The creation of a destination resort is what David Manning is already well on the way to achieving in his new role as general manager of Eccles Hotel in Glengarriff. Manning joined Eccles in February and within a few weeks had secured the culinary skills of former Great British Menu TV show contestant Eddie Attwell, to oversee its kitchens.
The Armagh chef has honed his skills working in top restaurants such as two Michelin starred Lenclume, St. Kyran’s Country House Hotel and Ardtara Country House.
Attwell brought his team along with him to Eccles Hotel; his partner, Rebecca Doran, as sous chef and Andrej Zakhas, as junior sous.
An experienced hotelier, Manning is excited at the potential Eccles has of becoming one of Ireland’s top hotel destinations.
“Eccles has character that other hotels are trying and failing to create,” explains Manning. “It’s about peeling back rather than adding layers here…I’m still finding rooms that I didn’t know existed!”
Built in the 1700s, Eccles was Ireland’s first ever purpose-built hotel, accommodating such esteemed characters as the famous writer and journalist, William Makepeace Thackeray, George Bernard Shaw and William Butler Yeats. More recently, the historic property has attracted guests such as Pippa Middleton.
Manning plans to finish the restoration work to the property that began last year and hopes to add a number of spa treatment rooms and outdoor hot tubs with a spectacular view. He has already added a family games room and has put in a polytunnel and raised beds out the back to accommodate his new Head Chef’s passion for growing his own produce.
Attwell has put together a brand new all-day dining menu based around locally sourced seasonal produce. “It’s very clean cooking,” explains the chef, “revisiting forgotten foods and old flavours, going back to what has always tasted good.”
An enthusiastic forager, the Head Chef shares his excitement at Glengarriff’s microclimate and growing conditions. “There is so much food growing wild around us…wild mint, sea fennel, sea beet, sea asters, seaweeds, all with great health benefits.” Even the pine and monkey puzzle trees are a source of ingredients for Atwell, who uses the pine needles in making syrups and chocolate. He’s hopeful that the monkey puzzle trees will bear fruit this year, as he says they provide an excellent alternative to pine nuts.
The seeds of the nasturium flower are “probably the best capers you’ll ever taste when pickled” according to Atwell and even his fish and chips have a subtle floral influence with the batter created using an elderflower ferment. Later in the season, you’ll most likely find him in a ditch picking fuchsia to make cordial or oxeye daisies to mix in with vodka and apple juice to create a cocktail.
While the menu is unpretentious, there is nothing simple about the work that goes into each dish in Atwell’s kitchen. The ham hock is braised for up to seven hours before being rolled in mustard and honey and the peas that accompany the dish are a la Francais, so a mixture of peas, lettuce and reduced cream. The Chateaubriand is served with home dried tomatoes and tobacco onions, as well as hand cut chips and salad. Also featured is lamb rump and braised slow cooked shoulder, roast chicken, Cork whiskey and vanilla cured salmon and pork belly. Starters include Bantry mussels, pork crubeens and duck leg bao buns. There are separate vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free menus available.
Once the polytunnel is up and running with a constant supply of homegrown produce, the ambition is to also open a fine dining restaurant to complement the bistro menu, where Atwell will really get to show off his talent, in particular when it comes to working his magic with vegetables. “Our taster menu will be 75 per cent vegetables with meat added,” explains Atwell, who is constantly designing new ideas and concepts for innovative dishes.
“We’re very excited,” says Manning “Eddie is one of the top chefs in the country and we’re all looking forward to working together and the challenges and opportunities, as well as fun, this will bring going forward.”
The family-friendly hotel situated on the Wild Atlantic Way also offers bikes for rent so that guests can explore the wonderful surroundings of Glengarriff and beyond. Kayaking trips and tours out to Garinish Island are also available.
The historic property, owned by hoteliers Ray Byrne and Eoin Doyle, has lost none of its old world charm in its refurbishment.
The Garinish restaurant, which boasts panoramic views across Bantry Bay, has been tastefully redecorated and creates the perfect setting to enjoy Atwell’s culinary delights.
The refreshed Ilnacullin ballroom, which can comfortably host up to 280 guests offers a spectacular setting for a wedding reception.
The Harbour Bar offers an informal dining experience in relaxed surroundings.
Whatever the occasion, as mentioned recently in John and Sally McKenna’s Guides, “here is a great new West Cork escape.”
With Manning steering and the talented Atwell on board, it should make for a thrilling journey.
For more information visit eccleshotel.com.