on the estate.
The Carriage House
Feeling the onset of gout due to the unmatchable Irish hospitality, we nevertheless force ourselves to go to The Carriage House for lunch. This entirely separate, new building has a very different style to the rest of the Manor. Smart and polished with nods to art deco, the restaurant and bars have a decidedly American feel – no doubt due to 60% of Adare Manor’s guests harking from the States.
The restaurant is bright and open, with Breccia Violetta marble, a central skylight and modern furniture. The bar has something of a members’ club or American Bar to it, with deeply toned, sunken armchairs debonair confidence.
We take a seat in the glass-fronted restaurant and order the King Crab Salad and Higgins Fillet Steak with Wild Mushroom sauce. The salad is simple yet absolutely incredible with quality ingredients and perfect flavour balance. The crab itself is plump and tender, whilst the fruit is perfectly ripe, gently completed with a drizzle of flavourful olive oil.
Our steak comes out well-done as opposed to rare, as we’d asked for it, which surprises us. However, once realised, the staff reaction is close to horror as the manager gravely states that “We don’t get our meat wrong” and apologises profusely, bringing us a new dish and awaiting confirmation that this one is right. It is and, wow, it is one of the best steaks we’ve ever had in our lives, well worth the price tag of €42. The wild mushroom stock is rich and delicious and we waste no time in soaking our crisp roast potatoes in it.
Despite our stomachs screaming for us to stop, we elect to sample The Carriage House Banoffee that comes intriguingly presented in multiple parts. Hard “crème brûlée” is topped with full, rich cream and accompanied by a delicate mousse. A caramelised banana adds another intriguing texture and Baileys ice cream finishes off the dish.
We wash dessert down with a cup of tea before heading back to the house to take a quick dip in the tiny pool within the hotel’s La Mer Spa, and collect our bags.
A Reluctant Goodbye
We take a final opportunity to wander around the atmospheric Manor, admiring the stunning suits of armour gracing a walkway that designer Kim Partridge found at an antique market, and sink into the sofa in the Great Hall that has been calling our name ever since we first arrived.
As we relax by the roaring fire, we look back on all the wonderful experiences we’ve had over the past 24-hours (and the cheer amount of exquisite food we’ve enjoyed). Adare Manor has been a revelation in terms of what world-class hospitality can be. Every need of ours was met and all expectations exceeded, all with an easy smile and deft grace.
We leave amazed by the welcoming, residential comfort of the interiors within such a grandiose building, and completely understand why every Irish person we’ve met speaks of Adare Manor with fondness and pride.
Standard Classic Rooms at Adare Manor start from €325 (£280) per night and include breakfast.
To book, visit the website here.