Step House Hotel, Main Street, Borris, Co Carlow, 059-977 3209, stephousehotel.ie ¤¤¤ Head chef Alan Foley (formerly of Chapter One) is turning this family-run hotel into a gourmet destination, about an hour’s drive from Dublin and two from Cork. In the tiny village of Borris, the Step House Hotel is owned and operated by Cait and James Coady. The Cellar Restaurant, in the old vaulted kitchens of the house, is the main draw, with a French table d’hote menu offering two and three courses for ¤36/¤40 – including air-dried beef with onion cream, and a pithiver of local free range pork from Salter’s farm in nearby Fenagh, Co Carlow, served with piccalilli and apricots.
In fact, much of the menu focuses on meat: wild sikka deer, haunch of venison, Breckland duck, shoulder of milk-fed veal and Hereford beef all feature in the autumn line-up, while local fish comes from Goatsbridge Trout Farm, just across the border in Co Kilkenny. Desserts are decidedly French, with a black fig tart, a thick, creamy orange chocolate bavarois, fruit parfait, and cheeses – although the selection is Irish, and includes Cashel Blue, Milleens and Durrus. An overnight stay is the best way to enjoy dinner here, with good deals on dinner, B&B starting from ¤85pp on Sundays, or ¤125 on Fridays and Saturdays.