Discerning diners are always interested to know where their food comes from, and what could be more delightful than taking a stroll around the garden where it was growing just hours - or minutes - before it landed on your plate. More and more restaurants are taking ownership of their fresh produce supplies now, and these are just some of the most interesting kitchen gardens.

Marlfield House & The Duck Terrace Restaurant & Café
Gorey, Co Wexford

Marlfield House & The Duck Terrace Restaurant & Café The Bowe family’s beautiful and famously luxurious country house outside Gorey remains the elegant oasis of unashamed luxury that it always has been since Mary and Ray Bowe opened it as a hotel in 1978. But, under the management of their daughters, Margaret and Laura Bowe (two chips off the old block, both born with the hospitality gene in fine fettle and very high quality threshholds…) there have been some interesting developments of late, in some really lovely restored buildings in a courtyard beside the main house. Here, a series of disused areas including a coach house, potting shed and gardener’s tool shed have been very attractively developed to create The Duck. This informal restaurant and café has a large terrace and overlooks the fine kitchen gardens that have for many years inspired proudly seasonal menus and given pleasure to diners in the graceful restaurant in the main house (as they still do). Now diners at The Duck can also enjoy them, but in a much more up close and personal way, as the terrace is right alongside the kitchen garden and diners love to wander around there after eating. A magic spot on a fine day.


Hunter’s Hotel
Rathnew, Co Wicklow

Hunters HotelSet in lovely gardens alongside the River Vartry, this much-loved hotel is one of Ireland’s oldest coaching inns. It’s run by fifth generation brothers, Richard and Tom Gelletlie, who offer old-fashioned comfort and food based on local and home-grown produce. There’s a proper little bar and a traditional dining room with white-clothed tables, overlooking the beautiful garden where their famous afternoon tea is served in summer. A recent lunch in the sweet peas scented dining room reminded us of how special it is - completely unpretentious and comfortable with itself, and every member of staff focused on ensuring that everything is right for guests. There are fresh garden flowers everywhere - even in each toilet cubicle - and a wander around the large and productive kitchen garden (complete with a very convincing scarecrow) is a joy. May it never change.


The Mustard Seed
Ballingarry, Co Limerick

The Mustard SeedDan Mullane’s wonderful small country house hotel and restaurant, The Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge, is a very special and hospitable Victorian country residence set on seven acres of lovely gardens - including the organic kitchen garden and orchard that supply a wide range of seasonal produce to an outstanding kitchen. The productive gardens are laid out on a gently sloping site at the back of the house and are quite extensive, making an interesting place for an enjoyable early morning ramble or after dinner stroll. It’s hard to believe that so much produce - especially the orchard fruits - can be used in the kitchens, but everything is picked at its peak on a daily basis in summer and autumn, mainly for immediate use in the restaurant and for preserving or, when there’s a glut, for processing quickly to freeze and use in the winter. There are chickens too (the hen run is well placed near the kitchen) and a large polytunnel for plants that need protection to do well. Fresh garden flowers are a lovely feature all around the house and the kitchen garden is attractively set up with flowers and edible plants mingling together. It’s a really lovely place to stay or eat and the gardens add greatly to the charm.


Glebe House Gardens
Baltimore, Co Cork

Glebe House GardensJean and Peter Perry’s wonderful gardens just outside Baltimore attract a growing number of visitors each year and they have a delightful café for those in need of a restorative daytime bite and it then becomes a restaurant on some evenings, for more serious dining. The four Perry sisters - Tessa, Keziah, JoJo and Mia - look after the food operations which, led by their own garden produce and the best that’s available locally from other artisans, farmers and fishermen, are a celebration of the seasons. They also have a shop - which, this year, has grown like topsy into a serious retail unit where they sell their own foods, notably gorgeous baking and preserves, and other local artisan products. Self-catering holidaymakers will also be pleased to find that the Perry sisters’ delicious food can be pre-ordered to take away.


Ballymaloe House
Shanagarry, Co Cork

Ballymaloe House - Herb GardenHow could any selection of Irish restaurants with kitchen gardens stand up without including Ballymaloe, where Myrtle and her husband, the late Ivan Allen, opened The Yeats Room restaurant in 1964 - and Myrtle began the gradual process of re-establishing the value of home produced and local foods for Irish cooks, shoppers and diners. Strangely, there are those who would say that the cooking is ‘too homely’, but there are few greater pleasures than a fine Ballymaloe dinner followed by a good night’s sleep in one of their thoughtfully furnished country bedrooms. The kitchens here, and at the lovely little Ballymaloe Shop Café - and at Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery School, nearby - are all supplied mainly by their own gardens and farms. Of particular interest is the series of inter-related gardens at the cookery school. Not all of these beautiful gardens are productive but several of them are - an Ornamental Fruit Garden, a Kitchen Potager, a Herb Garden and a Soft Fruit Garden - and the whole garden project is very special. Garden courses and workshops are offered, also Garden Tours, which include a walk on the school’s hundred acre organic farm. It is a unique place and Ballymaloe is a must visit for anyone with an interest in sustainable food production, gardening - or simply eating well.


Restaurant FortyOne at Residence
St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2

Restaurant FortyOne at Residence - Kitchen GardenThere is something especially appealing about a city restaurant that nails its colours to the mast of food provenance by investing the time, money and dedication that is needed to provide at least some of their own seasonal produce. A number of Dublin restaurants do it (at least one is on a city rooftop) but few can rival Chef Graham Neville’s commitment to producing food for the kitchen at Restaurant FortyOne, where he is renowned for showcasing seasonal Irish produce in his exquisite modern classical cooking. Although a relative newcomer to hands-on gardening, Graham has always had a strong food sourcing ethos, and the logical result is the walled organic garden at Kenagh Hill in Killiney where, along with gardener Kieron Lacey, he is fortunate enough to be able to grow for the restaurant. Lucky diners reap the benefits of the extra flavour and texture that exceptional freshness brings - and Graham is a classically trained chef with a deep respect for his produce, so he is no danger of masking its natural qualities with too much fancy trickery. A visit to this elegant special occasion destination (The Guide’s Restaurant of the Year 2012) is always a treat.


Rathmullan House
Rathmullan, Co Donegal

Rathmullan House - gardenSet in lovely gardens on the shores of Lough Swilly the Wheeler family’s gracious nineteenth century house is a partner hospitality provider to the Donegal Garden trail ( It has a special laid-back holiday charm - and has become a must-visit destination for food lovers thanks to the commitment to top quality home produced food that has been a special feature ever since Bob and Robin Wheeler opened the house as an hotel in 1962. The kitchen garden, good cooking and the restaurant experience have always been at the heart of the house and Bob - who is still a keen gardener (and chief marmalade maker) was instrumental in the restoration of the wonderful Victorian Walled Garden, which is kept immaculately. It produces an exceptionally impressive selection of fruit (soft and tree fruits), vegetables and herbs, all of which contributes to the exceptional upbeat traditional food experience at Rathmullan House and is a lovely place to visit. In fine weather, a couple of tables in the corner nearest the house allow guests to drink in the atmosphere over a leisurely coffee.


Harry’s Bar & Restaurant
Bridgend Co Donegal

Thanks to the dedication and drive of Donal Doherty, who owns this now legendary business on the edge of the Inishowen Peninsula with his brother Kevin and has a real passion for the food of the area, there is a total dedication to showcasing local produce at Harrys - and the quality of both food and cooking has earned them a national reputation and inspired many others. One of the first to understand the value of keeping food local, Donal - winner of the Bord Bia ‘Just Ask !’ Restaurant of the Year Award in 2011 and also a dab hand at the social media - likes nothing better than Shouting About Great Inishowen Produce. And, for the last few years that enthusiasm has focused especially on a restored walled garden nearby at Burt, where gardener Noel Doherty grows fresh produce especially for the restaurant - and the newer Harry’s Shack, at Portstewart Working with whatever is at its best each day is a challenge for a chef used to placing daily orders, but Derek Creagh, who oversees both kitchens, finds that it brings excitement to the daily menus and suits their informal style of cooking that is notable for its immediacy, simplicity and great flavour - and there’s no doubting that people like him are cooking some of the best food in Ireland today.


Coopershill House
Riverstown, Co Sligo

Undoubtedly one of the most delightful and superbly comfortable Georgian houses in Ireland, this sturdy granite mansion is a warm and friendly place under the management of Simon O’Hara, who runs it with the seamless hospitality born of long family experience. Rooms are sumptuous and, in keeping with a holistic philosophy that permeates all aspects of the business, everything to do with the food experience is very special. There aren’t many places where you’ll find home-produced venison on the dinner menu, for example, but the fallow deer farm that visitors pass on the driveway up to the house provides meat for the kitchen as well as restaurants and some speciality shops. Delicious meals cooked up by Simon’s partner, Christina McCauley, also include seasonal home grown fruit and vegetables, all produced in a beautifully maintained kitchen garden behind the house that is a delight to the eye as well as promising to the taste buds. It all makes for a particularly perfect country house - and, at breakfast, you can even watch some very well fed red squirrels scampering around outside. Magic.


Dunbrody House
Arthurstown Co Wexford

Celebrated chef Kevin Dundon and his wife Catherine’s elegant Georgian manor is a tranquil and luxurious retreat set in parkland and gardens on the Hook Peninsula, just across the estuary from Waterford city. Converted outbuildings house what must be Ireland’s most stylish cookery school, with a beautiful spa beside it, and it’s also one of the country’s top dining destinations. Whether formally in The Harvest Room, informally at the stylish Dundon’s Champagne Seafood Bar & Terrace, or casually in the atmospheric ‘Local Pub’ that Kevin has successfully developed in outbuildings near his microbrewery and the new ABC (Arthurstown Brewing Company) Brewery, you can be sure of eating well at Dunbrody. And one of the reasons for that lies in the grounds, where you’ll find a large and ambitiously planned kitchen garden, capable of producing a significant amount of produce for the hotel’s kitchen, also free range eggs and pork - while large wooden frames set up beside the polytunnels are destined to support hops, a fast-growing crop that, together with the grains grown nearby, will ensure the ABC beers are truly local products. 


Belleek Castle
Ballina Co Mayo

Situated just outside Ballina amidst 1,000 acres of woodland and forestry, on the banks of the River Moy, Paul Doran’s castle was the ancestral home of the Earl of Arran and, with a 16th century armoury, big open fires, quirky Armada Bar and massive chandeliers, it now makes an unusual small hotel. It manages to combine old world charm with modern comforts - and, while atmospheric, the candlelit restaurant offers much more than character: Head Chef Stephen Lenahan’s faultless cooking has made this an impressive dining destination and his commitment to using seasonal local foods and supporting local suppliers earned the ‘Just Ask!’Restaurant of the Year title for the Castle in 2014. Stephen’s enthusiasm for keeping it local extends to the Castle’s back garden, where he is developing a kitchen garden which includes the neatest polytunnel you’re ever likely to come across as well as an area for outdoor crops. While not very extensive yet, this is a work in progress and the plan is to extend it gradually and keep on top of it. The interesting thing is that Stephen has found it has transformed the everyday work for his chef team, who have enthusiastically engaged with the garden project - all of which is good news for guests as well, of course.  


The Moody Boar
Armagh, Co Armagh

We used to enjoy visiting Sean and Ramune Farnan at their first restaurant The Priory, in Benburb Co Tyrone, which they opened in 2007 - and, having moved to Armagh, the picturesque Palace Stables Heritage Centre in this much improved city now provides a great setting for Sean’s delicious food, which is always based on their holistic philosophy for ‘sustainability, value, local produce and, most of all, flavour’. Original, unpretentious, tasty and fresh - and obviously cooked by one who loves food - a meal here is also very good value. Sean and Ramune like to give their food a sense of place by using foraged ingredients from the park, and home grown herbs and vegetables. You’ll notice the kitchen garden in a sloping site just before you go under the arch and into the stable yard - it’s not exactly a manicured show garden, rather a wacky but productive site where they manage to grow creditable quantities of seasonal fruit and vegetables, including strawberries, beans and other greens, onions, courgettes and herbs. Not bad for a bit of spare ground, and it says a lot about their way of thinking.  

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