The Old Schoolhouse Inn

Drink & Eat & Stay

Restaurant with Rooms

2 euro For Cooking & Service Well Above Average Denotes genuine Irish food culture, ie special Irish food products/companies/producers, and highlights the best places to shop for regional and artisan foods; the selection excludes obvious 'non-Irish' elements regardless of quality, eg ethnic restaurants and specialists in coffee, wine and other drinks, unless relevant to local production or history. Eat & Stay establishments are chosen for their commitment to showcasing local produce and Irish hospitality. The "Best of the Best" - Only the very best establishments across various categories have been chosen for this accolade
The Old Schoolhouse Inn
100 Ballydrain Road, Castle Espie , Comber Co Down , BT23 6EA
Contact The Old Schoolhouse Inn
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Tel: +44 28 9754 1182

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Near the shores of Strangford Lough, the Old Schoolhouse Inn blends old-school charm with skilful modern cooking of local ingredients to create one of the North's hidden gems

The Old Schoolhouse Inn

Nestled in this attractive village near Strangford Lough this long established family business has recently been transformed into one of Norther Ireland's most desirable dining destinations.

Following nearly a decade spent honing his skills in some of London's best restaurants, talented chef Will Brown returned to take over the restaurant in 2012 and he has since earned an enviable following for his creative use of seasonal local ingredients, expressed through classic skills and modern cooking techniques.

From Claude Estate pigeon and Lissara chicken, to Glenarm salmon, Dexter beef and Gloucester Old Spot pork, the menu is packed full of local and speciality produce, with an emphasis on using every part of an ingredient on the plate.

Stand out dishes could include a starter of Clandeboye Estate wood pigeon which brings together a number of current themes in great colour, texture and flavour combinations (heritage pickled carrots, nibbed coco, ginger bread, quail egg, carrot and orange espuma, orange vinaigrette).

Similarly a richly flavoured main course of Lissara duck breast cooked in hay - a technique which may sound too trendy for its own good but actually works very well - which is given real depth by the accompanying croustillant of duck leg, and supporting characters of caramelised Roscoff onion, braised red cabbage, cherries, and jus gras; sophisticated and exquisitely presented, yet earthy too, this is as good a dish as you'll find on any menu in the country.

Unlike many other restaurants in the region, there's an emphasis on quality desserts that go beyond the usual suspects to be found on every menu. A chocolate plate, for example is a masterful dessert with a mix of foams, 'soils' and decadent chocolate. There are bold flavours on every plate, but managed so skilfully that they all work well together.

The wine list is limited but well chosen and a highlight is the service: friendly staff know their menu – explaining each dish in detail and able to answer any questions asked of them.

This is is not an inexpensive place to dine but, given the quality of the food, skilful cooking and attention to detail, the £45 Tasting Menu in particular is good value, especially as it includes not only a fine three course meal, but also all the trimmings - very good breads, an amuse bouche, a pre-dessert, cheese and petit fours.

Refurbishing the restaurant stylishly and yet quite informally has helped it to make a serious impact on the Northern Ireland dining scene - and the laid-back style was well chosen as Will Brown has ambitious plans to open a second, fine dining, restaurant with the present area then becoming The Schoolhouse Bistro.

Aiming to serve "an even wider range of great dishes but at local prices - from burgers and salads through to favourites like Strangford lough mussels and beef bourguignon",  The Bistro's signature dish is one that Will hopes everyone will want to try - a lobster hotdog! 

Seats 85 (private room, 45). D Thu-Sat, 6.30-9.30. Open all year.


Although, with the exception of recent additions such as flat screen television, the rooms are a little dated - as are the en-suite bathrooms - they are a good size and well maintained. Upsides include good lighting (a rarity worth mentioning) broadband and, most importantly, comfortable beds - so you should be sure of a good night's sleep.

And a good breakfast will start your day right too, with quality sausages and bacon especially noteworthy.

But the most outstanding feature of The Schoolhouse, in both the restaurant and accommodation, is the genuine hospitality. From the warm welcome on arrival - perhaps with the offer to light a fire on a chilly evening - to the favour of Abernethy Butter Fudge from nearby Dromara in your room, the small touches and friendliness of everyone towards guests makes this a place people want to return to.

Conference/banqueting (60/85). Rooms 8. Children welcome (under 2s free in parents' room, cots available without charge). Garden. Self Catering also available. abbreviations
Last Updated: 26-06-2014
Author: Georgina Campbell


Well sign posted from Comber village - 3 miles south, 1 mile past Castle Espie on left.

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