At The Europe Hotel, you’re paying for the view. And it doesn’t disappoint, says John O’Mahony.
AS a parent, I’m grappling with the harsh realisation that our two boys are no longer wedded to the notion that their father is cool.
To be honest, that foundation was shaky enough to begin with, but in recent months it has begun to crumble even further as they tiptoe towards their teenage years.
Cool has been replaced by slight embarrassment, mild amusement, and a pinch of indifference.
It’s now a given that they’d rather spend time out in the park with their buddies than in the company of their parents — a point reiterated by my eldest and as we headed for the county bounds on our way to the Europe Hotel in Killarney.
“What time will we be back?” he grumbled from the back seat, oblivious to the fact that we hadn’t even begun to arrive and in no way placated by the splendour that awaited.
Disillusioned further by the fact that we would be gone for two nights, he volunteered that “anyway, we go away too often” — which was news to his parents.
Thankfully, any further revolt dissolved as soon we drove through the front gates of the Europe — it has that calming effect.
It’s the kind of place you park the mundane along with the car for a few days, knowing full well you’re in safe hands.
To me, the secret of the success of the Europe is that you always feel at home; never uncomfortable; never out of place, regardless of how sumptuous the surroundings.
After checking in, we made our way to our Lakeview rooms on the fourth floor.
All the rooms have recently been refurbished and ours were very spacious, bright, with king and twin beds, wifi, satellite TV, and minibar.
But to be honest, up here you’re paying for the view, and it doesn’t disappoint.
Walk out onto the private, spacious balcony overlooking the sculptured grounds that slope gently down to the shores of Lough Lein and you see what all the fuss is about.
After dropping the bags, it was time for lunch. There are a few options to choose from.
The Brasserie, which is just off the main reception area and boasts a terrace overlooking the lake, is open from 11am to 11pm.
It’s perfect for something light, or less formal, in the evening and great if you have kids.
They don’t take bookings, so it’s a good idea to check the waiting list if the hotel is busy.
If you do go, you must try the braised beef in red wine —creamed mashed potato to die for.
The Spa Cafe (below) is also a good option, quieter than the Brasserie and away from the hustle and bustle of upstairs, it offers some healthier options, again with spectacular views over the hotel grounds.
For something a bit more relaxed, you try the beautifully adorned lounge area off the main bar.
Again, we chose the Brasserie.
Fully fortified, we headed to the tennis courts for a family knock-about (thankfully there was no-one else there) before retiring for a drink and a catch-up with Tom behind the bar on the state of Kerry football (not too good this year, if anyone is interested).
The hotel offers an array of indoor and outdoor activities, including horse-riding, fishing, walking, hiking, cycling, paint- balling, and with the world-famous Killarney Golf Club literally just over the fence, an ideal opportunity for that long-promised 18-holes.
On Saturday, we awoke to the kind of morning you associate with a holiday brochure — blue skies, not a ripple on the lake, and wood pigeons in full voice.
We headed for breakfast in the Panoramic Restaurant, with a mouth-watering buffet-style spread to cater for all tastes.
Afterwards we convinced the lads to go for a walk. Again, you’re spoilt for choice.
Just outside the entrance of the hotel, there is a lovely marked walking and cycling path that snakes its way along the outskirts of Killarney Golf Club, through the woods all the way into Ross Castle, just over 5km each way.
When we got back, it was straight to the pool — the highlight of any visit.
ESPA at the Europe, billed as one of the most luxurious spas in the country, is spread over two levels.
The active level boasts two pools, a fitness studio, and thermal suite which includes a salt water pool, sauna, steam room, ice fountain and relaxation areas, again overlooking the stunning hotel grounds.
It’s one of those ‘because you’re worth it’ destinations, Mom in a lounge chair, boys in the pool, Dad in the sauna.
Then everyone outside in the heated vitality pool staring up at the McGillycuddy Reeks.
For those who like their relaxation a little more pampered, ESPA boasts 16 individual treatment rooms; two express beauty suites, private spa, manicure and pedicure thrones, and a make-up counter.
That evening we were back in the Panorama Restaurant for dinner, eager to try out the ‘Chicken Experience’ — a French Blackleg free-range chicken cooked in a variety of ways.
First course was cannelloni — a cylinder of potato, stuffed with the meat from the chicken leg, mixed with stock and a little cream.
It was accompanied with a slow-cooked, boned and pressed chicken wing, and a perfect egg yolk, again slow cooked in a water bath at a low temperature for 40 minutes.
On the side of the plate, there was an artichoke puree, with chicken skin on top and a lovely chorizo oil.
Next was a chicken consomme, served in a delicate egg shell bowl on a bed of hay and mixed leaves.
This again came with the perfect ‘soldier’ for dipping — a brioche topped with a roasted chicken and herb butter.
Next was a savoury sorbet, topped with cucumber puree on a little chicken jelly.
Our youngest had a main course of chicken breasts served with a leak and foie gras stuffing, tarragon and cream sauce, accompanied by mangetout and green beans, buttered baby potatoes and a mouthwatering bowl of fine-cut chips.
I opted for saddle of local lamb for my main, with my better half choosing pan fried John Dory, with a glazed chicken wing, buttered sea lettuce, and samphire.
Dessert was ice-cream for the boys; poached pear and praline mille feuille, with a praline custard and poached pear and vanilla foam; parfait with rhubarb sorbet for the parents.
We left next morning after breakfast, to complaints from the back seat of having to go home.
All agreed that we should do this more often.
Two nights’ accommodation, breakfast each morning and a la carte evening meal on the evening of your choice; access to the Active Level of ESPA; Indoor tennis and horse riding on the grounds, from €300 per person sharing.
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