Dan Mullane's famous restaurant The Mustard Seed started life in Adare in 1985, then moved just ten minutes drive away to Echo Lodge, a spacious Victorian hideaway set on seven acres of lovely gardens, with mature trees, shrubberies, kitchen garden and orchard - and very luxurious accommodation.
Elegance, comfort and generosity are the hallmarks, seen through decor and furnishings which bear the mark of a seasoned traveller whose eye has found much to delight in while wandering the world. This magical hideaway has immense appeal to many different types of guest and, although Echo Lodge is actually a four star hotel, it is an hotel like no other - its many special attributes make it a place apart, and it is a perfect destination for a romantic break or a few days pick-you-up in demanding times.
In addition to sumptuous accommodation in the main house, the conversion of an old schoolhouse in the garden now provides three newer superior suites, a residents' lounge and a small leisure centre with sauna and massage room - this stylish and more contemporary development offers something quite different from the original rooms and is in great demand from regular guests who make Echo Lodge their base for golf and fishing holidays, and for business guests.
And Dan Mullane is also one of a minority of Irish hoteliers who understand that, for many people, pets are part of the family and they expect them to be treated accordingly. Far from the token pet friendliness of those who offer distant kennels or the use of an outhouse in the yard, his welcome to guests travelling with pets is genuine and thoughtful. Pets are allowed in most areas of the hotel, except the restaurant, and they can stay with their owners in suitable ground floor rooms with doors opening onto the garden - very handy, as you can pop out with your pet without having to go through the hotel reception areas.
What a magical place this is.
Small conferences/Banqueting (20/70); free broadband wi/fi. Children welcome (under 4s free in parents' room, cots available without charge, baby sitting arranged). Pets welcome by arrangement (stay in bedroom, no charge). Garden, walking. Sauna, massage room. Cookery classes.
Rooms 16 (2 suites, 4 shower only, 2 family, 2 ground floor, 1 for disabled, all no smoking). Turndown service. B&B €90 pps, single €130. Special winter breaks offered, depending on availability. Closed Christmas week, 2 wks Feb.
The Mustard Seed:
Food and hospitality are at the heart of Echo Lodge and it is in ensuring a memorable dining experience at The Mustard Seed, most of all, that Dan Mullane’s great qualities as a host emerge (he was our Host of the Year in 2001).
The evening begins with aperitifs in the Library, prettily served with a tasty amuse-bouche - and this attention to detail is confirmed in the beautiful dining rooms, where fresh flowers on each table are carefully selected to complement the decor.
Angel Pirev has been head chef since 2010 and continues the house tradition of excellent modern Irish cooking; the wonderful organic kitchen gardens supply him with much of the produce for the restaurant - do allow time to see them before dinner and, perhaps, hazard a guess as to what will be on the menu - while other ingredients are carefully sourced from organic farms and artisan food producers.
Menus are wide-ranging and very seasonal - the components of a delicious salad will be dictated by the leaves and herbs in season. Plum tomatoes and asparagus, in mid-summer perhaps, accompanied by a Parmesan, basil and a balsamic reduction, and the soup course - typically of roast vegetable - is also likely to be influenced by garden produce.
Main courses such as an unusual assiette of spring lamb (with chargrilled courgette cream, pressed shoulder, red goosberry and walnut caramel) are based on the best local meats, seafood just up from the south-western fishing ports and seasonal game.
Each dish has its own thoughtfully considered garnish and, with such an abundance of garden produce, vegetarians need have no fear of being overlooked - every course features an unusual vegetarian offering.
Finish with Irish farmhouse cheeses at their peak of perfection, or gorgeous puddings, which are also likely to be inspired by garden produce.
Finally, irresistible home-made petits fours are served with tea or coffee, at the table or in the Library. All absolutely delicious - and, with service that is professional and efficient, yet always relaxed and warm, the hospitality here is truly exceptional.
After dinner, take a stroll through the lushly planted pleasure garden; there is even a special route - of just the right length - marked out for smokers. *(The Mustard Seed was selected for our Natural Food Award in 2005, presented in association with Euro-Toques.)
An interesting wine list includes an unusually wide range of half bottles, a couple of magnums and a wine of the month.
Breakfast is also served in restaurant and, needless to say, it is also a memorable experience; everything offered is delicious and the menu includes unusual dishes such as omelettes made with the renowned Ummera smoked chicken from West Cork.