John Kelly Of Lady Helen Restaurant At Mount Juliet Estate

By Emily Hourican
John Kelly Of Lady Helen Restaurant At Mount Juliet Estate

Chef John Kelly and his team at the Lady Helen restaurant, at Mount Juliet Estate – one of Ireland’s finest country estates – have been celebrating their Michelin star for 11 years now.

The magnificent eighteenth-century walled resort overlooks the River Nore and is home to two five-star properties: the 32-bedroom Manor House and the 93-bedroom Hunter’s Yard Hotel.

This article was originally published in the Spring 2024 issue of Hospitality Ireland Magazine, in February of 2024.

Congratulations, John! Tell us how it felt to hear that news.

We were absolutely delighted to retain the Michelin star. It’s a credit to the hard work from the Lady Helen team.


Can you cast your mind back to the year that you got the star – what was that like? Were you expecting it?

Amazing! Having worked at that level under different chefs during my own career was a privilege, but to have achieved the awarding of the star with my own team was amazing.

Ten years ago, there were not as many Michelin restaurants in Ireland as there are now, so it was a brilliant achievement for the Lady Helen to be awarded a star. Retaining it for the past seven years has been fantastic.

What is required to keep operating at this level?

One thing is key: consistency – constantly delivering that high standard requires self-discipline and ensuring we don’t allow our standards to drop. I don’t take anything for granted. We have to evolve and make things happen.


How much is the star in your mind as you make changes to the restaurant, the menu, etc.?

We don’t get obsessed with the star. We follow the same ethos: keep it simple, do it well.

Does it ever feel like a burden?

No. It drives you. If you work to a certain standard every day, it becomes natural. The only person who makes it a burden is oneself. It’s a mark of quality – not a weight on one’s neck.

What changes have you made to the Lady Helen in recent times?


We listen to the changing demands of our customers and now offer a single tasting menu, for a bespoke, dish-centric dining experience. This year, we will undertake a full refurbishment of the restaurant. I’m looking forward to that!

What is the ethos of the restaurant?

Keep it simple, do it well!

What are the particular challenges that you’ve noticed within the industry recently?

It’s difficult to get staff, especially those who are committed to working and learning the ways of a Michelin-star restaurant in a five-star hotel. Having said that, I have been very lucky, and we have a great team here at the Lady Helen and Mount Juliet Estate.


How have customer expectations changed in the last three to five years?

Sometimes it’s us – the chefs and restaurant managers that change the customers’ expectations as we drive our own standards higher and evolve the experience, making it better, year on year, so they return to experience the ‘better’ – and we respond to customer demand and expectations, evolving our menus and restaurant experience.

Tell us about your career so far.

First, CERT, a degree in culinary arts from DIT – now TUD – then I worked in a one- Michelin-star restaurant in Mougins, in France. I did a short stint at the Fat Duck, which really opened my eyes to how a three-Michelin-star kitchen worked! I then worked in Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud for five years before moving to the Lady Helen, where I have been for 11 years. I have retained the Michelin star, myself, for seven of those years.

What do you do when you’re not working – hobbies, etc.?

Hunting in the season, play golf, and walk the dogs with my wife, Linda.

Any other plans on the horizon for the next year or so?

This year, we will be refurbishing the Lady Helen restaurant, and we’re currently working on plans for that.