True Characters

Simon Hadden, hotelier


Hospitality is . . . going out of your way to exceed expectations.

It was in my genes . . . I was brought up in the business, studied hotel management and worked in hotels and restaurants in Ireland, the UK and Switzerland to gain experience, with a view to eventually returning home. We bought the hotel from my parents in 2004.

To be a successful hotel manager, you’ve got to be . . . calm, patient, learn how to read people, anticipate their wants and have a strong eye for detail. Concentrate on what’s important – never spread yourself too thin.

There are things I really enjoy about my job . . . the variety especially. In the same hour I could be working at my desk, helping behind the bar, advising guests on what to explore on their day out, discussing menus with David the chef, tweeting, doing market research, organising a paint job and making gardening decisions.

And others I find difficult . . . the psychology of dealing with widely varying expectations in a small business.

The best advice I’ve ever been given . . . is to make lists.

If I wasn’t doing this . . . I’d buy a vineyard in the sun and make wine.

When I’m not working . . . I love experiencing other hotels and restaurants. I’m always interested to see what others are doing.

My favourite restaurant and hotel are . . . Matbaren in Stockholm (restaurant) and Palazzone in Orvieto (hotel).

My dream dinner party guests would be . . . Noam Chomsky, Petra Kelly, Mark E Smith, John Peel, Frida Kahlo, Michel Foucault.

And I’d cook them . . .
nothing. I’m not a great cook but I’d fly in Skye Gyngell and give her free rein.

Five things I always have in my larder are . . . Killeen cheese, Ballymaloe Relish, Italian speck, baked beans, Pinot Noir.

But if only had a tenner to go shopping with, I’d buy . . . round steak mince from Haugh butchers in Lisdoonvarna and my wife Freddie would make her spaghetti Bolognese.

My ideal day off is spent . . . swimming in Ballyvaughan Bay, going for a late lunch in the Tea & Garden Rooms and then relaxing at home with Freddie and our 12 cats.

I really care about . . . the unique and magical Burren landscape. I have a strong interest in environmental sustainability and food provenance. These are a big part of the ethos of our business.

I’m really good at . . .

I wish I was better at . . .
making lists and sticking to them.

I often imagine myself . . .
playing bass guitar with the Pixies.

Not many people know this about me, but . . .
I was a political anarchist and a punk in my teens.

My guilty pleasure is . . .
a coffee eclair and an episode of The Killing .

In conversation with

Marie-Claire Digby

Simon Haden is co-owner, with his wife Freddie, of Gregans Castle Hotel Co Clare

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