I had heard really good things about The Hodson Bay Hotel. It comes highly recommended for families, couples, and friends. They have everything covered it seems.
When we go to a hotel we usually like to venture outside for our meals. We explore the local towns, do a bit of online research and try to find somewhere special to make our holiday that little bit more memorable.
When we arrived at The Hodson Bay Hotel the first thing we were greeted by was the beautiful smell coming from their day time carvery. As you walk in the main reception you will find the Waterfront Bar and Carvery to your left. We arrived early for check-in and were happy to relax while we waited. We knew that the check-in time was not for a while and so a wait was totally expected and absolutely fine. However, the very kind receptionist generously offered for us to avail of the carvery and have some lunch, completely free of charge. Now, granted this is not something that probably happens every day or for every group, but I was really really impressed by that gesture.
We dined in the Waterfront Bar and had a beautiful carvery dinner. I had battered cod with "all the veg", potato gratin and gravy. My partner had lasagne. Both were absolutely delicious. Tasty comfort food and just what the doctor ordered after a long drive. Our son, Billy, was also in his element. He is a budding foodie and was delighted when he feasted his eyes upon the "baby bowl" that he was given. Lovely soft mashed potato, flavourful variety of vegetable and a choice of either soup or gravy to give it a sauce. I thought that was a lovely touch. Having the option of soup rather than gravy really impressed me. Anything to get more vegetables in to our little ones right?
Having had such a positive experience in the carvery, I decided to have a look at the menu for the hotel's main restaurant, namely the L'Escale Restaurant. Many of you who have purchased a Groupon voucher for The Hodson Bay Hotel will have received a €10 dining credit voucher for this restaurant as part of the deal. Upon reading the menu I was really impressed by the variety of food on offer, the eloquence of it's description, and indeed the visual look of the restaurant which can be seen easily as you walk from the hotel to either the library room, breakfast room, or towards the swimming pool.
We were very lucky to have crossed paths with the hotel's general manager Mr Timothy Hayes who very kindly offered us the opportunity to review the hotel's restaurant. I very much looked forward to the meal, and providing an honest review of the experience to my readers. I also really hoped that it was going to be as good as the menu suggested.
We decided to go for the lunch option. It coincided with a time of day where Billy would be napping (in his pram) and it worked out quite nicely in that regard. After a trip to Glendeer Pet Farm (highly recommended) we arrived at the L'Escale Restaurant with hungry tummies and a great level of excitement.
Our table awaited us, beautifully presented. I felt it had just the right element of "fine dining" and yet it was comfortable and in no way intimidating at the same time.
Our menus were displayed in front of us as we were seated, and we read them with great anticipation about what was to come.
I had not seen the lunch menu, and when I began to read it I was instantly impressed by the variety on offer. It was a really lovely selection including fish, meat, vegetarian options, and a really beautiful description of all that would accompany each dish. I struggled to chose as there were simply too many dishes that sounded extraordinary. And yet, I felt that the menu was the perfect size. Sometimes too much choice can be a bit overwhelming, and the same can be said for the disappointment of a menu that is too skimpy. This was just perfect.
As we decided what to order we were given a beautiful selection of fresh bread and butter. This was a real treat. The white bread was a soft loaf bread with a hint of onion threading it. The brown was actually a Guinness bread and it was one of the nicest I have ever tasted. A really lovely touch.
And of course, holidays are all about relaxing right? My partner enjoyed a pint of Guinness (which he referred to as "a gorgeous pint" of Guinness) and I had some still water from a lovely tall glass. Refreshing, and the perfect accompaniment to the bread appetiser.
Now this is where the fun really starts. I am a starter girl. I always have been. I'm usually more enthusiastic about my starter then my main course. Perhaps it's because the starter is the first taste? Or because it is when I am most hungry? I'm not sure. I just know that a nice starter completely wins me over. And let me just say, this starter did exactly that. Would you just look at that beautiful creation below?
This beautiful dish was my starter. It arrived, and instantly looked like what I was imagining when I read the menu. Always a good thing. But of course it was on a completely different level. Served on a clean crisp white plate, I feasted my eyes upon this delectable starter.
Beetroot Cured Salmon - Beetroot Puree, Pickled Golden Beetroot, Deep Fried Baby Capers, Shallots and Lemon Oil.
It was quite literally one of the nicest plates of food that I have ever had. The salmon was soft, beautifully flavoured and yet simple at the same time. The pickled beetroot was like something I had never tasted before. It was sweet, and yet had a tangy element which worked so well when teamed with the sweet cured salmon, and the zesty capers and lemon oil. It was a shame to destroy the arrangement, but this plate was well and truly found to be spotlessly clean about ten minutes later. Really really gorgeous.
My partner went for the chowder. His exact words upon his first taste was that it was the nicest chowder that he had ever tasted. I might add here that he is a huge fan of seafood, chowder, and worked in a restaurant kitchen for several years.
I was delighted to share his enthusiasm when I (for review purposes, of course) tasted some of the chowder.
West Coast Seafood Chowder - The Best The West Has To Offer Served With Guinness Bread.
The best, is right. This was an really delicate, incredibly flavourful bowl of fresh chowder. I could taste everything. The fish was delicate, the vegetables were Al Dente and yet smooth and silky at the same time. It also had a beautiful "lightness" about it. It was not heavy in any way. All of the flavour and none of the stodginess which can sometimes go hand in hand with a creamy dish like this. Ten out of ten for this dish.
Our 10 month old son awoke from his slumber just in time for the main courses. As we waited, the very helpful staff provided a high chair and he happily devoured some of the bread on offer. He was a happy little man, and spent the rest of the meal laughing at the waiters who were so friendly and helpful.
For my main course I decided to go for the vegetarian option. I find it very difficult to pass up anything that contains goats cheese and puff pastry. It's food heaven in my opinion. When the food arrived, it almost seemed like a sin to break in to that beautiful parcel of pastry, but I absolutely had to for the purpose of this review right? I broke the pastry with my fork and out from it oozed the most elegant river of soft melted goats cheese. It was a thing of beauty.
St. Tolas Goats Cheese Parcel - Chick Pea, Red Onion, Plum Tomato, And Coriander Salsa.
The sharp velvety goats cheese was perfectly paired with the sweet salsa that surrounded it.
And better still, it was served with two pots of sweet chutney. They were the perfect partners to this crunchy velvety dish.
My partner went for the salmon. It arrived and was instantly pleasing to the eye. A beautiful large fillet of salmon, deliciously seared and perfectly cooked inside. The Asian smell provided an insight of what was to come.
Teriyake Salmon - Bok Choi, Hoi Sin, And Sesame Noodles.
A simple and yet elegant dish. It was exactly as described. The crispy salmon against the soft Sesame Noodles provided the perfect team of texture and flavour. It was genuinely faultless, perfect in every way. Completely and utterly devoured.
If you can believe it, we were also given this beautiful array of vegetables for the able. It was lovely in every regard, but I feel special mention must be given to the red cabbage. It was unlike anything I have ever tasted before. It seemed to be scented by some honey and was just a complete surprise and treat. I look forward to (attempting to) creating a similar flavour back in my own kitchen. Something different. The mash potato was also very much enjoyed by Billy, who provided a choir of "mmm" and "nom nom"s.
There is always room for dessert. And how could there not be when something like this is on offer? We selected two desserts and decided to share.
Chefs Assiette - Toffee Pudding, Apple Jelly, Parfait, Apply Granite, Caramel Sauce and Toffee Tuille.
Oh my. When this arrived on the table I just knew it was going to be wonderful. And so it was. A really fantastic array of textures, flavours, and temperatures. A real treat for a chocolate lover.
And for the second dessert - Can we just take a moment to appreciate the presentation here? What a beautiful display of colour.
Creme Brulee - Caramelised Custard, Poached Fruits, Orange and Almond Tuille.
When we eat out, if there is Creme Brulee on the menu then you can be fairly certain that my partner will order it. It's his absolute favourite dessert. And so expectations were high. As he broke the crunchy sugary seal of the Brulee, I waited for his reaction to the velvety custard inside.
He went silent and moved the plate as far away from me as possible. Too good to share? I decided to investigate myself. And suddenly I knew why. This dessert was on another level. Really and truly the nicest Brulee I have ever tasted. The poached fruit was something completely new to me. It seemed to be poached plum. A soft and yet firm texture, perfectly paired with the smooth and delicate Creme Brulee. It was just extraordinary. No words were said for the next couple of minutes. Out of this world.
I really cannot recommend The L'Escale Restaurant enough. It is quite literally one of the most decedent and delicious meals I have ever experienced. The staff are a complete credit to the hotel, the chef deserves a round of applause, and the decor truly sets the scene for this beautiful dining experience.
Try it for yourself, whether you are staying in The Hodson Bay Hotel or just looking for a special meal to share with someone, this restaurant will not disappoint.
For more information about the hotel, and indeed this restaurant, please visit the Hodson Bay Hotel website here.
Disclaimer - I was very kindly offered the opportunity to review this restaurant free of charge. But as always all opinions, information and photographs are absolutely my own.
Labels: athlone, food, hodson bay hotel, restaurant, review, travel