Henry Hodgson doesn’t know what all the fuss is about when it comes to food. “These days you hear so much about provenance, about locally sourced, seasonal ingredients and growing your own, like it’s something new. But it’s what the country houses of Ireland have always done. To me it’s just hardly worth mentioning - it’s a given,” he said.
Currarevagh Country House, on the banks of Lough Corrib, in Co. Galway, has an interesting provenance of its own.
The property was won in a card game by Hodgson’s great grandfather seven times back. The move came up aces when he went on to discover tin and copper in the area, making his fortune and putting two steamboats on the lake, the Lioness and the Tigress, to ply both goods and passengers.
“They also did what people almost always do when they strike it rich, they razed the original house and rebuilt a bigger one, the current house,” said Hodgson.
Unfortunately, their luck was to turn. “Within 15 years of building it all the money was gone.” Cheaper alternatives in South America scuppered the mining business and left the Hodgsons looking around for an alternative source of income. They tried their hand at fish farming and even invented the peat (turf) briquette but nothing worked.
In the end they fell back on their last remaining asset, the property, and in 1880 opened their doors to paying guests. It was a good call.
“Today most people come to us for the food,” said Hodgson who, with wife Lucy, took over the property in 2008. Both are trained chefs and serious about their menus.
“It’s still very much a country house style but with a very modern Irish twist. Everyone gathers in the drawing rooms before dinner and everyone sits at the same time, so there is a great atmosphere. Breakfast is served Edwardian style, on large sideboards that are constantly refreshed and which you can get up until a decidedly non-Edwardian midday.”
That sense of relaxation is a vital ingredient in Currarevagh’s success, he reckons. “Many of our guests come for that sense of escape we can offer. It’s a unique property, totally surrounded by 180 acres, and when you get here it’s like stepping back in time. People park up the car and don’t leave the property till they check out – they just want to relax.”
With breakfast, evening meals and a traditional afternoon tea on offer, there’s certainly little reason to leave. There’s also one more very good reason to stay – the lake.
“A lot of guests will take one of our boats out. We’ll pack them a picnic and a half bottle of wine and they go find themselves a deserted island. We encourage them to take a kettle and some firelighters, to gather firewood and make tea. It’s a good, old fashioned adventure.”