Heir today, gone tomorrow. Around 3,000 Irish country houses have “done a Lord Lucan” (the not so lucky 7th Earl) and disappeared over the last century. Finnstown House in his erstwhile squiredom ain’t one of them. It opened as a hotel in 1987 and for the last decade has been run by Jim Mansfield. The Dublin businessman has a penchant for antiques; there are plenty of period rooms to fill. No Victorian dining room is complete without a taxidermy hostess mirror.
Storming past the trompe l’oeiled reception and faux tented lobby, we take on in the tiered Céleste at The Lanesborough, a glazed roofed internal pavilion looking heavenwards. It’s Wedgwood blue now. A jasperware temple. Regency, just like the building. Last time round, the wildly eclectic gothiental Conservatory as it was then called was flamingo pink. Sometime in between, lurking here for four years was a greyish art decoesque intruder named Apsleys. The hotel has changed hands as well as hand painted wallpaper, but is still Middle Eastern owned. Once Rosewood managed, Oetker Collection has adopted it as an English half sister to Le Bristol Paris.
A careless magpie’s droppings of edible gold and silver leaf are liberally sprinkled across afternoon tea, even landing in the clotted Devonshire cream. We skip the lemon curd for strawberry preserve on the freshly baked scones (enveloped in pristine linen) but yearn for coloured sugar crystals (a dead cert at Marlfield House) to melt in the coffee. Although technically this is afternoon tea. Pastry chef Nicholas Rouzaud’scelestial array of hazelnut, caramel, chocolate and lemon meringue fantasies arrive. They quickly do a Lord Lucan.
In another quarter of a century a Victorian revival will be due. Brown will be the new black. Or at least the new greige. Expect heavy oak panelling, heavier drapes (again) and half a dead zoo’s worth of taxidermy in the revamped Céleste. It will be renamed Charlotte at The Lanesborough in honour of our newly married princess.