THE Mathers family have lived in Newforge House in County Armagh for six generations.
Until 2005, it was the place where John Mathers and his siblings grew up, but when the ever-increasing cost of maintaining a listed building became too much, he decided to turn it into a guesthouse.
Located in the village of Magheralin, this country house is small, but has everything you need for a secluded break.
It was quiet when we arrived; we had the run of the place until dinner time, when other guests arrived. We spent a short time navigating the gardens, which aren’t vast but are very well maintained and pretty.
They’re filled with lush plants and plenty of open space, where the Mathers’ young children still run around.
The living space is small with an inviting drawing room where you can have afternoon tea or a pre-dinner drink, while the dining room is cosy, with lovely views of the garden.
Rooms have four-poster beds and the bathroom space is ample, and guests can select from the many books and DVDs on offer.
The proprietor, John, spent much of his time studying accounting until he decided the business world wasn’t for him, delving into the more creative side of his personality, instead.
His dream was to open a restaurant, until he discovered he had an illness that would not be conducive to the stresses of a busy kitchen.
And so, the idea of running a guest house from Newforge House – his family home – and utilising the kitchen to show off his culinary flair came to mind.
The choice for dinner at Newforge is small, with only two starters and two main courses to choose from.
Most of the food comes from the Mathers’ own garden, and you can really taste the freshness of the produce on offer.
A starter of smoked salmon, venison and eel was presented with a horseradish panna cotta. This was fresh, light and delicious, and a bowl of pea and mint soup tasted of summer.
Before we ordered dinner, John told us about the provenance of much of his food – in particular, the steak that I ordered.
The organic meat is dry-aged in Europe’s first salt chamber by Hannan’s, in the nearby village of Moira, for up to 45 days.
It was cooked exactly as I ordered, and it cut like butter. My partner had the fish, which was light, and again with fresh vegetables from the garden.
Dessert was a gooseberry crumble – a bit tart, for my liking but made from ingredients grown in the garden. A cheeseboard, with a wonderful selection of Irish cheese, rounded off the meal perfectly, with a couple of ports to wash it all down.
I would highly recommend a trip to The Meat Merchant in Moira, which we did the following morning. For those with carnivorous appetites, this is the perfect place to stock up on a freezer full of prime cuts of meat.
Only a couple of hours from Dublin, Newforge hits the spot when it comes to relaxation and an exciting dining experience.
For further information on Newforge House, see www.newforgehouse.com.