Often quoted as ‘the luxury country house hotel par excellence’, this impressive house outside Gorey was once the residence of the Earls of Courtown, and is now an elegant oasis of unashamed luxury offering outstanding hospitality and service, where guests are cosseted and pampered in sumptuous surroundings.
It was first opened as an hotel in 1978 by Mary and Ray Bowe who have lavished care and attention on this fine property ever since - imposing gates, a wooded drive, antiques and glittering chandeliers all promise guests a very special experience - and their daughters Margaret and Laura Bowe now continue the family tradition of hospitality.
The interior is luxurious in the extreme, with accommodation including six very grand state rooms, but the gardens are also a special point of interest: there is a lake and wildfowl reserve, a formal garden, kitchen garden, and beautiful woodland with extensive woodland walks - and a number of gardens open to the public are within easy access, including Ram House, Mount Usher, Powerscourt, Altamont and Kilmokea.
Under the management of Margaret and Laura Bowe (two chips off the old block, both born with the hospitality gene in fine fettle and very high quality thresholds) there have been some interesting developments of late. While they treasure the traditional qualities of Marlfield House, they have broadened its appeal locally and to wedding parties by introducing a younger, more informal dining option in their stylish new café-restaurant, The Duck (see below), a development that adds an extra dimension to the whole property and makes the garden setting even more attractive.
Conference/banqueting (30/120); broadband wi/fi; secretarial services. Dogs may be permitted by arrangement in certain areas. Children welcome by prior arrangement (under 2s free in parents room, cots available without charge, baby sitting arranged). Tennis, cycling, walking, croquet, garden. Golf nearby. Heli-pad.
Rooms 20 (6 state rooms, 14 superior, 8 ground floor, all no smoking). B&B €125pps (€90 low season), ss €17.50. Room service (limited hours). Closed Jan & Feb.
The House Restaurant:
Dining is always an exceptional experience in Marlfield’s fine restaurant, where the graceful dining room and Turner-style conservatory merge into one, allowing views out across the gardens, including a fine kitchen garden that is a delight to the eye and provides a wide range of fresh produce for the restaurant.
The conservatory, with its hanging baskets, plants and fresh flowers (not to mention the occasional statue), is one of the most romantic spots in the whole of Ireland, further enhanced at night by candlelight a wonderful setting in which to enjoy chef Ruadhan Furlong’s accomplished cooking.
His strongly seasonal menus are changed daily and outline the produce available in the kitchen garden (which remains Ray Bowe’s particular point of pride, even though he has officially retired), and the origin of other ingredients used. Although contemporary in style and presentation, there is a strong classical background to the cooking, and it is all the better for that.
Specialities that indicate the style include a delicious starter of quail with poached beans and apple butter, or Marlfield’s classic chicken liver parfait with apple and tarragon jelly and toasted brioche; the aged Wexford rib-eye of beef is served with a fine béarnaise sauce, a deliciously-herbed mash and perfectly cooked seasonal vegetables from the garden (crunchy sugar snap peas, tiny sautéed white turnips and baby leeks).
Fish lovers should be delighted with dishes like a perfectly cooked and crisp (skin-side breaded) cod fillet, served on a pea and potato purée and accompanied by tiny braised Little Gem lettuces.
The ready supply of fresh garden produce inspires imaginative vegetarian choices too, and lovely puds tend to reflect the best fruit in season at the time; alternatively, a cheese selection from Sheridans cheesemongers is served with a delectable little salad, caramelised walnuts and apple cider jelly.
Then it’s off to the drawing room for coffee and petits fours to round off the feast. Very professional service is a match for this fine food and an informative wine list, long on burgundies and clarets, offers a wine of the month, a page of special recommendations and a very good selection of half bottles.
Although not inexpensive, a meal here is always a treat and good value for the quality of food and service; the early dinner menu and Sunday lunch offer outstanding value.
*The abundance of kitchen garden produce at Marlfield has inspired the Bowe family to make their own delicious 'pantry staples' products, including jams, chutneys and dressings, which are available to purchase.
Some really lovely restored buildings in a courtyard beside the main house took on a new lease of life in 2015... Here, a series of disused areas including a coach house, potting shed and gardener’s tool shed have been very attractively developed to create The Duck.
This stylishly informal restaurant and café-bar has a large terrace and overlooks the fine kitchen gardens that have for many years inspired proudly seasonal menus and given pleasure to diners in the graceful restaurant in the main house (as they still do). Now diners at The Duck can also enjoy them, but in a much more up close and personal way, as the terrace is right alongside the kitchen garden - which, in summer, is a wonderfully lush mixture of herbs, vegetables, fruit and rose blooms. It's a magic spot and, on a fine day, people love to wander around there before or after meals.
Chef Margaret Roche's modern, broadly Italian, cooking style reflects the mood, with an emphasis on fresh seasonal produce from the garden and the local area, and light dishes and pastries for in between times as well as stylish lunch and dinner menus.
And, although a more obvious choice in summer, this atmospheric restaurant is an appealing all-year option: while the sunny terrace just the place to enjoy a coffee, a drink or a meal in warm weather, there's also a cheering open fire to make it cosy in the colder months.
The Duck was an instant success from day one, and it's not hard to see why.