Great Irish breakfasts worth staying over for
From the full Irish to eggs Benedict or bowls of summer berries, SANDRA O’CONNELLchooses some favourites
1. Marlfield House
Don’t go looking for muffins here. “We have very definitely not gone the American breakfast route,” says hotelier Laura Bowe of Gorey’s gourmet paradise. “No croissants, no muffins.” Instead sideboards heave under the weight of traditional Irish breakfast fare such as baked ham, farm-fresh eggs, home-baked breads and scones, all jostling for position with local berries and other fruit. Signature dishes include baked eggs with tomato, cream and tarragon; poached rhubarb with ginger; and pears with cinnamon. Or you can go for jars of live yogurt, which come with runny honeycombs. The hotel also offers Swiss Bircher muesli – oats soaked in milk and yogurt with grated apple, pistachios and sultanas. You can buy all the jams, which are made on site, at reception – a fitting souvenir of a not-so-petit déjeuner, as is the complimentary bunch of rhubarb guests come away with at this time of year.
- Marlfield House. Gorey, Co Wexford, 053-9421124, marlfieldhouse.com. B&B from €75 per person sharing midweek
2. Ariel House
The phrase “guest house” has fallen out of fashion, usually in favour of “town house” or “boutique hotel”. Whatever appellation you use for Ariel House, on Lansdowne Road in Dublin, it’s a gem of a place for breakfast. For a start it’s all cooked to order, “so it’s not sitting on a buffet from 7am until someone eats it at 10am,” says general manager Deirdre McDonald. All jams, chutneys and relishes are home-made. The breads, including scones and banana bread, are freshly baked each morning. “We have been asked so many times for our brown-bread recipe that we put it on the website,” she says. Cereals and fruit salad come in Nicholas Mosse pottery, the organic yogurt is from a farm in Tipperary, the apricots and prunes are stewed daily and the French toast comes with creme fraiche. The porridge changes with the seasons. At the moment it comes with cream, honey and walnuts; in winter it is served with a warm berry compote or stewed apple and cinnamon. “We know from customer feedback that our guests come back to us specifically for our breakfasts,” says McDonald. “They get so much they can skip lunch.”
- Ariel House, 50-54 Lansdowne Road, Dublin 4, 01-6685512, ariel-house.net. From €69 per room, including breakfast for two. Family rooms sleeping five cost €109, including breakfast
3. Gregans Castle Hotel
The gourmet offerings at Gregans Castle, in Ballyvaughan, won it a Georgina Campbell Breakfast of the Year award this year, and it’s easy to see why. The hotel serves a range of delights from the nearby Burren Smokehouse, including organic salmon, trout and peppered mackerel. Cheeses come from local producer Burren Gold. Its most popular breakfast dish is eggs Benedict: toast, poached egg and ham smothered in hollandaise sauce. Fresh fish on the menu ranges from cod to halibut and salmon. The traditional fry features organic eggs. “Our American guests tend to be more health conscious and may skip the bacon and sausages, but I’d say 80 per cent of our Irish guests go for the full Irish, especially at weekends,” says owner Simon Haden. “We have just introduced duck eggs to the breakfast menu, too, which the more adventurous are going for.” Breads are baked on site, and if you find the dark wholemeal particularly appealing, that will be the treacle in it – just when you thought you had gone for the healthy option.
- Gregans Castle Hotel, Ballyvaughan, Co Clare, 065-7077005, gregans.ie. B&B starts at €150 per room, including breakfast for two
4. Rusheen Lodge
For a cheaper but equally fishy Co Clare option, this BB is popular with walkers and anglers alike. Indeed, it even has a wet room where resident anglers can leave their kit. So it’s no surprise to find fish has a high status on the breakfast menu. According to chef Deirdre McCarthy, guests choose from a range that can include kippers, mackerel and whiting for breakfast. Alternatively, fill up on smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. Traditionalists can choose a full-on fry or a lightly poached egg. Both brown and white breads are baked by owner Karen McGann each day.
- Rusheen Lodge, Ballyvaughan, Co Clare, 065-7077092, rusheenlodge.com. Rates start at €40 per person
5. Earls Court House Hotel
If you have a sweet tooth, check out Emer Moynihan’s property in Killarney. Having previously won awards for her breakfast, it’s something she takes very seriously indeed. “Our breakfasts are a huge selling point for us,” she says. As well as a range of health-conscious cereals, the hotel offers more than enough to satisfy early-morning sugar cravings. In fact, it has its own pastry chef to make sure that alongside traditional carbs such as brown bread, toast and scones – all home baked – guests gets such delights as chocolate brownies, lemon slices and eclairs. (If you’re going to eat them at all, breakfast might be when they’ll do least damage to your waistline.)
Or be good and bypass them in favour of fruit salad and yogurt, or the plate of Irish cheeses. “Continental visitors love to try Irish cheese. Blue cheese wouldn’t be my choice for breakfast, but they love it,” says Moynihan. From pancakes with maple syrup to egg-white omelettes, if you want it, the hotel will rustle it up for you. It also caters for vegans, with toasted home-made brown bread, tomatoes, mushrooms and a drizzle of olive oil.
- Earls Court House Hotel, Muckross Road, Killarney, Co Kerry, 064-6634009, killarney-earlscourt.ie. B&B costs €99 per room, including breakfast for two
Owner Evan Doyle is evangelical about organics, right down to the salt and pepper on the tables in his Strawberry Tree restaurant. So committed is he that, when he ran into difficulty finding organic rashers and sausages for breakfast, he created his own supply. He is now the proud owner, with local farmer and fourth-generation pork butcher Ed Hicks, of 56 organic pigs. It’s not just the bacon he has brought home, either. All his salads and vegetables, including the tomatoes in your fry, come from a farm three kilometres down the road. “When I ring at night with my vegetable order for the next day, they’re still growing,” says Doyle. The bread, also organic, is baked fresh each morning.
- BrookLodge Hotel Wells Spa, Macreddin, Co Wicklow, 0402-36444, brooklodge.com. B&B starts at €60 per person sharing
7. G Hotel
There’s an Alice in Wonderland feel to the restaurant at the G, in Galway, where the best seats in the house are big purple velvet sofas that you can recline on while contemplating what to eat. The buffet has great scrambled eggs and bacon, as well as fine sausages. From the menu there’s fresh cod, omelette with air-dried beef, and stacks of pancakes and blueberries. Staff are exceptionally friendly. No Nutella for the under-sixes? They find it immediately. If you can’t do hot food that early in the day, try the crumbly scones and butter. To finish it all, the best cappuccino we’ve found in a hotel – ever.
- G Hotel, Wellpark, Galway, 091-865200, theghotel.ie. B&B from €150 per room, including breakfast for two
8. Number 31
It’s easy to miss this 21-bedroom hotel, which is tucked away at the end of Leeson Street in Dublin. Housed in the quirky former home of the architect Sam Stephenson, it has grown its business mainly through word of mouth. And what most people talk about is the breakfast. “People rave about it,” says general manager Linda Barton. As much food as possible is organic and home baked or prepared on site, including its signature cranberry and nut bread. There is also home-baked granola in honey and, when in season, bowl after bowl of berries. Guests can choose from fruit salad of pineapple and melon or poached pears in vanilla, strewed prunes and apricots or a freshly made rhubarb compote with organic yogurt. The full Irish is full on, including two eggs and home-made potato cakes with chives. Alternatives run from omelettes to mushroom frittatas and kippers.
- Number 31, Leeson Close, Dublin 2, number31.ie, 01-6765011. B&B starts at €120 per room for two
9. Lisloughrey Lodge
Though only celebrating its third anniversary this month, Lisloughrey Lodge is so well established it seems to have been here forever. Much of its publicity derives from its breakfast and chef Wade Murphy’s belief in its importance. “No matter how great a hotel you are, not every guest will eat in your fine-dining restaurant or your brasserie. But everyone who stays will eat your breakfast,” he says. At Lisloughrey it’s all about the ingredients. “Other than our sausages and rashers, if I can’t make it in the hotel it doesn’t get served to the guests, and even our pork products come from locally sourced organic pigs,” he says. Local is a recurring theme. “We have our own Connemara version of Parma ham, which we shave on to our eggs Benedict, for example, placed on home-made English muffins.” Stone fruits are soaked in citrus for zest, fruit salads are freshly prepared and omelettes are made to order with a choice of fillings. Kippers come with poached eggs and herb butter.
- Lisloughrey Lodge, Cong, Co Mayo, 094-9545400, lisloughrey.ie. BB from €120 per room, based on two sharing
10. Four Seasons Dublin
For an even more luxurious breakfast experience, check out the Four Seasons. Its continental buffet has cold meats and organic oatmeal, the fry is man sized and the à la carte menu has buttermilk pancakes with strawberries and its own version of eggs Benedict, served with smoked salmon. For the humongously hungry, the big attraction is the Sunday brunch, open to residents and non-residents alike. Its 16 dishes include smoked- haddock cakes, legs of lamb and baby back ribs. There’s also a fully stacked sushi station. It’s a Sunday breakfast that could keep you going until the middle of the week.
- Four Seasons, Simmonscourt Road, Dublin 4, 01-6654000, fourseasons.com/dublin. B&B starts at €195. Sunday brunch costs €60 per person