The four star Kilronan Castle Estate & Spa in Co Roscommon, which dates from the 18th century, is one of the country’s most idyllic destinations.
And at the heart of Kilronan is a spectacular food offering headed up by executive chef Daniel Willimont. Originally from Cheltenham, England but with Irish roots Willimont holds numerous awards and accolades including Best Restaurant and Best Chef in Connacht and he has maintained one and two stars in Michelin properties during his career. He came to Kilronan almost two years ago and immediately saw the potential for an elevated food experience, one that would make the most of estate-grown produce, quality local suppliers and a devoted team in the kitchen and restaurants.
Today, the castle offers a host of dining experiences from fine dining at the 2 AA Rosette awarded Douglas Hyde Restaurant, the Drawing Room bar offering a less formal dining menu, an outdoor café offering an all day dining menu and a luxurious afternoon tea offering in the Palm Court. The classically trained Willimont is passionate about what he does and authenticity and quality infuse everything at Kilronan. “I push to do things the way they should be done,” he says. “Go the extra mile to go down the road and meet a supplier, to grow your own vegetables, to find a secret recipe or an old fashioned method of cooking and bring it back to life.”
The walled garden which was introduced last summer is an important part of the food experience at Kilronan. Willimont and the team utilise its produce to full effect – and not just on the plate. “The garden is still very much in development but we have a lot of stuff coming into season now,” he says. “Our beans are starting to climb, our rainbow radishes are coming in shortly and we have different types of lettuce. “But my ethos on the garden is not just for the plate,” he adds. “I want the garden to go across the hotel. So we’ll use sweet peas from the garden on the tables, health foods like wheatgrass and smoothies in the spa will come from garden produce and for the hotel reception we’ll have wildflower bouquets.”
Along with those fresh ingredients grown right on the grounds, Willimont also uses local suppliers. “Leitrim Hill Creamery goat’s cheese is very good,” he says, “And Roscommon’s Irish Goat Meat – I can’t rate them highly enough. We use other artisan Irish producers like Velvet Cloud sheep’s cheese and yoghurt, Calveys Achill Mountain Lamb and Achill Island Seasalt too.” Willimont is constantly inspired by his surroundings, his team, and the ingredients he encounters. “Anything can set me off,” he laughs. “Some days, I can get a thrill out of making some bread, then I could come in one morning and decide I want to make chocolate. Another day I could get a fresh box of Thornhill Duck and I'm just loving prepping the duck and the flavours.”
All that creativity and experimentation is anchored by a devotion to quality and maintaining impeccable standards, particularly for the unforgettable experience at The Douglas Hyde Restaurant. “Even though I do a lot of modern molecular cooking I still love the traditional French cooking so, for instance, I don't do an amuse-bouche or pre-starters, I do canapés because to me a castle and the five star way is a canapé before your meal,” Willimont explains. “And they have to be different every day. The bread has to be baked just before service every day, and the butter has to be churned every day too.”
Whether you are seeking an elegant fine dining experience, a relaxed meal centred on fresh Irish produce, a quick bite or a freshly made afternoon tea, Kilronan Castle has the perfect offering. And every visit will bring something new to enjoy, Willimont says. “What we deliver is constantly changing, thanks to the produce in the garden or the seasonality of food dishes, but the standard and quality is the same,” he explains. “So if you come to Kilronan you’ll never have the same meal twice but you'll get the same experience every time.”
Kilronan Castle Estate & Spa, Ballyfarnon, Boyle, Co. Roscommon; tel: 071 96 18000; kilronancastle.ie