James and Cait Coady's lovely old house on the main street of this pretty village had already offered some of the area's most appealing accommodation for many years before the major redevelopment which took in the family pub next door (in the Coady family for 5 generations), and became The Step House Hotel.
Cait has always had a good eye for interior design and the new hotel is stylishly decorated and furnished in upbeat period style, with a mixture of antiques and more contemporary touches.
An impressive foyer sets the tone for handsome public areas that include a fine bar, 1808, (where excellent informal meals are served) with attractive terrace, and The Garden Room, a fine banqueting room that opens onto a landscaped garden and can also used at busy restaurant times, perhaps including Sunday lunch.
Comfortable, very spacious bedrooms are elegantly furnished and include some with four-posters - all are furnished to a high standard with amenities including flat screen TV, tea/coffee facilities and lovely bathrooms with separate bath and shower; one room even has two bathrooms, one of which is suitable for wheelchairs.
The thoughtful redevelopment of this fine old house is a great credit to the Coadys - who also own one of Ireland's finest classic pubs, Tynans Bridge Bar, in Kilkenny city.
Conferences/Banqueting (200/180); secretarial services; free broadband wi/fi; meeting rooms.
Rooms 20 (1 suite, 2 junior suites, 2 family rooms, 1 disabled, all no-smoking). B&B from about €75pps, ss €10. Children welcome (under 8s free in parents room, cot available free of charge, baby sitting arranged, playground). Pets permitted in some areas by arrangement. Fishing, walking, garden. Closed 25 Dec, 9-26 Jan.
The Cellar Restaurant:
The restaurant is in the kitchens of the old house and, spread through small interconnected rooms with archways and vaulted ceilings, it has great character and a sense of privacy.
With natural lighting, sage green carpet, off white walls, and grape & vine stencils, it is a really pleasant space – and tables are promisingly set up with crisp white linen, smart tableware and fresh flowers.
Head chef Alan Foley, formerly at Dublin’s Chapter One restaurant, brings to this kitchen a philosophy of using the best local ingredients, organic where possible, in his classical cooking. His menus are short but full of interesting dishes, which are not only very well conceived and delivered, but based on top quality local ingredients including Tamworth pig and free range chicken (both from Ballon) and Borris lamb - which is bought whole from local farmers.
You might start with pan seared Kilmore Quay scallops with handmade taglini, confit tomato, and squid ink, for example, or a delicious ballotine of salmon with beetroot sorbet, mustard cream, followed perhaps by a tasting of Tamworth pig, or game such as wild red deer in season - all perfectly cooked and with carefully selected seasonal accompaniments.
The dessert selection is likely to showcase fruits in season, and there is a good Irish farmhouse cheese plate, served with apple relish.
The experience overall is sure to be most enjoyable, enhanced by well-trained staff with a good knowledge of the menu and the short but well-chosen wine list.