Sitting amid the rugged coastline of Doughmore Bay, Trump International Hotel in Doonbeg, Co Clare is quite the sight to behold. Surrounded by a world renowned championship 18 hole golf course with breathtaking sea views. Before we even exit the car it is evident why the car park is already full at lunchtime on a Saturday. The grounds alone are astounding.
A cluster of houses located along the drive, aptly named The Links Cottages provide a self- catering option for golfers, families and group getaways. At the hotel itself there are a number of courtyard guest rooms and suites with the main hotel housing the signature suites.
We were greeted warmly at the entrance to the courtyard by John, the chatty and helpful concierge that brought us through to reception where check – in was very pleasant and efficient.
Leading the way, John showed us to our room for the night. We stayed in the Premier Ocean View Three-Bedroom Suite. Spread over two exquisitely furnished floors with ocean views from every window, this honestly is one of the most luxurious suites we have ever stayed in. The living quarters are comprised of a small but stunningly designed kitchen, the dining area is complete with a large dining table for 6, cosy sofa and king armchairs and a massive 70 inch flatscreen TV. The piece de resistance, a large open fire place. A very realistic gas fire was blazing away when we arrived to our room, so homely and comforting. Moving out into the hall there is a communal bathroom and then leading from the hall is the Master Bedroom.
The furnishings are on another level. A very inviting six foot King Bed dressed in traditional manor style is beckoning from the moment you walk into the room. Leading off of the bedroom is a walk in wardrobe and ensuite bathroom complete with marble vanity area and an epic rainfall shower.
Upstairs there are two more beautifully decorated bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms. This suite is ideally suited to a family or group of friends that want a luxury escape where relaxation is king.
Arriving shortly after lunch time we decided to order some room service before heading out to explore our surroundings. The in-room dining options include all the old reliables such as soup and sandwiches, but it was the Vegetable Curry that caught our eye, (one with the addition of chicken for the more carnivorous of us).
Our order arrived in a large wicker basket and was set up on our dining room table. We were treated to a complimentary bottle of Red in our suite and what better time to crack it open.
A pool of warming, nicely spiced curry sauce filled with chickpeas and a host of finely cut vegetables, generous chunks of tender chicken, crisp popadoms, basmati rice and individual naan bread made for a super tasty and mighty hearty mid day meal.
After that very indulgent lunch, the runners were pulled on and off we went to get as much of that sea air into our lungs as possible. We had already stopped off at The Cliffs of Moher, which are beyond stunning and should be part of the itinerary for anyone visiting Clare.
Meandering from the courtyard down to the beach, we met many golfers along the way as well as couples just strolling and enjoying the magnificent views. The sandy beach is picture postcard perfect. With our pockets full of sea shells and our lungs full of sea air we both agreed this is the ultimate place to blow off the cobwebs, clear your mind and refresh your soul.
Arriving a little early for dinner, a pre-dinner cocktail in the Tea Room, located just beside reception was a must. Striking wood panelled walls complimenting the rich furnishings, complete with a roaring fire and romantic candle light makes for an extremely relaxing spot to enjoy an aperitif while perusing the impressive menu which includes a Table de Hote as well as a Blind Tasting Menu. The wine list is nothing short of magnificent with one of our all time fabvourites, ‘Cakebread’ making an appearance.
A zesty grapefruit based Negroni made with Bertha’s Revenge Gin and an Old Fashioned ensured our evening was off to a scintillating start. Restaurant Manager Ashley Wiley ( formerly of Wineport Lodge) informed us that this stunning room is the scene of Afternoon Tea during the day and is then used for pre-dinner drinks and order taking in the evening.
Executive Head Chef Greg Budzen, a Law Graduate who’s love of food and creative side superseded his desire to practise law, is leading the kitchen team in Ocean View Restaurant. The team here operate far more like a family than just work mates, all very complimentary of each other and share a really lovely sense of camaraderie as they go about their respective roles. There is a definite knock on effect to the ambiance of a Hotel and Restaurant if the staff are happy and enjoy their work.
Opting for the Blind Tasting Menu we decided not to go with the wine pairing as it included five wines and two cocktails each and we just could not see our way through that volume of alcohol after our couple of glasses of Red with our lunch.
We decided upon a bottle of aforementioned favourite, Cakebread Cellars, Chardonnay. That long, fruity finish is almost always too good to pass. We are reliably informed that Bruce Cakebread holidays in Trump International, Doonbeg and is a big fan of this wild Atlantic way retreat.
The connection each member of staff has to the hotel and their surroundings is vivid. Ashley tells us that his wife and daughter found and created the finished shells that hold the salt and pepper on each table. Personal connections between the staff and the hotel are in abundance which is very heartwarming and brings a crucial sense of this hotel belonging to the people.
Dinner kicked off with an Amuse Bouche of Rabbit Terrine. A micro bite that packed a mighty punch of flavour.
Next to the table was ‘Coastline Shells’. A symphony of seafood stalwarts from local suppliers C & S Seafood. Rockerfeller Oyster, Seared Scallop with spicy Chroizo accompanying it, crab mayonnaise and slivers of silky smoked salmon. Each one more delicious than the last.
A refreshing little palate cleaner of Lemon Sorbet before we moved on to the richer courses of the evening.
Ravioli filled with Toons Bridge Buffalo Ricotta and doused in Beurre Noisette. The nutty flavour of the Beurre Noisette complimenting the pasta and ricotta to perfection.
The standout dish for us on the night was the Halibut. Bathing in a Doughmore Bisque, surrounded by calms, mussels, squid, and a flourish of charred Pak Choi. The Halibut itself had a luminous, satin like sheen and packed an utterly delicious punch of flavour,
A helping of BakedPotato Skins that had been rubbed with salt, pepper and tabasco sauce before being baked to the point of extreme crunchiness were incredible. Filled with rosemary mashed potato and topped with parmesan, this carbtastic creation is one we are going to try and replicate at home. Such a simple idea but uber effective dish.
Our mains were rounded off with a gorgeous piece of Organic Pork from Jack Kelly Butchers in Kilrush, Co Clare. Topped with a sliver of Lardo and served with Red Cabbage Compote, a crispy potato croquette and berry jus. A very elegant take on a wholesome Irish dinner.
Tiramisu but not as we tend to know it was the dessert of the evening. Cool coffee granita is piled generously on top of sweetened ricotta and wrapped delicately in a cylinder of crisp pastry. A really lovely, light finish to highly decadent dinner.
Petit Fours of Jameson, Baileys and Pistachio Truffles sat atop mini meringue rings along with two glorious wedges of chocolate fudge. Despite being absolutely full, the magnetic draw of these sweet little delights was far too strong to ignore. Freshly brewed mint tea made with mint from the hotel garden provided a welcome burst of refreshment.
Retiring to Trump’s Bar for a post dinner G & T very full and very willing to sink into an oversized armchair and bask in the post dinner glow. Taking two corner armchairs we whiled away an hour listening to the melodic sounds of the resident pianist who is by all accounts, a local lady that has her own loyal listeners each weekend.
Ready for a long sleep after a wonderful day and night we went in the direction of our beautiful suite.
Waking up and throwing the windows open to hear the sound of the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean is an epic sight and sound. Unwilling to leave the luxury of The Ocean View Suite we opted to have breakfast delivered. A sumptuous spread of all the essential breakfast delights was set up on our dining room table. Freshly baked mini pastries, hot toast begging to be buttered, all the trappings of the full Irish along with generous bowls of crunchy granola atop raspberry compote and natural yoghurt.
With our departure time looming we packed our bags and made our way to reception to check out from one of the most luxurious hotel breaks we have had.
It is impossible not to be impressed by the grounds and the hotel itself however, more impressive than anything is the amount of employment provided. With almost 300 staff at peak season and an injection of over 2m in revenue to the local economy. Trump International, Doonbeg is five star luxury both inside and out enhanced by the epic beauty of the Wild Atlantic Way. The staff deserve a special mention, from John the concierge, the reception staff, Ashley & Greg in the restaurant, bar staff and housekeeping. Smiles are plentiful and absolutely no effort is spared.
A visit to Trump International, Doonbeg is essential for any luxury seekers like ourselves. We did not want to leave this haven of tranquility and we suspect you won’t either.
Trump International, Doonbeg, Co Clare.
WRITTEN BY KEITH MAHON & OLIVIA BYRNE