Wednesday, 23 September 2009

The Emerald Isle

Hello!!! I'm back from the land of Guinness, leprechauns and St. Patrick's day, well rested and well fed. We spent one day and night in Dublin, then drove south for about an hour and a half for two nights at the Brookledge Hotel, a beautiful hotel and spa with a really fantastic restaurant.

But I won't get ahead of myself, first, Dublin. We arrived at lunch time, ready for something to re-fuel us and keep us going for the afternoon. Avoca is a shop in central Dublin which sells all manner of things from aprons, to cooking utensils, to childrens toys, but it also has a lovely cafe downstairs and a more formal restaurant upstairs. We opted for the cafe as we were laden with bags and didn't feel like walking up any steps to be honest, and it turned out to be a great choice. With two salad bars to choose from, as well as home made tarts, sandwiches and hot meals, and much much more, we were spoiled for choice. We all settled on the salad bar as it was just so colourful and a real variety to choose from. I had a mix of about five different 'salads', which were distinctly un-leafy, but totally delicious, like a pasta and roasted pepper salad, mange-tout, hazelnut and beef salad, tomato and mozzarella salad... I can't remember the rest but they were yummy!

Then we ambled over to where we were staying to leave our luggage, before heading off to the Guinness Storehouse. What an impressive building!! It's sort of a cross between a museum, and a bar, and a brewery! The building is 'the world's largest pint glass', which you can't really tell until you look at the map. As you go up the many, many, many floors, the glass middle of the building widens in the proportions of a pint glass. Hmm, I'm not really doing a very good job of explaining, so I suggest you go there and see for yourselves!! Each floor is fascinating, ranging from the way Guinness is made, to the history of the brewery, to the advertising through the years. It really is worth seeing, and you get a complimentary pint when you reach the top of the building to quench your thirst!!

Our first night at the spa was a real treat for the tastebuds, as we went to their fine dining restaurant The Strawberry Tree. It's Ireland's only certified organic restaurant, and serves only organic produce (unless it's wild of course!). So, let's get down to the important stuff, the food!
To start I had a beautiful mackerel with hollandaise sauce and caper cake. I wasn't sure what caper cake would be, but it was a sort of cross between a spongy savoury souffle and a fishcake with capers. It sounds odd I know, but it was really light and delicious, with the acidity of the capers complimenting the creamy hollandaise and fishy mackerel.
Then, there was a palette cleansing course - the others had an elderflower sorbet which was lovely, and I had an olive, feta and leaf salad. Really tasty lettuce and zingy feta, but it was quite a mountian of salad which was probably a little too much.
Then for the piece de resistance, my main course. I had an absolutely phenomenal beef fillet atop caramelised roasted sweet potato, and a blue cheese crust crowning the beef. It was quite a tower! It came with a red wine jus and green beans. There was also a dish of mixed vegetables for us all to share which were just lovely. Although the whole dish was fantastic, I didn't think it needed the cheese. The beef was just so good and the cheese overpowered it, turning it from a rich and indulgent meal to something a little too overwhelming. Saying that, this is just my opinion!
And for dessert I had a chocolate platter which was so indulgent! There were about five different mini-desserts on the plate, all fabulously rich! However, as much as I loved it, my sister chose a passion fruit pannacotta with white wine soaked peaches, which was just to die for. The pannacotta was so soft, only just set, and completely melt in the mouth. Yum. I was totally envious of her choice.

Then we went back to our rooms and collapsed in a heap,looking forward to breakfast!

Breakfast was quite an impressive affair too, with the usual array of cereals, fresh fruit, some really amazing yoghurt, and pastries. Then there was a choice of a cooked breakfasts, one of which was poached egg and potato cake which I had on the first morning, and the second morning I chose pancakes with maple syrup. The potato 'cake' was actually just cooked potatoes with onions, not quite what I was expecting, but delicious nonetheless. The pancakes were a better choice though I think. Very light and fluffy, and not too filling after a heavy meal the night before, with great maple syrup to give me a bit of a sugar boost for the morning!

All too soon it was time to come home, and back to normality. Hey ho, I'll just have to find an excuse for another foodie break soon!

P.S apologies for the distinct lack of photos - I was too excited about eating and completely forgot!! I promise photos next time!


  1. ooh sounds great. I went to Dublin five years ago and fell in love with Avoca - did you buy any of their cook books? This year I visited Belfast and found that they had opened an Avoca there as well. Glad you enjoyed your break and had some great food.

  2. ahh no i didn't buy anything - i couldn't face carrying anything extra!! ooh must visit belfast too, i'd never been to ireland before this so i'll have to explore some more!

  3. The beef sounds amazing! Glad you had a great time!


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