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“Great things lie ahead for The Old Schoolhouse”

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The Old Schoolhouse Inn
Ranked #1 of 2 Comber B&B and Inns
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed 14 November 2012

We decided to pay a return visit to The Old Schoolhouse at the beginning of this month, after a gap (we reckon) of about 15 years. Our decision was based on the reports we'd heard about the high standard of food being produced by the young chef Will Brown - and we were not disappointed. This guy, having worked for both Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay (amongst others), took the brave decision to return home to rural Co Down and re-open a restaurant at the family business - and we are very glad he did so! We chose the tasting menu with matching wines (expertly chosen by the restaurant manager Didier). This is never the least expensive dining option, but we opt for it wherever possible. It's the best way to experience a wide variety of dishes - and still have room for them all. It is impossible to pick out a favourite as they were all beautifully executed and presented - and tasted every bit as good as they looked. We started off with a mackerel veloute, accompanied by oyster beignet. Then followed a further four courses (featuring Clandeboye Estate pigeon, halibut, local Dexter beef and cheesecake), rounded off by a chocolate delice. When one considers that food of this standard is already being produced by a chef who is only 26 years old, who knows what the future may hold? Others have mentioned the restaurant decor - and, yes, it has changed little since our last visit. However, a complete refurbishment is to take place right at the beginning of 2013. Frankly, I spent too much time enjoying what was being presented in front of me to even notice the decor. All in all, we wouldn't hesitate to pay a return visit and have already recommended it to friends.

  • Stayed: November 2012, travelled with family
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2  Thank NED541287
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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210 - 216 of 238 reviews

Reviewed 27 October 2012

This was a lucky find on laterooms.com, not only a bargain price but excellent in every way. Very hospitable to my mum in her 80's and limited mobility, we stayed in the Wilson Suite which is accesable from a level entrance..........Coffee and tea sittiing room and breakfast room all very handy, and quite lovely furnished. Excellent library bookcase and lots of local tourist info available. Room was excellently furnished, very comfortable beds and delightful en suite. The operators of this establishment run it very professionally but very much homely and welcoming, all the staff and management are very sociable and cannot offer more to accommodate every need and satisfaction. It was conveniently situated for our research objectives in Comber and Donaghadee, all but a ten minute drive from Comber along the shores of Strangford Lough. The restaurant and food are something else, A La Carte menu and five start food, but worth every penny especially if you like trying new flavours and nouvelle cuisine. Excellently presented and cooked to perfection. The School Room is due a facelift and that is planned, but I hope they keep the original features of The Blackboard, Piano, Master's Desk and Cast radiators and pipework along with the school foundation stone. Didier, the french reastuarant Manager delivers with all the style of a fashionable Parisienne venue, and is a master of his craft. I will definitely visit again, perhaps for a bit longer next time, and some may be surprised to know that this venue is on a twenty five minute drive to Belfast City Centre!

Room Tip: The Wilson Suite, among others were easily accessible from a level entrance for those with limited m...
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  • Stayed: October 2012, travelled with family
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Thank RamoanRoots
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 26 September 2012

I took my parents to the Old School House in COmber recently - it was my first visit back there for many years. Now under the ownership of the best young chef in Ireland in my opinion, Will Brown is creating a marvellous reputation for himself and his restaurant. My folks are well travelled and know good food when they see and taste it. Likewise I always enjoy a delicious meal. Will has trained under many top chefs in London and further afield such as Gordon Ramsay (but he is so much more polite than Gordon!) His training is evident. His attention to detail is palpable, and the taste of the food and its presentation on the plate is a total delight.
There is a wide choice of dish, an the tasting menu is an interesting alternative to allow you to taste virtually everything! And dont think you can 'skip dessert'! BIG MISTAKE if you do. I have never tasted flavours like what I had on that evening. Congratulations Will an your team. This is the best meal I have had in Northern Ireland, and in fact my folks said that he is up there with the best in the UK.

  • Stayed: September 2012, travelled with family
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1  Thank julzBelfast
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 22 September 2012

We went for an evening meal to celebrate a birthday. The entire evening was thoroughly enjoyable, the food was absolutely beautiful both in taste and in presentation, the staff and the service were spot on. We will definately return and we are planning to stay in the hotel next time as well.

  • Stayed: September 2012, travelled as a couple
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Thank Mark A
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 22 September 2012

This place is a little gem! I had heard a buzz about The School House on twitter and a colleague who visited a couple of weeks ago. He raved about the food, 'best I've had in years' were his words. Being a cynic I took his comments with a pinch of salt (no pun intended), but having looked at the website and the menu I thought it was only right to judge for myself how they performed.
Myself and my better half visited on a Friday night. The restaurant is located down a long corridor and we were greeted by a lovely french man who must enjoy being there because he had a perma-smile the whole night. He showed us some menus and the wine list, and once we were settled I had a look around the room. According to the staff the room is pretty much the way it was when the restaurant opened 30 years ago, and you can still see where the classrooms would have been. The walls are adorned with old pictures and there is a piano at the end of the room.
We decided to go for the A La Carte menu as opposed to the 8 course tasting menu, simply because we didn't have enough time to give it (it's on the list for the next visit). We got some home made complimentary breads and a little taster of soup while we waited, which was a really nice touch before our starters came. We ordered the mackeral starter and the chicken ravilo. The presentation was unbelievable, and the flavours in the dishes were amazing, and I understood then why my colleague had raved about it so much.
Our main courses were the Lisarra Duck and the Beef Fillet. The duck was cooked beautifully and the fillet of beef was so tender. The beef is apparently aged for 50 days, and to be honest I learnt a lot about the dishes from our waiter and the waitress delivering our food, like the fact Lisaara is actually down the road from the restaurant. Again the presentation was out of this world, I haven't seen food or tasted food like this in Northern Ireland for years.
To finish of we shared a lemon tart dessert, and it was presented just as well as the other dishes and was a fantastic dessert, zesty and sweet and complimented by a great shortcrust pastry.
Overall we had a fantastic evening, the food and service lived up to expectation and I will be adding my own comments to my colleagues this week in work. The School House is well worth the visit and we will most definatley be back.

  • Stayed: September 2012, travelled as a couple
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Thank Chris M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 16 September 2012

To much acclaim I had to try! After reading a smashing review of one of Northern Irelands top critics I had to give The Old School House a go.

Me and my partner arrived and were instantly surprised by the beautiful surroundings of the building, with green fields at every turn and Strangford Lough a hypothetical stone throw away, it was somewhat picturesque.

Unfortunately once we ventured beyond the front arch way it all went downhill from there...
The restaurant its self is tucked away at the back of one of the two builds, take your pick to find out which one it is, once you pick a building it’s then up to you to try every door available. It’s like something out of Crystal Maze, maybe I’m showing my age... but nothing a simple sign couldn’t sort out.

EVENTUALLY we managed a door that lead into a room that had app. 10 tables all draped in linen with fancy napkins and tall candles, at this point I’m finding it hard to match the review I read with the scene I’m looking at. However we were met and seated in good time and brought to a table with a nice view of the green fields we had passed on our way here, which was nice we had something pleasant to look at, as the shabby curtains hiding the coffee machine and what looked like soil pipes in a ‘Narnia room’ weren’t much to look at. I say Narnia room because every time we ordered something it came from that room...

The evening was kicked off not pleasantly by a lovely little woodlouse crawling across our table minding his own business, he got removed by force and we ordered our drinks, out they came from Narnia, without our bottle of sparkling water, in the end I asked four times for it with no apology. We ordered food and waited, out from Narnia comes complimentary bread, followed by complimentary amuse bouche, set down in front of me without a description as to what it was. It was nice, not much more than nice, very flashy. Our starters arrived 25minutes after we ordered, which makes me think the bread and amuse bouche were simply there to buy time! Again, starters where mediocre, very flashy and very well presented.

On to our mains, mains came out in good time (app. 15mins) and were extraordinarily lavish. Then I started to think... the beautiful scenery, fancy napkins, tall candles, lavishly presented food, is the Old School House compensating? I could have closed my eyes and been in a nice restaurant anywhere in the country. I’ve purposely not given details of the food because I don’t think the Old School House is deserving of an advertising review...

All in all we were a little disappointed, we went expecting big things, and got traditional flavours and run of the mill service. A pricey bill means we’ll not be rushing back, so I beg the question,

Is The Old School House Inn bunking off??

  • Stayed: September 2012, travelled as a couple
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5  Thank OneUpOneDown
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 31 August 2012

We can recall the original opening of the Old School House as a restaurant, one of the crop of new out-of-town venues 30 years ago, and its novelty old 1960's fire engine in the garden, but we hadn't eaten there since we moved to England.

The fire engine is still there, a bit worse for wear.

So too, perhaps, the restaurant.

The initial hallway impression was surprisingly dark - preparation for the monochrome plum gloom of the dining room.

Our booking had been misunderstood but they weren't all that busy so seats were available.

The menu was fine with a good choice of starters (£8-ish) and mains (£18-ish) which felt a bit high, price-wise....but lets see what comes! Wine list was five or six pages and included a by-glass choice.

We did get somebody else's starters, briefly. Our own arrived, and then eventually our mains (but not our extra veg order). The food was pleasant but it had taken 90mins to get from our arrival to the end of our main course and we are not slow eaters. Sweet menus took 15mins to arrive, 10mins to return to take the order and 15mins to deliver the puddings, and again there was a mix-up with the order. Choice of sweets I'd describe as minimalist, a term of approval only when applied to non-food situations, and the three balls of icecream served in (what looked like) an 8in pyrex mixing bowl did nothing to add to the sense of occasion.

Overall the food was reasonable; its presentation a bit too arty-pretentious and the service not nearly as sharp as the waiters' suits. (Suits!!!) This was a frustrating outcome - a good chef being undermined by poor overall management.

[ After writing this, I see from another review that it is indeed a new team at the helm here; they do need to become much tighter in presentation]

My own closing thought was that the sluggish service had allowed me time to reflect that anyone arriving at the Old School House had almost certainly driven past at least one better restaurant to get there!

  • Stayed: July 2012, travelled with friends
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3  Thank MIDLANDS-UK
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about The Old Schoolhouse Inn

Address: 100 Ballydrain Road | Castle Espie, Comber BT23 6EA, Northern Ireland
Region: United Kingdom > Northern Ireland > County Down > Comber
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Restaurant
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 2 B&Bs / Inns in Comber
Price Range: £69 - £99 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:4 star — The Old Schoolhouse Inn 4*
Number of rooms: 12
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
A little piece of Heaven situated by the shores of Strangford Lough in an area of outstanding beauty. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
The Old Schoolhouse Inn Comber, Northern Ireland

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