Ballyfin House, Ballyfin Demesne, Co Laois
This is always one of our most hotly-contested wards – by which I mean that the ‘short list’ is anything but - and how could it be otherwise when the establishments under consideration are all fresh and new and full of enthusiasm? It’s mainly the closures that have been hitting the news in recent times, of course, but a surprising thing about the last couple of years is the number of openings there have been.
There’s never been anything like this one though, even in the height of the boom. When word started to circulate about the imminent opening last spring, words like ‘mad’ and ‘doomed’ were bandied about. But, as the General Manager said when we visited, “There is always a place for excellence”. And how right she was.
There’s nothing more uplifting in a time of endless cutbacks to find a place where money was not the primary motivator and - while the owners might not wish to say that money was no object – the point of the project was to bring a beautiful period property back to the way it was in its prime, and to do it right. Over an eight year period no effort was spared in order to achieve this, and the results are breathtaking.
Although still a work in progress (outside, at least), Ballyfin
is simply exquisite and everyone who visits the place is bowled over. It offers discreet luxury, wonderful food – and, believe it or not, good value too. Just do the sums!