Harvey's Point, Lough Eske, Donegal
Harvey's Point, Lough Eske, Co. Donegal.
Harvey’s Point is a little bit special. Actually it’s more than that. It’s probably the best place we stayed all year. That’s because it is family run, the staff are really friendly and really care, the food is great, and if that’s not enough they have a ‘pet’ goose – more of an occasional hanger on really – called Harvey, who walks up to the kitchen for his brekkie, and gets owners Deidre McGlone and her husband out in a rowing boat when he gets stuck in the ice. Like I said, it’s special.
You will find Harvey’s Point only a short distance from Donegal town. The exterior is reminiscent of a Swiss chalet, albeit a big one. When you discover that some of the family who own it are Swiss, it all of course makes sense. Inside the luxurious interior are all cream marble, gentle lighting and beautiful chandeliers and a friendliness that has had every worth-while guide sing their praises. This hotel has developed into the market leader of the Northwest and has its sights on becoming one of the leading hotels in Ireland.
We are here for a short weekend break, and the room is spectacular. It is perfectly possible to spend a weekend in one of the suites without actually seeing anyone - including possibly your partner – they are almost that large. We have three connecting rooms and spend far too much time sitting in armchairs with our feet up, and playing with whirlpool baths.
Food occupies a hugely important place in Harvey’s Point. The bar and restaurant are in a wing which stretches down to the lakes edge, and the main dining room with it’s large picture windows provides particularly beautiful views. The tables are well spaced, the chairs are comfortable and good quality napery and glassware leaves you in no doubt this is a serious restaurant. Restaurant manager Orhan Erinc and his team run the front of house like clockwork, leaving you nothing more troublesome to do than enjoy the food.
The menu is set, offering four courses for €50. We start with a basket of homemade bread while we make our selections and study the wine list. The list deserves some mention; it is cleverly divided into sections. It starts with a value selction, offering twenty or so wines in the €20’s before moving on to the Chablis and Pouilly Fume priced in the €30’s and €40’s. The next section is exciting; it is a selection of fine wines chosen by owner Marc Gysling and sommelier Orhan for their value and quality. Here you will find the Premier Cru’s and some heavy hitting Bordeaux and Italian Amarone or Borolo. The wines here list their RRP, and then the price you will pay, and it’s up to a 50% reduction, so you can enjoy some great wine without breaking the bank. We chose an Andre Perret Condrieu 2010, a Voignier from the Rhone Valley. This wine retails at around €50 a bottle when bought by the case, so to enjoy it in a restaurant at €59 is exceptional.
Starters brought us two very different dishes; a taste of seafood contained a scallop, prawn, monkfish, clams and mussels, presented in a wide bowl drizzled in a smoked mackerel veloute. This was a very nicely judged dish, where the flavours were allowed to shine. My twisted Irish breakfast was a line of the elements of the full Irish, lined up on a slate; so I had a piece of roasted white pudding, a tiny fried quail’s egg on top of a fondant potato, a little sausage and the bacon was replaced with smoked bacon ice cream. I loved this imaginative dish, and intend to confound some of our more picky eating friends with it at our table soon.
Main courses were equally impressive, a simple fillet steak was perfectly cooked, while a special of pan fried pigeon was brilliant, it was tender and pink, and the presentation reminded of plates of food served in Mint back in the day.
We couldn’t face dessert, and finished with some coffees before brandy in front of the turf fire, before retiring to our suite. Refreshed after a good nights sleep, breakfast overlooking the lake is a treat, and the sun shone brilliantly on us.
Ireland has many fine hotels, perhaps more that it should. However, we have stayed in a lot of them over the last few years and Harvey’s Point has that something extra that it is hard to really put your finger on. Everything – rooms, food, staff – are great, but it is even more that the sum of these parts. It is special, and definitely worth a visit. Say hello to Harvey for me.