Where Contemporary meets Elegance
The Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge is one of those stylish classic Country Houses that makes you tingle with anticipation. There is always a buzz around Echo Lodge, plus a big helping of genuine hospitality. Here they could give lessons to other hospitality providers, such is the welcome. There is no cold formal ‘you are most welcome’ from John Edward Joyce and his team. John Edward took over the running of The Mustard Seed last year from its original owner, Dan Mullane. This passing of the baton was seamless, as one would have expected. Dan’s sister in law, Breda, still looks after reservations and reception and several other staff are very much fixtures so that there is a great feeling of continuity. The house just oozes charm without pretention. The décor and furnishings are an eclectic mix of antique and contemporary. Many glossy magazines have featured Echo Lodge, and its divine Mustard Seed restaurant over the years as a stand out Irish Country House with a very distinct personality. No guest ever leaves without being charmed. The atmosphere has a beneficial effect on even the crankiest of guests and filling them with great cheer (including me).
Echo Lodge (aka the Mustard Seed) is located adjacent to the traditional village of Ballingarry, off the N21, about 10 minutes drive from Adare, one of Ireland’s most photographed estate towns. As soon as you take the turn on the road to Ballingarry it is like one door closing and another opening; a touch of Alice in Wonderland. You are now transported to the core of the countryside. It is also not a million miles from Shannon airport so the perfect place for Americans who want to land themselves in an Irish heritage Country House for their Irish vacation. Every time I visit The Mustard Seed I always meet lovely people from all parts of Ireland as well as from foreign climes. You can choose whether to join in chatting with other guests or just stick your nose in a book without offending anybody. It’s that kind of place.
In the village there is an excellent playground, which on our visit there was well supported by over a dozen happy children playing away; safe in their surroundings. The village itself has a very authentic feel to it with just one new estate and thereby not having suffered the fate of so many small villages in the country which were overbuilt with vacant housing estates. Ballingarry is the template for the perfect countryside lifestyle with many archaeological sites nearby including the enchanting Lough Gur.
The Bedroom: There are 14 bedrooms and 3 suites in this perfectly proportioned Country House. On my latest visit I was accompanied by my daughter and two grandchildren. We were allocated the perfect family room; a room at the end of the corridor, where there were two bedrooms with bathroom in between. The children were over the moon with their little ‘alcove’ and we were delighted as well; separate and yet together! Also it meant that nobody was going to be disturbed by early rising little people. The furnishings in all the bedrooms is very original and eclectic. It is quite reminiscent of being at one of those auction houses where you can spend hours going around oohing and aahing at all kinds of unusual furniture and art work. The bathroom was spotlessly clean with very good quality toiletries and towels. It was in the category of a room with a personality – a rare commodity.
Public Rooms: Echo Lodge has a superb welcoming square front hall, complete with a cosy open fire with large mantelpiece, where there was a stunning floral decoration. The layout with sofas surrounding the fire beckons the traveller to relax. Just inside the front door is an imposing Bishop’s Chair – very suitable for a mother of the Bride holding court at a Wedding Reception. The Sun Room is another room for relaxation. I was so happy to see one of my favourite pieces still pride of place in the sun room; this was the fabulous chair with its upholstery decorated with Egyptian heads. I gather that it featured in a famous film, which I haven’t seen yet, but I am keeping my eyes peeled.
Another favourite place is the front library room where I immediately got distracted reading all kinds of interesting history books. The mantelpiece here is laden down with thank you cards from happy guests. I read several and was seriously impressed by the unprompted words reflecting happy memories from visitors.
Dinner: The décor in the dining room mirrors the vibrancy of the food served to guests. Here the dinner menu reflects what’s in season and also acknowledges the source of all the products. Whoever started this practice deserves a huge thanks as this has been an inspiration to all those involved in the Irish food industry. It has given a well deserved status to local produce and it is no wonder that our beef and lamb has such a massive reputation throughout the world. The herbs and vegetables all come from the well established and extensive gardens.
Another big treat is being able to get up the next morning (after a terrific night’s sleep) and forage in the chicken run to select an egg for breakfast. What a joy for a ‘townie’ from the Big Smoke!! On this occasion the grandchildren were the foragers who couldn’t wait to get out of bed and hare off to visit the hen house. Being too early they had to wait another short while before returning with their goodies – two lovely warm brown eggs. Back in the kitchen their eggs had their names written on them before being cooked for breakfast. You can be sure that they didn’t need too much encouragement to devour these delicious fresh organic eggs. When leaving The Mustard Seed Breda made sure to give us some freshly baked brown bread straight out of the oven. All I had to do now was tear myself away from one of those conversations with no full stops with John Edward where we had covered at least 20 topics of interest.
Having known John Edward as long as I knew Dan, the previous owner, I am positive that Echo Lodge will continue to be regarded as one of Ireland’s best loved country house hotels. A good hotel is one which ticks the boxes of essentials; but a great hotel is one that gives so much more and The Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge does this with outstanding finesse.