We all have times when what’s really needed is a quiet couple of days pampering in a child-free zone need –for some this may mean a spa break but, for those in the know, a visit to Clogheen is the business.
Tellingly styled a ‘gourmet hideaway’, Dermot and Christine Gannon’s restaurant with accommodation is 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 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 is still complete with stained glass windows.
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 Trass Farm fruit and plum jam. Ingredients are sourced locally (and organic) when possible and, as anyone who has experienced a meal cooked by this talented chef will testify, 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 might be wary of the Tasting Menu, but servings are well-judged - it certainly isn’t a marathon and, on the other hand, could never be described as ‘grudging’ or ‘mean’; furthermore, in deference to Irish taste, the meat course is very generous indeed.
Menus change daily and, although personal preferences will mean that you enjoy some even better than others, it is an ideal arrangement for guests staying for several nights. And it is 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 they 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).