three sustainable Irish food getaways
Ireland’s food and beverage scene has never been so local. But nowadays there are a number of kitchen accommodation that take their sustainability to the next level, not only by supporting many hyper-local producers, but also by growing much of their fresh produce on-site. Avocados are out – menu staples that enjoy the Irish climate, such as raspberry happiness berries, rainbow chard, and flavorful parsnips, are very present.
And so enter the Wicklow Escape, the latest member of the Blue Book of Ireland. Formerly known as The Elbow Room, last summer Owner Lisa Wilkenson partnered with Michelin Executive Chef Danni Barry to create the ultimate dining getaway. Located in the heart of the Wicklow Mountains, I arrived at the door of his chalet last month to experience what is billed as the ultimate forest break for foodies.
I am guided by host Christoph to my deluxe room, which is located in a courtyard terrace of garden pavilions flanking the main chalet. There is a lush but earthy simplicity to its decor that includes handmade furniture, a signature cloud bed (which a growing guest list has already ordered), handcrafted coffee from pottery mugs made on place and bathroom products from Irish company Mise, comprising nothing less than organic body butter. I’m already hungry when I approach the shower!
It is a haven of peace even if the voluntary absence of television or radio with the serenity of the place requires a little sound from neighboring rooms. The room also looks a bit more compact than it perhaps is, as with the exception of the main door, there is no natural light coming through. But somehow it almost completes the feeling of a culinary retreat I’m about to indulge in here.
Winter feasts take place in the wonderfully ambient Long Hall Dining Room at Wicklow Escape; magically staged with the seasons thanks to its own interior designer. I enjoy Danni Barry’s five-course dining experience, which focuses on local, sustainable (and quite exceptional) dishes. It starts with an organic dried Kilkenny trout pastry pie infused with beetroot and served with unfiltered Italian sparkling wine.
We’re just down to canapes and I’m already running out of superlatives. This is followed by a plate of turbot with bone broth and celeriac accompanied by a creamy, dreamy chardonnay, while my main course is the best venison I have ever had, served with grilled garden cabbage. , a creamy mash and a Tuscan Montepulciano with brambles. Dessert is a deep-tasting cup of caramel with a white froth, boldly paired with fresh sherry, while a final homemade orange truffle creates the last flavor bomb of the evening.
Cradled in a trippy food coma, you’d wonder how you could top this incredible experience – but the Wicklow Escape has a few surprises up its durable sleeves, including its wood-fired hot tub that I booked late at night for. And so, after a quick change in my fluffy robe, I walk up the wooded path to the barrel hot tub, gazing at a starry night of Wicklow Mountain above me. It’s an amazing natural escape, just me in the middle of the deer. But is it too early to dream of breakfast?
The next morning this brunch is served with wonderfully imaginative options including maple buttermilk pancakes, fruit compote and yogurt, and cinnamon French toast with caramelized organic apples, cream cheese. and walnut praline. There is no avocado toast in sight. I go for a pan of potato and spinach rosti with a hot shakshuka, with eggs swapped for halloumi. On a cool winter morning this is the most incredibly satisfying dish and one of the best breakfast dishes I have had in Ireland.
Given its scenic location, I couldn’t leave without a walk in the woods, so I ended my stay by exploring one of the trails surrounding the retreat. Climbing from the Escape through pure Irish Christmas tree country, I reach the fringes of Sugar Loaf Mountain. Wicklow’s escape? It is certainly a culinary paradise from another world.
Lisa Wilkinson has enchanted a true gem in the Wicklow Mountains that offers the most idyllic rustic ethics for those who love their food – and where it comes from.
At € 525 per night for an all-inclusive dining getaway, it’s a treat, but Danni Barry’s credentials shine through in the products and dishes on offer and it’s best viewed as a dining experience for the memory bank. That’s unless you’re tempted to go back.
One of my favorite hotels in Ireland, Gregans Castle in Ballvaughan carved its own farm-to-fork furrow long before it was all the rage. Located in the heart of the Burren, the property’s kitchen is run by Chef Robbie McCauley.
His team serves creative and modern dishes made with fresh produce from their organic garden as well as many local and artisan producers. Incredible dishes such as the Burren’s organic lamb and game, as well as fresh Atlantic fish and shellfish are frequently offered. You can also take advantage of the hotel’s fine wine list including many organic wines. Bed and breakfast from € 250
If you really love to see how your vegetable garden grows, the beautiful Cliff at Lyons in Kildare offers its patrons a truly immersive foodie experience.
Check in and enjoy a guided tour of the Aimsir farm and the property’s vegetable gardens, where you will learn all about the polytunnels and vegetable gardens in this horticultural paradise. Then, enjoy an assortment of snacks at its two-Michelin-starred restaurant.
The Aimsir Farm Experience includes an overnight stay in a guesthouse, a two-hour chat and walk on the farm, an Aimsir cocktail, a charcuterie board and a three-course dinner at The Mill Restaurant.
From 280 € pps