Sunday, May 18, 2014

[Review] The Step House Hotel, Borris, Co Carlow

Something miraculous happens in Ireland when the sun shines. Our collective mood lifts, farmers start to haul machinery and round silage bales and the perfume of forced BBQs rises from suburbia. After all, Irish people are natural weather skeptics and we firmly believe in the adage of making hay while the sun shines. After all, it could be hailstones and business as usual again tomorrow.

Getting out of Dublin on a sunny Friday evening would test the patience of a saint, but the promise of weekend sunshine does much to temper the experience. We were heading south to Borris in Co Carlow, where we would be the guests of the Step House Hotel for their "Taste of Friday - Dine & Stay" offer. It's easy to find the Step House (it's located right on the main street after all) and we were soon parked outside. 

One warm welcome later, we were checked in and given our directions for the night. Upstairs, our elegant bedroom was large with diffused sunshine flooding in from outside. The best part though was the Juliet large balcony outside with views over the garden and surrounding countryside. With nothing but blue skies in sight, you could pretend that you were in some magnificent palazzo in Italy. All that was missing was a bottle of something cold and bubbly. 
Our spacious and elegant bedroom
View from our room's balcony
As part of the dinner experience, guests are invited down to the richly decorated and luxurious Cocktail Lounge for an aperitif prior to being seated in The Cellar dining room. As some guests were running a little late, this gave us time to have an extra aperitif (or two) in the sunshine.
Beautiful interior at the Step House
The Cocktail Lounge
Aperitif to start the Friday relaxation
Downstairs in the comfortable and calm Cellar restaurant (formerly known as Reubens), we started with a basket of warm breads. Vibrantly coloured curry and apricot loaf was the clear winner amongst a selection of excellent and crusty breads. Bonus marks for softened, salted butter.
Bread basket
The kitchen at family-owned The Step House hotel is manned by head chef Alan Foley. Not only is he the son of the owners, but he has an impressive CV with time spent at Peacock Alley, Sheen Falls Lodge and Chapter One. Alan's 6 course tasting menu incorporates local ingredients, organic where possible and features lamb from the town, Tamworth pig from Ballon and produce from the Goresbridge Community Garden. The menu costs €50 per head, or €70 with wine pairings. On our visit, we dined from the following menu. 

Kilmore cod with clams, mussels and wild garlic leaf
2012 Pazo Barrantes Albariño (Spain)
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Local lamb shoulder with fresh peas, broad beans and home made mint jelly
2006 Pezat Bordeaux Superieur (France)
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Lobster with bell pepper, basil and asparagus
2010 Trimbach Reserve Riesling (France)
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Tom Salter's free range pork with artichoke and sage gnocchi
2008 Walnut Block Pinot Noir (New Zealand)
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Triskel cheese with organic beetroot, walnut and brioche
2012 Hunter's Estate Sauvignon Blanc (New Zealand)
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Gariguette strawberries and consommé
Cá Masetti rosé prosecco frizzante (Italy)
Kilmore cod with mussels and clams
Local lamb shoulder with peas and broad beans
Lobster with bell pepper
Tom Salter's free range pork
Triskel cheese with beetroot and walnut
Strawberries and consommé
The evening sunshine moved through the room, settling eventually into lantern-lit nighttime as we worked our way through the courses. As the entire room was dining off the tasting menu, we were all served in sequence. At times the timing of the service didn't feel smooth, but the generous glasses of accompanying wines and the extremely friendly staff did much to keep the atmosphere convivial. We each found particular favourites amongst the dishes - the cod for him, the cold lobster for me. But we could both agree that the entire experience, starting with prosecco cocktails and finishing with strawberries was superb. 

After dinner we took a little nighttime stroll around the quiet streets of Borris to help counteract some of the meal. Before going to bed, I sat outside on our Juliet balcony in the cool air, enjoying the quiet of the countryside. As I sat there, I could see the staff members finishing up and heading to their cars. In fact, many of the staff are local, making the team feel more like a family.
Full Irish breakfast
The next morning, as we descended for breakfast, we could see that the fire was already lit in the main foyer. I was quickly learning to expect this attention to detail from the Step House where everything is, frankly, immaculate. Drapes are fluffed, freshly cut flowers fill vases and the entire place gleams. Our breakfast consists of a selection of fruit and cereals served in large Nicholas Mosse bowls with the option of a full Irish available (if you still have some room left over from the night before).

Stitch and Bear were invited guests at the Step House Hotel, where our stay was complimentary. As always, my opinion is 100% my own. The real question to be asked is if I would spend my own money to eat and stay at the Step House. The answer is a resounding YES. It's utterly charming with beautiful decor, local staff, fine dining and just a bit over an hour from Dublin. It's a perfect getaway.

The Taste of Friday offer runs on selected Fridays and costs from €100 per person sharing including champagne reception, dinner and overnight stay. 

The Step House Hotel, Main Street, Borris, Co Carlow
Tel: +353 (0)59 977 3209
URL: www.stephousehotel.ie
Twitter: @Stephousehotel

Rubens @ Step House Hotel on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Colette said...

Looks like a wonderful place to stay, and eat, Joanne. We love "hidden gems" like this one. Great photos and description of your stay :)