Strathearn, Gleneagles

Last year I had a big birthday and BB and SiL gave me the fabulous present of a gift voucher for Gleneagles. Although I could have used it to do one of the many country pursuits they offer, OH and I thought we would rather have Sunday lunch. So, talking Mini-me into being a taxi driver for the day we donned our glad rags and set off for the 5 star hotel in Perthshire.

As ever, we arrived too early and decided to have drinks in the Century Bar first. I explained to the waiter I had a gift voucher and asked if it was okay to have drinks on it as well as lunch. I was told it was okay but he would have to transfer my drinks to the dining room. Therefore, with everything in hand I had a Bloody Mary and OH decided he fancied a pint. I have to say my Bloody Mary is one of the best I have ever tasted. Firstly it had a light sweet taste and then as it went down it gave a massive kick, which left your mouth tingling and demanding more.

At 1 o’clock a waitress took our drinks through to the Strathearn dining room and we were seated in plush surroundings reminiscent of 1920s. Gold trolleys were wheeled around by waiters and waitresses all who had their own role. We were given food menus and offered water by one and a wine menu from another. Then we were offered bread from a french waitress’s trolley. There were far too much to chose from so she offered to cut a selection of them. She then gave us butter with some Skye salt sprinkled on top.

The menu offered pre-starters of oysters and caviar blinis, which had hefty supplements. The menu then announced where to start with a box that described 2 different kinds of salmon. One from Dumfries, which had been smoked using beer barrels and one from Perthshire that had been oak smoked. Both came with capers, lemon, creme fraiche and shallots but if you wanted caviar there was another supplement. The salmon arrived on a gold trolley and was sliced thinly next to us. The waitress was amazing to watch as time and time again paper thin slices of salmon were removed from the large fish and arranged delicately on the plate. The salmon was delicious and the accompaniments really added to the taste.

Then there was the choice of soup, terrine, salad or crab. I went for the New Season Garlic and Potato Soup with sauteed leeks and girolle mushrooms and OH decided on the West Coast Crab, cucumber, pink grapefruit, white balsamic and hazlenut.

My plate arrived with the leeks and mushrooms deconstructed in the centre of the bowl and then the soup was poured from a jug around them. The soup was beautiful. Thick and creamy and garlicky with the leeks adding a very pleasant texture addition.

OH’s crab was a beautiful plate of colours. The grapefruit gave it a fresh citrus tang whilst the white crab meat was light to taste. The hazelnuts and cucumber gave the dish a crunch.

For my main, I had Seabass, roasted cauliflower, crushed potatoes, baby artichokes and champagne sauce. The skin on the fish could have been crispier and the cauliflower could have done with more colour but overall I enjoyed the dish particularly the artichokes, which I have been wanting again since enjoying them in Spain last March.

OH had Borders Lamb Rump, garden peas, confit shallot, fondant potato, roasted tomato and lamb jus. The lamb looked exceptional without a bit of fat insight and OH said it tasted just as good as it looked.

Throughout our meal the sommelier topped up our wine glasses with the sauvignon blanc we ordered and anyone passing would top up our water glasses. The service was impeccable. The ambience was added to by a three piece band who played a range of hits from people such as Pink Floyd, Nine Inch Nails, Amy Winehouse and The Clash but in the style of lift muzak.

After a short break we were given dessert menus. There was a list of ports with prices and a cheese trolley on offer with another supplement however, I went for a light and refreshing mix of sorbets. OH went for the sticky toffee pudding with a whisky and date puree.

My sorbets were the perfect way to end my meal. The mango, lemon and raspberry flavours going down a treat. The accompanying baked strip of loveliness wasn’t crisp as I had suspected but a soft, chewy affair.

OH’s pudding tasted of toffee and was sticky so ticked all the boxes. The date and whisky puree was a small dollop and I think he’d have preferred more.

When our plates were cleared we were offered coffee or tea and OH asked for a coffee, which arrived with 2 little sweets that looked beautifully wrapped in egg-shell blue and gold leaf. However, when I picked one up it immediately started to melt in my hand and I realised it was the chocolate which had been painted and not any kind of wrapper. The chocolate was rich and heavy.

Our meal was excellent and we both enjoyed all the food we had. The theatre of the dining room was stunning and it was great watching the waitresses and waiters give such fantastic performances.

After our lunch we returned to the Century Bar and mini-me joined us for a round of drinks. I then asked for the bill. Now this is when things went a bit awry. Our bill arrived with a whole bunch of drinks we hadn’t had and no mention of lunch. When I queried it, the original waiter appeared and I was told there was a difficulty because of our voucher and the drinks having to be transferred. Yes but those drinks still aren’t ours. I then had to return to the dinning room and explain to another waiter the issue. After a while he managed to clear it up and gave me the right bill minus the voucher. However, this was when I realised the smoked salmon and coffee were extras. This annoyed me because as I have been pointing out, it was clear everything was priced and it was highlighted where the supplements were. There was nothing on the menu that stated it was £25.50 extra for the salmon. Feeling slightly annoyed and a bit duped I paid the bill.

A very decadent Sunday lunch consisting of a Bloody Mary, 2 pints, a ginger beer, a G+T, a bottle of wine and 2 3 course lunches with salmon and a coffee. £247.

Father Ted’s and the G Hotel

Next stop Father Ted’s house!

Father Ted's House

I had found some directions on the net but they weren’t that easy to follow – OH and I took a couple of wrong turns so hopefully if you follow these directions you will have more success than I did with the ones I followed. Just remember these are back roads and you will be convinced you are on the wrong road but keep the faith.

Father Ted’s House from Limerick

Father Ted’s House is about 1 hour’s drive from Limerick.

  • From Limerick follow signs to Galway and the N18. Stay on the N18.
  • Continue onto the M18.
  • At Junction 14 take the R458 exit to Inis/​Ennis/​Gort Lomán/​Barefield
  • At Barefield Roundabout, take the 2nd exit
  • The junction is very slightly staggered but you want to head straight on (keeping the pub on your left) which is heading towards Toormore. Drive for approx 6.5 km
  • During that 6.5km you will come to an unsignposted junction – bear to the right.
  • At Ruan, turn right (past the telephone box) and drive for 500m. Turn right, then left again – it’s another slightly staggered junction but you’re basically going straight on.
  • Continue on this road until you come to a definite crossroads. You’re going straight on. There is a signpost pointing you towards a fishery. This is the road you want.
  • By this point you will be convinced you’re on the wrong road because it’s single track and looks like it leads to nowhere. You’re fine – continue on this road until you come to a definite T-junction. You will immediately recognise that this is a more main road (there’s lines but the only signpost is a give way) Turn right onto the R460, then take the first left (past the houses). Follow the road round (there’s a bit that looks like a Y junction – stick to the road and bear left).
  • Continue straight on until you come to another definite junction. Again no signpost but there is a give way one.Tom Turn right. Stay on this road. You will pass a parking lay-by on your right with an information board about the landscape. Now you will definitely know you’re on the right road.
  • Father Ted’s House is on this road on your left so just drive.  Go on, go on, go on.

When we arrived this nutter was sitting on the wall showing us where the house was – you might not be so lucky.

After many Kodak moments we headed up to Galway.

As it was our anniversary I had booked us into The G Hotel, a lovely 5 star hotel. Just as you drive into Galway it appears on your right as your drive down the dual carriageway, an impressive modern building oddly sited in the middle of a retail park. I have to admit I had expected it to be on its own, perhaps with its own grounds. It just goes to show the benefit of hiring good photographers to do your PR. Saying that, once you are in the building you quickly forget where you are as you are surrounded by plushness, sparkles and baubles. An eye catching marine fish tank replaces one of the walls in reception and boasts, amongst many other things, 2 pairs of seahorses. I was enchanted watching the couples interlock their tails and gad about together.2014-03-26 15.59.58

I couldn’t contain my smile when the receptionist very kindly informed us that we had been upgraded to a deluxe room. I had requested on my booking form that I would like a quiet room for an anniversary celebration. Whether this had any bearing on the upgrade I don’t know but when we got to our deluxe room there were 4 (very rich) dark chocolates and 2 white cupcakes. There was also a lovely little card wishing as a happy celebration. It’s thoughtful, little touches like this that really makes a difference to a hotel. The room was genuinely comfortable and had everything you could need. Well, everything except an iron and as I hadn’t mentioned to OH that we were staying in the G he hadn’t really brought anything dressy and the one thing he did have that was suitable was a bit creased.  However, a steamy walk-in shower soon put that to right and after a couple of glasses of wine we headed down to dinner.

We sat at the window with a view of Lough Atalia and ordered a bottle of Rioja. The menu was varied enough to suit everyone but didn’t have too much to overwhelm you either. OH went for the G Caesar Salad – poached chicken, air dried ham crips, shaved parmesan, croutons and creamy dressing. I had the roast carrot and rosemary velouté with roasted garlic cream.  The soup was amazing and had depth and layers of taste. I’m not a fan of rosemary but it was a delicate flavour and it did add to it in a positive way. OH’s salad looked filling but it didn’t last long in front of him.

2014-03-26 18.43.15For my next course I had butter basted fillet of Claire Island salmon, tempura oyster, baby spinach, fondant potato2014-03-26 18.42.45, Prosecco velouté. It was a little salty but I enjoyed the different textures and tastes. The tempura oyster was my favourite part of the dish and I could easily have had another. Unsurprisingly, OH plumped for the Char grilled rib-eye steak of Irish beef (done rare), white onion creamed potatoes, buttered broccoli and red wine jus. He let me have a bit of his steak and I could taste the char grilling. It didn’t take much chewing and left me with a beautiful taste in my mouth. Throughout the meal we were well looked after and nothing was too much trouble.

Feeling content and sated neither of us could manage dessert but there was Cookies and cream cheesecake, Zesty lemon posset and a selection of ice creams on offer.

After dinner we headed into town, which was a welcome 25 minute walk after the meal.  Liverpool was playing Sunderland that night so we managed to watch the first half in Garvey’s Inn and the 2nd in Garavan’s, both friendly, old style pubs. Btw It ended 2-1 to Liverpool.

The next morning we actually managed to make it to breakfast. I rarely book a hotel breakfast nowadays, much preferring a long lie to having to get up and dress for a particular time. It’s much more fun finding somewhere local for breakfast at a more reasonable hour. Anyhow, this morning we made the effort and it was an effort because the bed was one of the comfiest I have ever slept in!

Downstairs we were greeted warmly and did the usual thing of walking past the cold breakfast offerings to be seated just so we could then stand up again to go and help ourselves to juice and cereal etc. I helped myself to fruit and yogurt and then opted for an omelette – nothing exciting to report there, whilst OH had the full Irish and scrapped his plate clean. GalwayOur stomachs content once more we headed back into the city centre to finish off our visit to Galway with a trip around the museum and a wander along the riverside.