A step above the rest for charm and fine food

by Staff Reporter

THE drive into the picturesque village of Borris, County Carlow, as the sun sliced through the clouds and beamed on glorious Mount Leinster, was a treat in itself.
Sitting in the fertile valley of the river Barrow, the Step House Hotel faces the main gate to this Tudor-style ancestral home of the former Irish Kings of Leinster.
Ruby red roses and delicate baby’s breath were dotted around the boutique hotel, while inside the spacious bedroom was the prettiest hotel room I have ever stayed in, with its dainty old-world design.
Its neutral cream decor with gold accents in every piece of furniture and sweeping powdery green curtains made for the perfect atmosphere of tranquillity.
But the best was yet to come. As I stepped onto the large private balcony, the magnificent view, with small clouds floating across the expanse of Mount Leinster, took my breath away.
The luxury and character of the hotel made for an extra special weekend trip away.
First, it was time for a hands-on bread making workshop in the ballroom with head chef Alan Foley and his team.
We got to work on a brown bread recipe and the chefs also showed us how to make the range of white bread baked in the Step House kitchen.
Curry bread? No, I hadn’t heard of it either but I would later experience that culinary sensation at dinner.
After an afternoon of kicking back in our cosy room, it was off to the opulent surroundings of the private cocktail lounge for some bubbly treats.
The restaurant is a small, cosy and intimate space. After scanning the menu, which relies on an array of local produce, I began with a starter of tasty organic herb risotto. For the main event, I chose succulent roast plaice with artichoke, ravioli and mushroom juices. I passed on the luscious dessert offerings opting for the more humble sounding ice cream selection.
Sound boring? Not at the Step House Hotel. I was presented with a divine combination of coconut, caramel and passion fruit flavours.
The following morning, we delved into the woodlands on the outskirts of the Georgian village – after a delicious breakfast, of course.
We visited the 16-acre Blackstairs Ecotrails facility to take part in a Find It, Pick It, Cook It, Eat It workshop. The foraging walks are run by former Green Party TD and minister Mary White and husband Robert. They have been keeping records of the area’s diverse ecosystem since 1975.
Channelling my inner c­­­hild, I abandoned my smartphone and took just a small notepad and pen as we set off to explore the rich land.
We ducked under swinging branches, crossed wooden ­­­­­planks guiding us across the streams and tip-toed over mossy carpets.
The couple spoke passionately about the land’s ecological community and I couldn’t help but envy their peaceful lifestyle. We discussed the Celtic history of the towering trees and picked wild garlic, enjoying its tangy aroma. Later, we returned to the workshop to make mouth-watering wild garlic pesto and sweet sloe gin.
Then it was time to go home but not before enjoying a wholesome serving of pumpkin soup, sandwiches and their signature bread selection. I collected my brown bread made the previous day and left feeling like a master chef after my culinary weekend at Step House Hotel.

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