Russborough House has been described as the most beautiful house in Ireland, and with this perfectly proportioned Palladian colonnades and central main house, it is hard to argue. The house was designed by Richard Cassels for the 1st earl of Milltown and was built between 1741 and 1755.
Inside the ornate plasterwork is the work of the Lafranchini brothers, who originally hailed from Switzerland and plied their trade in England before coming to Ireland to work with Cassels on some of Ireland foremost Palladian mansions, not just Russborough but also Carton House outside Maynooth. Their ornate stucco and plasterwork is regarded by many as being among the best examples of this art form.
In more recent times Russborough was the home of Sir Alfred and Lady Beit, and their extensive art collection, which unfortunately became a target for the IRA and Martin Cahill, and was gifted to the Irish state.
During their lifetime, Russborough was also the scene for many a grand dinner and weekends, in the Downton Abbey sense, hosting everyone from Mick Jagger to politicians and members of the visiting British aristocracy.
Today Russborough is a fabulous visitor attraction, which provides guided tours of the house and grounds, candlelit recital and even sheepdog demonstrations.
The Tea rooms is where visitors can relax and replenish themselves after walking the beautiful grounds or touring the house, or even just bringing the dog for a walk around one of the beautiful walkways.
The food is freshly made daily and the Tea Rooms at Russborough offers a large selection of salads, sandwiches and soups. There are options such as chicken and leek or beef and Guinness pies, salmon roulade with sundries tomatoes and broccoli, homemade lasagne, a choice of savoury potato cakes or large vol au vents in a variety of flavours.
Salads play a big part as well, mixed bean, potato salad, clergy and apple, pasta and mixed leaves, and there are always a couple of vegetarian bakes while the dessert section is delicious; numerous cheesecakes battle it out with strudels, meringues and Pavlovas as a well as a healthy carrot cake and sinful éclairs.
The Tea Rooms is part of the Russborough experience. There is a small balcony above the main room, from which the lady of the house would have dictated the daily menu to the kitchen staff below – the dining room now was the kitchen then – and in the other room there is a charming display of recipes from Lady Beit’s collection, some in her handwriting and illustrated with photographs for herself and some famous and not so famous house guests. It is quite touching, and a little glimpse of life in one of Ireland’s big houses.