Built on the site of a deserted village in a Wicklow valley, this extraordinary food, drink and leisure complex exists thanks to the vision of three brothers, Evan, Eoin and Bernard Doyle.
Below we outline the various strands that make up this very complex operation – but, as you will sense from the bright helpful staff and an atmosphere of care about the place, this very special operation is more than the sum of its parts.
The driving force is Evan, a pioneer of the new organic movement when he ran The Strawberry Tree restaurant in Killarney.
Here in Wicklow their hotel and restaurant has earned national recognition for its strong position on organic food (BrookLodge won the Guide’s Natural Food Award in association with Euro-Toques, in 2003); and their little “street” is thriving, with an olde-worlde pub (Actons), a café, a micro-brewery, gift shops selling home-made produce and related quality products and - most recently- the opening of La Taverna Armento.
This alternative dining choice for guests is the result of a continuing collaboration between Evan and the towns of Armento and Basilicata in southern Italy; décor, food, and wines are all influenced by sources and personalities from that area, and the result is an authentic casual dining experience offering really good artisan food and an intimate ambience.
Organic food markets, held on the first Sunday of the month (first and third in summer) have also proved a great success.
The hotel itself is spacious and welcoming, with elegant country house furnishings, open fires and plenty of places to sit quietly or meet for a sociable drink - and there are accommodation choices between the original rooms, which are furnished with quite traditional free standing furniture, and state-of-the-art mezzanine suites, which will please those who relish very modern high-tech surroundings.
A luxurious spa centre, The Wells, features an indoor-to-outdoor swimming pool, gym, juice bar and a wide variety of exclusive beauty and health treatments.
Midweek, weekend and low season special offers are good value, and staff are friendly and helpful.
*Brook Hall, which is effectively a separate 24-bedroom hotel used for weddings and events, allows the original BrookLodge Hotel to operate as a dedicated food and spa hotel; the River Room at Brook Hall is a beautiful banqueting room for up to 200, with French windows, a patio and mezzanine bar. Brook Hall also has a separate swimming pool and gym, for the use of all guests.
* The adjacent Macreddin Golf Club, a beautifully situated 18-hole par-72 championship course, was the first to be designed by Irish Ryder Cup hero Paul McGinley.
Conference/banqueting (350/190); business centre, free broadband wi/fi, secretarial services, video conferencing (by arrangement). Equestrian centre, archery, clay pigeon shooting, falconry, golf (18), snooker, garden, walking, leisure centre (fitness room, swimming pool, sauna, steam room, hot tub), Spa (massage, beauty treatments). Children welcome (under 3s free in parents' room, cot available without charge, baby sitting arranged). Pets allowed (charge). Heli-pad.
Rooms 86 (13 suites, 7 junior suites, 4 ground floor, 4 family, 2 disabled, 50 no smoking, 90 single). Lift. Limited room service; B&B €90-120 pps (low-high season); ss €45. Open all year.
The Strawberry Tree:
Ireland’s only certified organic restaurant reflects the BrookLodge philosophy of sourcing only from producers using slow organic methods and harvesting in their correct season. The Wild Foods Pantry adjacent to the restaurantis a treasure trove of preserved seasonal and wild foods for use in the kitchen, and well worth seeng.
Menus are not too long or too fussy: dishes have strong, simple names and, except when underlined on the menu as wild, everything offered is organic; the wine list also offers an exceptional range of organic wines, all priced at a very reasonable €30.
There’s a great buzz associated with the commitment to organic production at BrookLodge, and it makes a natural venue for meetings of like-minded groups such as Euro-Toques and Slow Food, especially on market days.
Dining at the Strawberry Tree is a unique experience - and good informal meals can be equally enjoyable at The Orchard Café and Actons pub (both open noon-9pm daily) and La Taverna Armento (see above).
Given the quality of ingredients used and the standard of cooking, all meals at BrookLodge represent very good value.