In Drogheda town centre, just a hundred yards or so up from the landmark St Lawrence’s Gate, Martin and Patricia McGowan’s small hotel is a 19th century double-fronted redbrick building and, with its broad stone steps leading up to the front door, bustling friendly staff and a sense of individuality, it creates a good impression from the outset.
The site isn’t huge, but well-tended gardens and a gravelled carpark open up off the street to create a sense of space, and - although Patricia says (with justification) that they see it more as a restaurant with rooms - there’s a pleasant country house feeling about it, with fires (albeit gas), wood panelling and gilt framed pictures.
The whole of the ground floor is dedicated to the business of eating and drinking in comfort, with a large formally appointed restaurant taking up one end and, at the other, a bar with a nice old-fashioned atmosphere and several adjoining rooms where daytime food and evening meals are served.
It’s a listed building and, while that brings the charm of historical details such as stained glass windows, it has restricted the modernisation of bedrooms, which are necessarily compact with room for only a shower in almost all rooms (just three have a full bath).
But careful thought has gone into creating the best use of space and Patricia sensibly opted for attractively simple, uncluttered schemes which put comfort and practicality before fancy décor.
You’ll find everything you need, including tea & coffee making, hairdryer and internet access – although popular for weddings, this is also a good choice for midweek business guests.
Rooms 16 (1 family, 14 shower only, 2 single, 1 disabled). B&B €40pps, single €65.
Ceiling frescoes and murals depicting the Battle of the Boyne set the tone of this large oak-panelled room, which is set up smartly with linen-clad tables and gleaming glasses.
A consistently high standard makes this a busy dining destination - prices are realistically moderate, but there are no short cuts in quality.
Chef Michael Hunter, formerly at Dublin's acclaimed L’Ecrivain, has been upping the game recently at this quietly excellent food destination. Not one for sitting in an office and ordering on the phone or online, he goes out and visits local producers such as Brendan Guinan’s well known In Season Farm (producers of specialist vegetables for restaurants), and the McNeece family’s Boyne Grove Fruit Farm (producers of apples, Dan Kelly's cider and other apple products) and his cooking also reflects an interest in the wild foods of the area.
Given the attention given to careful sourcing of ingredients, it should be no surprise that the key USP of his carefully cooked and simply presented food is its flavour. Everything is made from scratch in house, including all the stocks and sauces, as well as breads and desserts (do save some space for some moreish homemade ice cream). And, true to the ethos of this well-run hotel, watchful, well-trained staff provide efficient service even when under pressure.
An informative wine list reflects the hotel’s popularity as a wedding venue (more bubblies than half bottles) and, although representing the major areas, leans towards the old world, especially France.
At busy times overflow tables are set up in the bar – the 'Gastrolounge'; complete with crisp white linen, fresh flowers and attentive service, this is no hardship.
Gourmet evenings are a regular feature.