Just south of Gorey, near Ballygarrett in North County Wexford, lies an unusual Georgian gem offering luxurious country house accommodation - and fine dining with a distinctly French flavour.
Former restaurateurs Philippe and Brona Brillant bought the property in 2014, did a massive restoration job on it and opened as a quietly relaxing destination for adult guests the following year.
Having lived in the UK for 25 years, it's been a kind of homecoming for Brona - who is Irish, and her great-grandfather was born in Ballygarrett - and her husband Philippe is a classically trained chef with many years experience in top restaurants. Most recently, they had a restaurant in Henley on Thames, and it's clear that their professionalism has stood them in good stead in this new venture.
The house is quite modest by Georgian standards, giving it a homely ambience, and it is set in lovely gardens which had been neglected and are still under redevelopment. Philippe and Brona live in the main house, where meals are served (breakfast, of course, and dinner by arrangement), and the four very different but equally desirable en-suite guest rooms are romantically situated in the former coach house and stables in a restored courtyard. All have French doors opening out to a walled garden and there is also a 2-bedroom gate lodge which is available for self-catering, although breakfast and evening meals can also be provided for guests staying there if required.
Unusually for a country house (and especially Hidden Ireland, which they have joined and where no-choice menus are the norm) the dinner menu offers a choice of three dishes on each course, featuring a range of Philippe’s signature French dishes, such as duck confit, classic fish dishes, 72 hour beef cheeks bourguinonne, cheeses with quince jelly and tarte fine aux pommes. Meals are accompanied by a surprisingly extensive wine list (mainly French and changed monthly) and finish in style with a choice of teas,tisanes and coffees and proper petits fours - and, best of all perhaps, credit to the main local suppliers of the excellent ingredients that Philippe has made a point of seeking out since he arrived in Ireland.
Breakfast includes 'all the usual offerings' and follows the same pattern of excellence with freshly baked croissants and other viennoiserie offered along with a lovely sideboard display of fresh fruits and cold foods.
Clonganny would make a perfect base for exploring the whole of the South-East corner of Ireland, with great walking on its long sandy beaches, garden visits, historical sites and even a lighthouse among the many things to enjoy. And Brona and Philippe are very hospitable people, especially when it comes to food - everything about Clonganny is pretty exceptional, but the dining experience is the real trump card and perhaps especially off season, as they even welcome both resident and non-resident guests over the Christmas and New Year period.