A Living Historic Hotel in Royal County Meath in the heart of Ireland
I had been dying for a return visit to Tankardstown House for some time but didn’t expect to be heading there on the rainiest of the year during the annual November floods which are the norm now. I was lucky not to have had to resort to a tow out of flood waters by a local farmer. I was therefore pleasantly surprised at how quickly I relaxed on arrival. Not sure which particular aspect did it; more likely to have been a combination of admiring the wonderful walled garden, complete with stunning wrought iron gate; the flagstone walk around the cottage courtyard or the Village Garden where the gourmet Brabazon Restaurant and the quaint Cellar Bistro are located. It might even have been the signage; particularly the one directing guests to use the cute custom made wheelbarrow luggage transporters. They brought a smile to my face.
Tankardstown House and Estate (it is worth mentioning that the 18th century Manor House nestles in 100 acres of lush Meath pastureland) is situated about 4 miles from Slane, Co. Meath, off the R163 road between Slane and Navan. This is an area of archaeological wonders with Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth all nearby. I had visited and dined in Tankardstown in the early days of its restoration. The fascinating thing about Tankardstown is the owner’s foresight and excellence at devising new and exciting elements to the property. Every time I visited there was something new to see and every attractive restoration or addition was all executed with flair by the owner Trish Conway. The Orangery, where functions (mainly weddings) are housed is an extremely clever architectural addition to this historic house and is totally in keeping with its surrounds.
For this visit I was staying in the Library Suite and gosh what a treat this was. The bed was dressed for royalty and I certainly enjoyed being pampered in the room. There was a Nespresso coffee machine – but sadly no George Clooney in sight. The bathroom was sublime with a free standing approx. 6ft x 6ft glass shower room right in the middle of the bathroom. One often hears the word ‘bespoke’ – an overused word that never lives up to one’s expectations. Well my bathroom was bespoke in the true sense of the word. As it got dark early I decided to close the curtains myself and the quality of material is not what you would normally see in any hotel; the feel of the fabric was out of this world. When I did retire much later I noticed that the room was prepared for me to fall into the bed and all the shutters had been closed. Apologies to the housekeeper who probably spent ages re-arranging the curtains! Having dressed for dinner I made my way to the front of the House for an aperitif. All of the three drawings were so enticing. I visited all the rooms at least twice before finally deciding where I should settle and make a vain attempt at the Crossaire. This was a hard choice and made more difficult as all the rooms and corridors had cute candle lights and everywhere was so inviting. When the Receptionist noticed one candle from among at least 40 candles had gone out she replaced it with the comment ‘I always check them every 15 minutes or so as a spent candle is worse than not having any’. I liked that attitude very much. Unfortunately my stunning surroundings failed to ignite my thinking process sufficiently to make a reasonable effort at the crossword solutions so I resorted to an aperitif in the Honour Bar, which was much more satisfying.
Thankfully I had only a light lunch as I dined on 10 courses from the Tasting Menu in the Brabazon Restaurant that evening. Everything was perfection and each course was more sumptuous than the next. It wasn’t a meal as such but a feast. I still cannot decide which was my favourite course – maybe the egg cooked at 61ᴼ for 40 minutes! Suffice to say that I fell into interesting company where entertaining thoughts were shared on solving Ireland’s entire problems. Trish’s dedicated staff colleagues contribute hugely to the success of Tankardstown and there is a strong team ethos that is rarely found in the hospitality sector.
Breakfast next morning was served in the Brabazon Restaurant, which was transformed from a fine dining evening restaurant to a more daytime space. My favourite part of this meal was watching guests enjoying themselves using the electric juicer. It is a sign of excellent hospitality when one can wax eloquently about breads and Tankardstown’s breads were freshly baked earlier that day. So many places fall down at breakfast and after all it is the meal that sustains you for the day ahead.
As I drove down the elegant driveway of this elegant Country House Hotel with mature trees on either side I knew for sure that I wasn’t going to leave it that long until my next visit. Knowing how involved the owners are I expect they are already concocting some new initiatives that will have a wow factor and I want to be the first to see them.