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Chef Kevin Dundon reveals fabulous €2m refurbishment of his Dunbrody House

Kevin Dundon spend €2m upgrading Dunbrody house

Enjoy a few drinks at the new stylish bar

The bathrooms are stylish

Finishing touches: The team get ready for the re-opening

Esther McCarthy

Top chef Kevin Dundon has revealed the €2 million refurbishment of his beloved Dunbrody House – and added: “I’m done!”

Dundon revealed his pride and relief that the extensive project is nearing the home straight as he and his wife Catherine prepare to celebrate 25 years at Dunbrody.

But the TV presenter and Sunday World

columnist told how he feared they had “bitten off more than we could chew” when the work on Dunbrody became bigger and more challenging than originally envisaged.

“There was stuff that wasn’t in the plan. Stuff that has us going: ‘Oh God, why did we start?’ because you know, once you do one room the next room looks s**t!” he laughed.

Enjoy a few drinks at the new stylish bar

“The first push was all downstairs and the bedrooms upstairs, and it seemed like every corner you turned to in the hotel there was a mess.

“It started with us just doing the restaurant downstairs. Then we decided we’d do the reception desk and then suddenly we were at the front door of the hotel, all the way through reception, down the hallways upstairs and downstairs. And I thought: ‘We have to stop adding projects to this, because we’ll never get opened again’.”

Still, the Dundons are proud of and delighted with the finished work on the place where they call home, and where they have welcomed thousands of guests over a quarter of a century.

The work will be almost fully completed

in time for the family’s 25th anniversary at Dunbrody on May 3.

Catherine says she can still vividly remember the first time they visited the property when looking for a country house to develop and run for guests.

Though very different in decor and style, they “fell in love” with the property, which was built in the 1830s, near Arthurstown in Co. Wexford.

“We were looking for a country house that was within a certain distance from Dublin,” says Catherine. “And we were only really looking at the east coast, down as far as Rosslare.

The bathrooms are stylish

“We’d come down to look at another property in Wexford town and the same people who were selling that were actually selling Dunbrody. I just said to Kevin that day: ‘Let’s just take a spin over to this place’.

“I’d never even heard of Arthurstown, and the Hook Peninsula sounded fabulous. So we came over on a blustery, horrible day, and we literally knocked on the door. The man who was selling said: ‘I’ll give you a quick run around’.

“We just got such a lovely feel for the house from day one. Even though it wasn’t our style of decor or anything like that, most of the house wasn’t being lived in even at that time.

“But you could see the potential, we just fell in love with it the minute we walked in the door.”

The couple closed from January to March to take on the major project, which cost just shy of €2m.

Finishing touches: The team get ready for the re-opening

“It’s a complete refurbishment of the whole house,” said Kevin. “Hugh Wallace is actually doing the downstairs restaurant, the front lobby, and the bathrooms downstairs. Interior designer Emily Maher is doing the bedrooms upstairs.

“We’ve brought it right back to the original house, all marble bathrooms exposed all the wooden floors in the bedroom, beautiful rugs, beautiful silk curtains. It’s very smart. Emer Bourke, she’s amazing, she’s project managed the whole thing.

“They started work on January 11 and then we reopened on March 15 with the main body of the hotel and the rooms above it.

“We’ve got four more rooms back today and then the last three rooms will be back to us in about two and a half weeks.

“Then that’s it until September. The newer wing that we put on in 1999, those rooms are actually in really good shape so we’re changing the tiling and putting in wooden floors. There’s only five rooms left to do over there.”

Finding key fittings and details for the refurb was a labour of love for the star chef.

“Tara Crystal did two beautiful chandeliers for us in the restaurant. They’re ex-Waterford Crystal employees and they did an amazing job.

“I picked up two Louise Kennedy chandeliers on auction. We also put in new French doors on the house. And the difference that they’ve made to the warmth of the house is unreal.”

The Dundons have carried out the work in tandem with moves to make their business more sustainable.

“We’ve actually been putting a stronger stamp on our ethos in the last two years, where it’s very sustainable.”

The couple have been greatly heartened by the response from costumers, many of who would be repeat visitors.

“What we keep hearing is: ‘You’ve achieved something really special – it’s still Dunbrody House. You haven’t lost what Dunbrody is’.”

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