Think of Marlfield House, and what comes to mind?
A beautiful 19th century country house? Magnificent gardens?
This getaway to Gorey is well known as a classic Blue Book vacation. What you might not know, however, is that behind the sleek Regency-style exterior, a unique gear change is underway.
The old courtyard buildings have been transformed into one of the best restaurants, pound for pound, just a short walk from the N11 (The Duck, with its pretty terrace facing the garden). It aims to be carbon neutral by 2022, a partially open-air ‘glass box’ yoga and gym studio is under construction, and five new stand-alone Pond Suites have appeared among the oaks and ferns. .
It’s a thoughtful, innovative – and yes, Insta-friendly – model of where country houses could go next … and not just in Ireland.
Arrival & location
Marlfield is hidden away just outside of Gorey in County Wexford, about an hour and a half from Dublin.
It seems more distant, however; tall trees soon muffle the noise of traffic, and the original house and its beautiful stonework have true storybook quality. You park, get out and go … aaah. How are the gardens so beautiful? Who built the veranda? Is it a moorhen paddling on the pond?
Check-in takes you further. Crossing a short walkway connecting two water features, you enter a crescent-shaped annex filled with antiques. This is the arrival. 8/10
Service and style
The service is somewhere between professional and friendly, as is the Blue Book method. We are personally taken to our suite; photocopied notes quickly came out when asking about the history of the house and when it rains that evening there is a call 20 minutes before dinner to ask if we would like the umbrellas to be dropped off.
Marlfield was bought by Mary and Ray Bowe in 1977 and is today run by their daughters, Laura and Margaret. The pair clearly know what works, from period furniture to garden design, and have built a loyal and demanding clientele (there is not one, but two Rolls-Royces on the outside when we visited) . But they also know which way the winds are blowing – a fascinating balancing act. 8/10
There are 18 rooms and suites in the main house, mixing antiques, marble bathrooms and more, but we’re here for what’s new. The larch-clad Pond Suites (pictured) are dotted around the water, and the spacious interiors (50mÂ²) are loosely inspired by the natural world – woody and red colors for The Fox, for example, or a giant mural by a peacock occupying an entire wall in The Peacock (there is a real peacock on our deck when we arrive).
The suites, designed by Laura, combine contemporary comfort and durability – in zinc-clad roofs, for example – with luxury touches like coir rugs, super king-size beds, fresh orchids and Irish textiles. . Large Crittall-style windows and small portholes blur the lines between the lush nature outside and the botanical motifs of the interiors …
Our shower seemed big for its space (needing towels on the floor to soak up a bit of the spillover), and you’d better draw the curtains before you really relax – other Pond Suite guests can walk by from up close. trails. But all in all, the suites are genius additions that complement the old house and ring with our times. Guests are secluded, immersed in nature, and it’s easy to imagine the eye-catching stays pinged around WhatsApp groups. 9/10
The Duck, a 2015 reimagining of old garden buildings, is a brilliant mix of casual and class. There is no overt fantasy here, just a feeling of complete trust and an idea that absolutely works. The menus take inspiration from local gardens, countryside and seas in a hymn to modern Irish cuisine – a pulled pork flatbread, a fish sharing board and a spicy lamb kofta (above) do are just a few of our choices. Other diners included local families, day trippers and a group of girlfriends sipping cocktails on the patio, and the staff in designer jeans and aprons stuck it out. Lunch costs from â¬ 27 for two courses; dinner â¬ 35 – both excellent value for money.
The Conservatory takes on a different tone. Fine French-influenced cuisine is on offer here, and it’s executed well, with dishes like a roast rack of lamb from Slaney Valley and halibut from Kilmore Quay tastefully served from a five-course menu (â¬ 67 per person). ). Celiac needs have been well taken care of and the glass structure and frescoes add to the theater.
I just didn’t … like it. Obviously, The Duck and Conservatory are two very different offerings designed to complement each other. They do, and many guests love the old-fashioned service and the rich, retro “cuisine” (I would definitely recommend dressing up). But across Ireland, the casual dining revolution is challenging traditional venues to evolve, and I think others may find it a bit too muffled and stuffy.
Personally, I would love to see Marlfield take on a new lease of life at the Conservatory – not a drastic overhaul, but a creative update that respects country house dining while bringing it into the 2020s, with a twist of going. -voom on the menu and a gentle injection of energy into the room. 7/10
The bottom line
Ireland is fortunate to have Marlfield House. Like Dunbrody and Gregans Castle, this is a unique Irish version of the country house, and its mix of old and new, and fiery pursuit of sustainability, makes it an inspiring and invigorating break. I can’t wait to see what the Bowes do next.
The B&B in the Pond Suites costs â¬ 498 for two people, including dinner at The Duck, or â¬ 554 with dinner at The Conservatory. PÃ³l was a guest of the hotel. marlfieldhouse.com
A twin suite, The Nest, can accommodate up to four adults in two double bedrooms. B&B with dinner from â¬ 718 in total for four people (â¬ 179.50 pp).
Cut calories with ideas from wexfordtrails.be, or check lovegorey.fr for events in North Wexford.