Sometimes, what’s really needed is a quiet couple of days pampering in a child-free zone – for some this may mean a spa break but, for those in the know, a visit to Clogheen is the business.
Dermot and Christine Gannon’s ‘gourmet hideaway’ is an exceptional restaurant with accommodation in one of the most beautiful and unspoilt - yet relatively little known - parts of the country: just the place for couples ‘seeking a short getaway from it all experience’.
Emphatically not for ‘family weekends’ (bookings are not accepted for children under 12), it’s an unusual, very comfortable, beautifully designed and decorated, country house with mountain views across the famously scenic ‘Vee’, and lovely gardens which are gradually being developed and extended to provide as much home produce as possible for Dermot’s kitchen, and as an interesting amenity for guests.
A lofty double drawing room with large windows and a mixture of antiques and stylish modern furnishings makes a relaxing reception area, and the spacious, airy restaurant has retained stained glass windows from its previous life.
An unusual setting, for an exceptional meal: only a 9-course Tasting Menu is offered, plus an optional cheese platter of seven Irish cheeses with Traas Farm fruit and plum jam. Ingredients are hoem grown or sourced locally (and organic) whenever possible and the cooking is stunningly accurate - and everything is perfectly seasoned: there is no cheffy arrogance here and a (tiny) salt and pepper set is offered on tables, but Dermot has such a sure palate that it will almost certainly be unnecessary to use it.
Many diners maybe wary of the Tasting Menu, but servings are well-judged. It certainly isn’t a marathon, yet could never be described as ‘grudging’ or ‘mean’ - and, in deference to Irish taste, the meat course is very generous indeed.
Menus change daily and, although personal preferences maymean that you will enjoy some even better than others, it is an ideal arrangement for guests staying for several nights. And it offers exceptional value for a meal of this quality: skilfully cooked, generous and beautifully presented.
Seats 50; children over 12 years welcome; D Thu-Sat (& Bank Hol Sun); set 8 course gourmet D €65. House wine from €24. SC 10% on groups 6+.
The bedrooms, all individually styled, are sumptuously appointed and have wonderful views; bathrooms are also stylishly appointed, and have separate bath and shower.
Although tea and coffee-making facilities are not provided in bedrooms, this is a very guest-focused place and a special area has been set aside on the first floor landing where guests can help themselves to all sorts of things from hot and cold drinks to DVDs.
This is a lovely place that is definitely ‘itself’ - and you could very quickly become extremely fond of it; everything Christine and Dermot do at The Old Convent is not just done superbly well, but done differently - the wonderful breakfast that is a further treat in store for overnight guests, for example, begins with a beautiful Old Convent ‘martini’ with fruit, yogurt, honey & toasted pistachios, presented to your table in a martini glass on arrival - delightful; and everything that follows is equally special, including brown bread and beer bread baked in the Aga, Ballybrado eggs and Graham Roberts’ organic smoked salmon.
*Old Convent was selected for our Irish Breakfast Award in 2008 (country house category).