Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Dining at Russborough House

Dining at Russborough House

We are on our way to dinner at Russborough House. It is one of the most sought after invitations and we are looking forward to the evening as we ease up the drive. The old Jaguar makes quite a sound on the gravel as the brakes are applied. Sir Alfred and Lady Beit are waiting for us in the great hall, genuinely delighted to see us.
Amazing stucco throughout, here on the main stairs

Soon, the other guests arrive and we are shown to the dining room with its Spanish carpet, paintings of the family and that magnificent fireplace with a bust of Bacchus (is that a red wine stain I see on his face?). We start off with a 1954 Hock Deidesheimer. 

Soon the conversation is buzzing. Not by accident, I might add. Our hosts are well-known for their shrewd and thoughtful organisation and have spent quite time on the seating arrangements. We dine in some comfort. Dishes include roast pheasant, game chips and braised chicory and the fish is poached salmon with extremely thinly cut cucumber, new potatoes and mint. We are fully at ease by the time Sir Alfred introduces us to his favourite Sauterne. Oh, by the way, cheese is served here instead of dessert.

It isn’t always fine cuisine here, not even for our hosts. I was told that when Sir Alfred dines on his own he might have bangers and mash, served in a silver salver of course!
Ready to dine?

Anyhow, at the end of the meal, the hospitality continued in fine style. We are offered luxury cigarettes from Turkey and Cuban Cohiba cigars, with port on the dining room table. Cognac too of course. All kinds of aromas, include fine perfumes, mix in that smoke-filled room.
More stucco. One of many chandeliers

Pollard is the long-serving butler to Sir Alfred and they work hand in hand on all kinds of arrangements for events in the house and estate. You can be sure that Pollard had been instructed as to the vintage of the wine and whether or not a tablecloth should be used. That level of detail plus Lady Beit’s organisational skills almost always ensures a perfect evening. And in the morning - we are staying for the night - we are informed that breakfast  (usually includes grapefruit segments) will be served in the dining room at 9.30am. 
Aesop's greedy dog about to lose his bone in the water

It is all routine here and the place works like clockwork, lunch at 1.00pm and afternoon tea at 5pm precisely. For the latter, and we’ve been there from time, you may enjoy Darjeeling tea plus a chocolate biscuit each. Fine china and silver thongs for the sugar bowl are always used. And don’t miss dinner, timed for 7pm precisely!
More Aesop: The Shepherd feeds an injured lion who will eventually spare the shepherd when they meet in the arena

The Beits have a staff of between 20 and 25, like an extended family, though there is no familiarity as the staff always address them as ‘Sir Alfred’ and ‘Her Ladyship’. They only recruit people who are both able and dedicated - from the gardeners who grow the fruit and vegetables to the maid who makes the butter.
Dinner was interrupted when Rose Dugdale came calling in April 1974

The staff here are always immaculately dressed, with maids in white pinafores. They see food and wine that is rarely seen in everyday life as their employer is a wine connoisseur with a liking for dessert wines and also Clarets such as Chateau Margaux.
Face from the colonnade

Fantasy dinner over and no Margaux for me, I’m afraid, on our recent visit to this fascinating house, so much to see and take in and our excellent guide Iris gave us a terrific tour. Most of the info about the habits of the Beits (and the previous families) are detailed in various exhibitions around the house and you can get some fascinating insights into the Beits (and their troubles with the IRA and gangsters), down below in the basement.

Oh, by the way, I didn’t get to see the kitchens here. Simply because they are still in use, serving up food for the house café. It is a very busy spot with a couple of adjoining dining rooms and some visitors take food out to enjoy in the open air and keep an eye on the kids who are well catered for here with various playing areas and walks through the parklands. We confined ourselves to a couple of pastries and coffee before hitting the road home to Cork.

Two timber floors, the one on the right from Russborough. On the left, is detail from a Benedictine monastery in Engelberg (Switzerland), the 3D effect achieved by the use of four different timbers. Something similar in Wicklow?

See also on this trip:
 Museum of Style Icons
Decorator to the Stars Designed Newbridge Silver Café
Dining at Russborough House
Wine, Dine & Golf at Tulfarris Hotel & Golf Resort

Russborough House
Historic house and parklands
Blessington, Co. Wicklow
See also: Museum of Style Icons

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