Weekend break: Marlfield House

From its peacock named George and Jasper the dog, Marlfield House was never going to be a run of the mill weekend break. No wonder it was voted one of the places in Ireland to stay, writes Louise O’Neill

“What should I call you?” I asked my travel companion as we made our way to Marlfield House, a regency style country manor in county Wexford. She looked confused. “You know, in my article.”I explained.

“AA Gill used to refer to his partner as The Blonde in his columns. That might work for you too.” After a few.... helpful suggestions (Another Author? The Best Person You Know? The Chosen One?) we decided to call her ‘Catherine’.

So, Catherine and I finally arrived at Marlfield House, both sighing with admiration as we walked up the tree lined drive and saw the hotel for the first time.

Coming through the front doors felt akin to entering a new world, one where everyone seemed delighted to see us, as if the staff had simply been whiling away their entire lives in wait for our arrival.

We were shown to our bedroom, a magnificent state room called the Georgian Room decorated in shades of red and gold with two huge French doors opening onto a lake and a wildfowl reserve.

“It’s like we’re in an Elizabeth Bowen book,” Catherine remarked as a peacock (we later discovered his name was George, naturally) strutted past the window.

After an afternoon tea of homemade scones and homemade jam and not-homemade Prosecco, Catherine and I took to the gardens to explore.

The house is set on forty acres of land, including a large kitchen garden from which most of the vegetables and herbs used in the food are grown, the lake reserve, and a rose lined tennis court hidden in a woodland trail where I sat and listened to Catherine outline a series of murder mystery novels set at Marlfield with the working title A Peacock Calls. (™ Catherine Doyle 2017)

For dinner that evening, we went to the Duck Restaurant, which is located in restored courtyard buildings in the back of Marlfield.

A bright, airy room, it was bustling with people, many of whom had presumably been drawn there by the restaurant’s recent win at the 2017 Georgina Campbell awards.

Catherine had smoked chicken breast on warm puy lentils to start, and the Hereford dry aged beef burger as her main, both of which she pronounced delicious. I had the seared Tuna Nicoise salad followed by a really quite impressive baked fillet of monkfish in an herb broth.

For dessert we had a lemon tart and a panna cotta with Not So Ugly cocktails (get it?), and were so comfortable that it took some time before we realised that we were the last two people in the place.

Apologizing profusely as we left, we were once again struck by how solicitous and accommodating all of the staff at Marlfield had been.

We were suspicious that this was due to us being from De Paper and only done in an nefarious attempt to elicit a good review but after careful observation we realised that the staff were similarly attentive to all other guests, ensuring a personal touch that makes Marlfield House particularly special.

The next morning after a weak shower (a small quibble but I think Marlfield needs better water pressure because I am a demanding Millennial and this is how I roll) Catherine and I went for breakfast.

I maintain that a hotel will live or die on its breakfast, and I wondered how Marlfield would measure up.

Catherine had smashed avocado and poached eggs on sourdough toast and I had creamy mushrooms and steamed spinach with poached eggs.

I’m not exaggerating when I say it was a religious experience and better than most breakfasts I’ve had in five star hotels.

My Kingdom for the recipe for homemade granola...

The rest of the day was spent sitting by the fire in the library, reading, and taking short naps (we are basically ninety year old women trapped in younger bodies) until it was time to eat again.

The second night’s dinner was in the beautiful Turner style Conservatory overlooking the garden, and while the six course meal was excellent – as could be expected from a restaurant that won the Best Hotel Restaurant award in 2015 – the atmosphere was slightly stilted due to Catherine and I being the only guests bar a married couple.

Marlfield has a limited amount of bedrooms – something that works in its favour during the day as the hotel never appears crowded, it almost feels as if the house is your own – but it did make the restaurant quiet.

The food more than made up for it, with a particular favourite being the asparagus starter which Catherine and I both had despite my protestations that we should order different items for ‘journalistic integrity.’

Catherine: You have something different then. I want the asparagus. Kids today. So ungrateful.

At breakfast the next day, I couldn’t resist ordering the same dish (Catherine: What about journalistic integrity? Me: Shut up.) before returning to our bedroom. We opened the French doors and sat on the steps in the sunshine, watching the ducks swimming on the lake as George the Peacock and Jasper the Dog stared at one another warily.

When noon approached, both of us were reluctant to leave, devising increasingly desperate plans to a)claim squatters’ rights or b)move into the tree-house we found on the grounds the day before.

It’s obvious to me why the Irish Times named Marlfield House as one of the 100 best places to stay in Ireland. It is utterly enchanting, full of character and charm that cannot be faked.

I am already planning my return visit.

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