29
Apr 14

Fota Island, Ireland

Fota

Fota Island Resort must be one of the most unique hotels in Ireland. It’s sat on its own island in Cork Harbour, which is home to its own Wildlife Park.

The Fota Island hotel is modern in design and newly built. The rooms and suites are large, comfortable, private and spacious. They are comfortably decorated with huge balconies and lovely views across the island. It’s blissfully quiet and peaceful providing a perfect secluded retreat in which to relax and get away from it all. Fota Island Resort is an extremely popular destination for both foodies and sport fans as the food and facilities are both excellent. The resort has its own golf course and academy that enjoys a superb reputation, being a popular destination I with both celebrity and sporting guests. Fota Island Hotel is also very well located to explore the local area which is beautiful all year-round and particularly popular with visitors in the summer.

The hotel is large in size, but the welcome on the front desk is warm from the delightful managers and concierge who are extremely friendly. Adjacent to the reception area, guests can enjoy expertly made cocktails in the bar – they’ll even surprise you with a custom made cocktail especially for you if you ask.

Rooms are a good size and comfortably decorated with the highlight being the bathrooms featuring their own TVs and sound systems.

The main restaurant is open every night. The menu offers a good range of dishes, and makes a concerted effort to source their meat and selected other ingredients depending on the season locally. The beef on the menu is particularly good, and guests with food allergies are looked after. Breakfast is also taken in the restaurant, offering a large buffet of hot and cold foods.

Fota Island is particularly recommended as a great destination for anyone wanting peace, quiet and fantastic scenery to enjoy, just a short distance from Cork city centre.


19
Mar 14

Tabbouleh Salad

Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh Salad

Serves 2

Ingredients

25g bulgur wheat
2 large, ripe vine tomatoes

4 tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped

4 tbsp fresh mint leaves, chopped

1 small red onion, finely chopped
2-3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

Black olives, chopped tomatoes and Cos lettuce leaves to serve

Method

1)   Place the bulgar wheat into a small bowl and cover with 50ml of boiling water. Stir, then set aside for 20 minutes, or until the bulgar wheat has absorbed all of the water.

2)   Peel and dice the tomatoes

3)   Add the parsley, mint and onion to the tomatoes and mix well until combined.

4)   When the bulgar wheat has absorbed all of the water, fluff it using a fork until the grains are separated. Add the bulgar wheat to the tomato mixture.

5)   Drizzle over the lemon juice and olive oil and season, to taste, with salt. Mix well to coat the ingredients in the liquid.

6)   To serve, place the tabbouleh onto a nice large plate and garnish with olives, tomatoes and lettuce leaves


19
Mar 14

Sheen Falls Lodge, Ireland

SHEENFALLS41

County Kerry is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ireland, for good reason. Its wild and rugged coastline is exquisitely beautiful, with jagged, rocky outcrops and stunning blue seas. The drive around the Ring of Kerry is one of the highlights of the area – a three hour drive around the most beautiful parts of the county is a must for all visitors.

Sheen Falls Lodge Relais & Chateaux is a delightful hotel to visit in the popular town of Kenmare, which is perfectly placed for visitors wishing to navigate the Ring of Kerry, or indeed around the adjacent Beara Peninsula.

Kenmare itself is a charming town – busy and bustling in summer months with visitors keen to see the local attractions for themselves. Sheen Falls Lodge Relais & Châteaux is situated just a few minutes outside the town of Kenmare and is surrounded by purple heather covered mountains and cascading waterfalls.  The hotel is actually situated on the falls, which offer the most dramatic views from guest bedrooms and the dining room, which is appropriately named Le Cascade.

Sheen Falls Lodge is a large, traditional hotel, which offers a wide range of facilities for guests. There is a delightful spa, which uses Voya Organic Irish products, and a large pool and spa area.

Rooms are spacious and many offer fantastic views over the falls. Some rooms have been very tastefully refurbished in a very sophisticated modern style, with large, comfortable beds, huge bathrooms and every comfort you need.

Dinner at La Cascade is a must. Start with a delicious cocktail in the bar first, and make your way into the dining room, where you can enjoy the best views from the property. The food is great and allergies are catered for well.  Sheen Falls also has one of the most significant wine lists in the country, and so guests are able to tour the cellars with Quentin, the sommelier, before dinner, which is a real highlight.

Staff at Sheen Falls are especially helpful and friendly, going way above and beyond the call of duty to make your stay special. We found that they were able to suggest some really memorable trips and excursions to enjoy.

A visit to Sheen Falls is very highly recommended indeed for a most relaxing and enjoyable break and also to enjoy this most beautiful part of Ireland.

 

For reservations call contact Relais & Châteaux: www.relaischateaux.com

Rooms are priced from £185-375 and suites are priced from £200-625 on a per room per night basis; breakfast is €24 per person.  Prices include taxes.

Relais & Châteaux is an association of 515 of the world’s finest hotels and restaurants, in 60 countries.  Established in France in 1954, the Association’s mission is to spread its ‘art de vivre’ across the globe by selecting outstanding character properties.  Each member has its own distinctive personality, but Relais & Chateaux hoteliers and chefs are united in their passion for hospitality, commitment to quality and an aspiration to deliver an ever-higher level of service.


19
Mar 14

Ballymaloe Biscuits

Ballymaloe Biscuits

Ballymaloe Biscuits

These biscuits have been inspired by a trip to Ballymaloe country house hotel in Ireland. They are made using Macroom oatmeal, which is produced in the town of Macroom in County Cork in Southern Ireland. They are simple, crunchy biscuits but are delicious with a cup of tea or coffee. Sometimes, it’s the simple things that are best. These biscuits adapt well to food intolerances, too.

Ballymaloe Biscuits

Makes 48

Ingredients

300g Macroom oatmeal, or gluten free oats, blitzed in a food processor

300g plain white flour, or 250g gluten free plain flour

350g butter cut into small pieces, or dairy free-spread

150g caster sugar for sweet biscuits, or omit entirely for savoury biscuits

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Set aside three or four non-stick baking trays.

Mix together the oatmeal and flour, rub in the butter to a breadcrumb-like consistency and add the sugar if you’re using it.

Knead the mixture to a pliable dough (it will be a lit softer if you’re using spread) and roll out to about 3mm on a lightly floured table.

Stamp out discs and place on a non-stick baking sheet, or on baking parchment. You can re-roll the trimmings to get more biscuits.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, remove from the oven. Allow to cool on the tray for around 15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight tin.


19
Mar 14

Cliff House Hotel, Ireland

Cliff House Hotel

Cliff House Hotel

Cliff House Hotel part of the Relais & Châteaux group, is perched high on the cliff top overlooking Ardmore Bay, and offers one of the most spectacular views in Ireland. What is more, its main restaurant, where chef Martijn Kajuiter works his culinary magic, is one of only a handful to boast a Michelin star in the country.

The Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore is regularly voted one of the best hotels in Ireland. The hotel sits in an ultra modern building, quite literally built into and onto the cliffs in Ardmore, a small town in County Waterford, just a 5 minute drive from the N25 – the main road running from Rosslare to Cork.

The hotel is, in fact split onto seven levels so that practically every room can enjoy the spectacular views from the hotel. The décor is a wonderful blend of seriously cool and ultra chic, and manages all this whilst offering absolute comfort to guests. Gorgeous seaweed artwork is displayed on the walls, and plenty of armchairs are thoughtfully positioned for you to relax and take in the surroundings. Some suites are split-level, with views over the sea from the beds and very private glass-fronted bathrooms, again, allowing you to enjoy the scenery from the bath or shower.

Despite its membership to Relais & Chateaux, the Cliff House Hotel has a very special boutique hotel feel. Staff are super helpful and charming and people drive from all over the country to come and stay here – in fact, the hotel gets booked up very quickly and far in advance.

Martijn Kajuiter’s restaurant enjoys a fabulous reputation and uses Irish produce to create an exciting fine dining experience for guests who visit from far and wide. Breakfast is also taken in the dining room looking out over the sea.  There is a great spread on offer to guests, which includes homemade scones, local yoghurt and of course, a delicious Full Irish. Food allergies are very thoughtfully catered for here.

The service is every bit as special as you might expect – genuinely friendly, helpful and charming which completes the experience at Cliff House. A visit is highly recommended for a special occasion, or just because.

For reservations call contact Relais & Châteaux: www.relaischateaux.com

Relais & Châteaux is an association of 515 of the world’s finest hotels and restaurants, in 60 countries.  Established in France in 1954, the Association’s mission is to spread its ‘art de vivre’ across the globe by selecting outstanding character properties.  Each member has its own distinctive personality, but Relais & Chateaux hoteliers and chefs are united in their passion for hospitality, commitment to quality and an aspiration to deliver an ever-higher level of service.  

 

 

 


13
Mar 14

Sweet and Salty Popcorn

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I am currently totally obsessed by Sweet and Salty popcorn. It seems to be all the rage at present, and is completely addictive. Unable to fuel my cravings, I decided to give it a go at home. The results were completely delicious and so much easier and cheaper than shop bought. I urge you to try it!

Sweet and Salty Popcorn

Makes 1 medium bowlful

Ingredients

75g popping corn

2 tbsp sunflower oil

1-2 tsp crushed sea salt flakes (Maldon is lovely)

1-2 tsp caster sugar

Method

Pop the corn according to packet instructions. Sprinkle over the salt and sugar. Toss well and serve immediately  - it doesn’t keep well.


17
Feb 14

Castlemartyr

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The Castlemartyr Resort is a magnificent 5 star hotel and resort situated in East Cork – a gloriously beautiful part of Ireland. Just a short drive from the City of Cork along the southern Irish coast, the Castlemartyr hotel occupies a grand manor house, surrounded by green fields, woodland and lakes. It’s hosted its fair share of A-list celebrities over the years, with Bill Clinton staying recently.

Guests at Castlemartyr stay in true luxury in enormous, luxurious rooms, with oversized bathrooms and views over intricately manicured gardens and the ruins of an 800-year-old castle in the hotels grounds.

Guest bedrooms have large, marble bathrooms, even featuring a personal sauna, giant beds, and plenty of space to relax and store your luggage. The hotel is very tastefully decorated throughout, in a smart, country house style, fitting the location.

Foodie guests have a choice of two restaurants at the resort – The Bell Tower, offering fine dining, and Francini’s, which serves more relaxed Italian food. The Bell Tower’s menu features a good deal of produce sourced locally and from further afield in Ireland. There is a good range of dishes to choose from – all of which sound delicious. A full Irish breakfast is served here every morning from a buffet. Food allergies are catered for well with notice given.

There is plenty for guests to do on site, with a golf course, leisure centre and spa to hand. The pool is large and overlooks the gardens, with designated family and adult only swimming times.

The spa at Castlemartyr is a real highlight. Spa guests have their own private jacuzzi and beauty treatment area overlooking the swimming pool. There is a sauna and steam room and gorgeous relaxation room for guests to enjoy around treatments. The spa uses lovely ESPA products and offers a wide range of pampering and relaxing treatments for guests and visitors to the hotel.

For more adventurous guests wanting to explore the local area, the resort is well positioned to enjoy Cobh (pronounced ‘Cove’ island – the last stopping place of the Titanic), world-famous Ballymaloe House and Cookery School, Blarney Castle and Cork city (Ireland’s second city) within a half an hour drive. Cork Airport is also around 30 minutes drive away.

For more information and bookings, please see the Spabreaks.com website


02
Jan 14

One and Only Royal Mirage, Dubai

1OAO

Dubai is the place to be right now. It is one of the world’s top destinations in November through to January.

The One and Only Royal Mirage is probably the most enchanting beach resort in Dubai. What is particularly special is that is manages to capture the very best of Dubai in its location and surroundings. Set in well-established gardens, there is a dramatic drive up to the resort buildings through the palm tree lined well-established gardens. We stayed in the Arabian Court, but there are also the Palace and the Residence properties available for guests here.

The hotel properties are both luxurious and dramatic in appearance, and sensitively blend traditional regional elements with pure fantasy in their design. The interiors are extremely tastefully decorated, incorporating elements of Arabian and North African design very successfully, but offer the level of luxury guests expect in Dubai, and are decked with 70 foot real palm trees inside, indoor fountains and plenty of marble. The One and Only Royal Mirage feels a very private and relaxed place to stay and is the perfect location for couples to enjoy a romantic break, or to celebrate a special occasion.

The resort owns a kilometre of private beach for guests to enjoy, which is set at the end of beautifully manicured lush, green gardens and two swimming pools. There are plenty of sun loungers available for guests wanting to sunbathe, and guests are well looked after by the staff on handing ensuring you have plenty to drink. For the more adventurous guests, there is a beach house which offers in-house water sports. We tried the water skiing, paddle boarding and kayaking which was great fun. There is a huge range of activities available every day.

The One and Only is a wonderful place for foodies to stay. Breakfast is a special affair. It can be taken inside or out, with an amazing selection of food available. The highlight is the fresh bread and pastries made by the French chef every day. They are as good as the very best you’d find in a French boulangerie, and are made in abundant quantities every morning.

Food allergies are catered for and staff do everything they can to make you feel at ease, as dietary requirements are communicated to all relevant staff in the hotel. The special gluten free bread and cakes we were given were excellent.

Dinner at the hotel’s Celebrities restaurant should feature on every guest’s itinerary. The dining room is sumptuously decorated with chairs you just sink into, enormous sparkling chandeliers and stunning views through the gardens. The food, cooked by French chef Laurent and served by expert French staff is divine. The lobster thermidor, asparagus risotto and wagyu beef are all highly recommended, although the menu offers a great number of tempting options. The wine list again offers a great choice, or just get your waiter to choose for you – the Poilly Fumé we tried was lovely.

If you’re after some rest and relaxation, you must try the Spa here. It is seriously special. Situated adjacent to the Residence building, in an absolutely beautiful building, it offers a really unique selection of treatments including the must-try, completely authentic Oriental Hammam experience which is simply heavenly.

Service is polished, profesional and friendly and there is a genuine desire to look after guests. From surprise gifts sent to the room, to handwritten letters from staff – there is a real sense of care and hospitality at the One and Only, which makes a visit so special and memorable.


31
Dec 13

Chard, broccoli and mushroom bake

Bake

Sometimes some of the most surprisingly delicious meals happen quite unexpectedly. This is definitely one of them. I was wondering what to make having received my Abel & Cole Gourmet ingredient box the other week, and to be honest, I really wasn’t sure what to cook. Of course all the vegetables were lovely, but I really was at a loss as to what to do with them, aside from serve them as vegetables with other dishes, which I really didn’t want to do.

This bake really was made up as I went along. It’s a essentially an adaptation of cauliflower cheese. The addition of the herbs and mustard in the sauce gives it a real depth of flavour. You could serve it as a side, but I thought this was so good, I had it on its own for

lunch. And I’ll be having it again very soon. It’s utterly delicious.

Chard, broccoli and mushroom bake

Ingredients

For the bake

500g chard, cut into 4cm slices

250g broccoli, cut into small florets

20g butter

200g mushrooms, thinly sliced

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce

20g unsalted butter

20g plain flour
(gluten free if needed)

300ml whole milk

1 bay leaf

1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves only

½ tsp Dijon mustard

75g strong, mature cheddar, grated

For the topping

75g breadcrumbs

50g parmesan cheese, finely grated

Method

Preheat the oven to 190C. Set aside a large ovenproof dish.

Quickly steam the chard and broccoli until just al dente. This should take around 4-5 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the butter and cook the mushrooms in the butter for around 10 minutes until softened. Drain the broccoli and chard well, place into the ovenproof dish, add the mushrooms. Mix them together and spread them evenly over the base of the dish. Season well.

Now it’s time to make the sauce. Melt the butter for the sauce in a medium saucepan over a fairly low heat, then stir in the flour to form a smooth paste. Cook gently, stirring continuously for a minute or two. Remove from the heat and add a third of the milk. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon or whisk until you have a thick, smooth paste. Add the rest of the milk in one or two lots, stirring it in until smooth. Return the sauce to the heat and bring to a boil, stirring. Let it bubble for two minutes, stirring every now and then, to “cook out” any raw flour, then turn the heat right down. Add the bay, thyme cheddar, and mustard, stir gently until the cheese melts into the sauce – don’t let the sauce boil, or it may curdle – and season.

When you’re ready to assemble the dish, fish the bay leaf out of the sauce and stir well. Pour the sauce evenly over the vegetables in the dish. Scatter with the breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese, and bake for 20 minutes, until golden and bubbling.


30
Dec 13

Hakkasan, Dubai

1hak

Hakkasan Dubai is one of those rare restaurants that wows you from the moment you arrive. Situated in the Jumeirah Emirates Towers area of Dubai, it is a gorgeous and glamorous restaurant and bar with a whole host of celebrity regulars.

The dining room is sleek, stylish and beautifully designed and lit and feels a very private and intimate place to dine. The bar is stunning and is a great place to meet for cocktails. The private dining room is a favourite with A-list gusts and regulars alike.

Although the experience of visiting Hakkasan is quite wonderful in itself, the stunning interior and exterior pale into insignificance when it comes to the food and drinks, which are just sublime.

Hakkasan prides itself on its cocktails which are exquisitely delicious. The lychee martini was an absolute favourite, with the strawberry basil concoction coming a close second.  The wine list is extensive and impressive, as much of the wines on offer are specially imported into the UAE by the restaurant.  What is on the list is very carefully chosen, too. Olivier Gasselin, Head Sommelier explained to me that he works with his wine team every week, and conducts a dedicated tasting session, trying out new wines with at least four different dishes from the menu: if a wine does not work with one dish – even if it is great with the others – it does not make the list.

The food here is divine, too. Staff are very caring and sensitive towards any intolerances and are happy to tailor your choices accordingly.

To start, I went for the Hakka steamed dim sum platter, which included a generous portion of exquisitely prepared and flavoured dim sum, which was the perfect way to start the meal.

To follow, we shared a selection of small dishes. The absolute standout without question was the Jasmine tea smoked Wagyu beef ribs. Meltingly tender beef ribs, marbled with chunks of sweet fat, cooked in a gorgeously sweet, sticky and smoky sauce were without question one of the best things I’ve ever, ever eaten. I’m salivating now, just even thinking about them again.  We also tried the delicious Steamed red snapper with assam sauce, which was lovely. Super fresh, perfectly cooked fish with a punchy sauce.  The Sweet and sour chicken with pomegranate was a fantastic take on this classic dish, with a wonderfully fruity sauce and delicious, crunchy vegetables.

We didn’t see the dessert menu after this, we just sat and finished off our delicious cocktails and soaked up the atmosphere.  If you’re in Dubai, a meal at Hakkasan is an absolute must. – a truly unforgettable experience.

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