Paul Carroll has run Ghan House for almost 25 years and, when he does finally hit that significant quarter-century anniversary, there should be one big party in Carlingford, because Ghan House is the jewel in the crown of this splendid medieval village.
In a world of extroverts and extroversion, Mr Carroll holds fast to the ageless virtues of modesty, understatement, correctness, comfort, politesse, genuine hospitality, and real food. Ghan House is booked out most nights, because over the years more and more people have realised just what a precious place it is, easily accessible to both Belfast and Dublin, and the most splendid getaway in the lovely Cooley Peninsula. You turn up here, and you leave the madding crowd far behind. The fires are lit, tea and cake beckons, then the promise of dinner and the sleep of revitalising rest.
The cooking, like all the other elements of the house, strikes just the right note: tempura of Carlingford oysters with braised beef in a beef and oyster pie; lamb puttanesca; brill with salsa verde; duck with potato fondant; Irish farmhouse cheeses; tonka bean custard with forest fruits. The service is as graceful as the cooking.
County Louth has begun to assert itself as a significant food destination in recent times, but Paul Carroll was asserting the uniqueness of the county, and its food, a long time ago. He is a pioneer, and where he has gone, others now follow.