Co. Cork
Phone: 021 465 2531

Not so much a country house hotel and restaurant. It’s a philosophy, a faith, in action. You either get Ballymaloe or you don’t. There’s no middle ground.

Myrtle Allen, a truly heroic figure and a giant in the world of Irish food, advertised in the Cork Examiner, as it was then, “dinner in a country house” back in 1964. And so began a sort of mini-empire, the name of which is known throughout the world. Daughter-in-law Hazel runs Ballymaloe these days, daughter-in-law Darina runs the nearby cookery school, grandson Cullen is one half of Cully & Sully, daughter Yasmin is behind the relish business....

The core philosophy which Myrtle has handed down is, I think, a combination of honesty and simplicty (the Allens are an old Quaker family) and sheer passion for good food and hospitality.

Ballymaloe House is a most luxurious place to stay but it not luxurious in that clinical way that so many so-called “great” hotels are. Ballymaloe is very warm and very human.

At Ballymaloe the food tastes intensely of itself, not just because it will have been sourced meticulously and as fresh as the dawn but also because of the respect which is shown in the kitchen.

Ballymaloe famously ignores fashion. The last time I had lunch there I had a cheese fondue, something last heard of in the 1970s and all the more surprising and lovely for that. Other Ballymaloe highlights? The sheer freshness of the fish (with just a hint of beurre noisette), the stunning vegetables, the vast and utterly decadent dessert trolley, the joy of finding seakale on the menu, the friendliness of waitresses who have been there for donkeys’ years, the wistaria in blossom... 

It’s more than a country house hotel. It’s more, too, than a restaurant. It’s a philosophy, a faith, in action.