Belleek Castle, Co Mayo
Interview with Eva Casey
Ireland is renowned for its beautiful castles and, if you take a trip to Ballina in County Mayo, you won’t find better than Belleek Castle. Steeped in history, Belleek is the perfect destination. Its Marshall Doran Collection includes beautiful armoury, fossils and artifacts that will satisfy the history-lover’s curiosity.
And, for the foodie, the elegance and splendour of the Library Restaurant in the setting of a 19th Century Manor House is the perfect place to experience the most delicious of cuisine. Go Wild caught up with the restaurant’s General Manager, Eva Casey, to get a sneak peek into the running of such an elegant restaurant.
Tell me a little about the philosophy of your restaurant.
The Library Restaurant team at Belleek Castle has developed a philosophy to use classic and imaginative cooking with local, seasonal ingredients from the land, sea and air, combining a depth of flavour with the traditions of the Castle. We work hard in the Library Restaurant to constantly deliver an excellent dining experience to our customers on a consistent basis. As you know, details are what make the difference in quality service and my job is to ensure that even the smallest details are overseen. Our focus remains on delivering quality food and service to the customer and we are still hungry for improvement.
How important is it to source locally produced food for your kitchen?
It is very important for us to source quality ingredients for our food from local suppliers. But it’s not just important that the ingredients used in our food at Belleek are sourced locally! Just because it is made down the road doesn’t mean it’s better quality. The quality must come first and we encourage our producers to produce the highest quality ingredients to use in our award winning food.
We also grow our own ingredients from our greenhouse and adapt our menu to use whatever produce is in season. We have our local forager who sources food for us from the surrounding Belleek woodlands. Wild garlic in spring, wood sorrel in summer and wild mushrooms in autumn are just a few of the many examples of the bounty we forage in Belleek forest. We have a wonderful selection of seafood sourced from Killala Bay and the Moy Estuary situated on our doorstep, supplied by local fishermen and seashore foragers.
Tell me a little bit about your team at your restaurant.
Well first of all we all have a great working relationship with each other and this helps us to work better as a team and to the best of our abilities to ensure we give the customer the best service possible. We are heavily focused on giving our staff the best training available to ensure that we deliver the highest quality service.
I have been working at Belleek Castle myself for the last 11 years. I started working in the kitchen as a chef and after a few years started working in the restaurant. My experience in the kitchen has helped me greatly while working in the restaurant as I fully understand the ingredients and the amount of work required to deliver high quality food!
The front of house team & the kitchen team have a great working relationship and this helps us to work better together deliver high quality food and service to the customer. It is very important that each staff member has a role to play in the restaurant and is trained to be an expert at their given tasks during service.
Our hard work has paid off and has led to us winning awards over the last few years including the Best Hotel Restaurant in Mayo & Connaught 2014 – 2016, Best Customer Service in Mayo & Connaught 2017 at the Irish Restaurant Awards and Best Restaurant in Connaught 2017 at the Good Eating Guide Awards. We have also been lucky to have been awarded 2AA Rosettes for our food in the Library Restaurant for the last few years.
As Restaurant Manager, what are the challenges come with running a restaurant like this and how do you overcome them?
Well, like most other hotels and restaurants, there will be the odd quiet day from time to time. To attract people during a quiet season we sometimes hold events at the castle. Everything from cookery demonstrations by our head chef, wine tasting evenings, barbeques or foraging on the seashore with our local forager, Dennis Quinn. These events are great for attracting new customers to the castle and keeping us running during a quiet season.
What goes into running the restaurant on an average day/night?
Well, the most important thing for us is that all our customers are warmly welcomed when they walk through our front door and they are given the best customer service right until the last second they leave the castle. Guests are invited into our Spanish Armada Bar and given menus on arrival where they can have a drink and relax in a bar made out of salvaged wood from a Spanish Armada shipwreck and designed to look like a captain’s quarters. Customers are then shown into the Library Restaurant where they can choose dishes from a variety of menus including the eight course Gourmet Menu!
We focus heavily on the customer getting attention without being overbearing. It is just as important to be friendly and approachable to staff members as well as customers. All staff are given a role at the start of service and will be an expert of their assigned role for service.
For example a staff member might be assigned to serve the Drunken Bullock, our signature dish which is spiced fillet steak flambéed in local poitín and served on a sword. This dish has been at castle for the past 40 years and it is many customers’ favourite dish.
On a busy night we all work together as a team and when a staff member needs help there is always another staff member nearby to give a helping hand.
Address: Garrankeel, Ballina, Co. Mayo
Contact: 096 22400 www.belleekcastle.com