Friday, 9 December 2016

Culinary Escape: Maryborough Hotel & Spa, Douglas, County Cork

There is something for everyone at the Maryborough Hotel & Spa located in Douglas, County Cork as I was to find out on my recent visit there. The hotel oozes elegance and is the perfect place to check in to if you are in search of some much-needed rest and relaxation but it is also close enough to Cork City if you fancy a spot of retail therapy or some sight-seeing. A chance to unwind in comfortable surroundings was my main aim and I was looking forward to casting aside some of the stresses and strains of everyday life during my short break away.

Maryborough entrance
The hotel comprises two buildings; Maryborough House, a 300 year old listed Georgian building and an interconnecting modern wing where many of the guest rooms and the hotel’s award winning spa are located. Maryborough was first opened as a hotel in 1998 and is considered one of the best in Ireland. It was awarded AA Hotel of the Year for 2015 and under the care and attention of owners Dan and Jo O’Sullivan it continues to go from strength-to-strength.

Maryborough Hotel is set in well-matured grounds with large trees and shrubbery surrounding the beautifully manicured and well-kept lawns. If I hadn’t known otherwise, I would have thought that I was in the middle of the countryside and not the heart of suburbia a short distance from the centre of Ireland’s second city.

Maryborough grounds
After checking in, I was shown to my second floor executive room in the newer part of the hotel. The room was spacious and contained a large comfortable looking bed. The well-sized bathroom was kitted out with every mod con and I was looking forward to having a soothing soak in the bath later in the evening. I was also thrilled to discover that the room had its own private balcony looking out onto the back of the historic manor house. I had a couple of hours to spare before dinner so decided to sit out, sipping on a glass of the complimentary wine that had been left in my room along with some macarons and homemade shortbread biscuits which I nibbled on.

The hotel’s Bellini Restaurant has been awarded 2 AA Rosettes and is renowned for the quality of food on offer. The restaurant is surprisingly large but due to some clever architectural planning and Art Deco inspired interiors it has a lovely sophisticated and intimate feel. It struck me that this would be the perfect place for a romantic meal.

Bread Selection
Joining me for dinner was an old school friend who lives nearby and we each ordered an Alternative Bellini (€12) made with gin, peach and raspberry purées, lime and sugar syrup from the cocktails listed and chatted together, catching up on all the news. We then turned our attention to the menu and decided on what to eat. The menu has been carefully designed to showcase seasonal ingredients from local suppliers who include Macroom Buffalo Cheese, Goatsbridge, Bluebell Falls and the English Market. We had little difficulty choosing from the array of tasty dishes on offer.

A Bread Selection was first to arrive and included white sourdough, a traditional soda bread and a particularly delicious tomato and fennel seed bread. These were served with a vibrantly coloured homemade pesto and Irish butter topped with nigella seeds - an unusual and rather addictive addition that I really liked.

Scallops
My starter of Pan Seared Fresh Atlantic Scallops, Watercress and Spring Onion, Potato Rosti, Black Garlic Aioli (€12.50) was a beautiful looking dish with three plump scallops which had been pan-seared to perfection with a caramelised exterior giving way to tenderness inside. Paired with a watercress and spring onion purée , crispy potato rosti and a punchy black garlic aioli, this dish was a delight to eat. My guest’s Boneless Roast Baby Quail, Soft Herb Mousseline, Caramelised Peaches, Micro Basil (€11.00) was another excellent dish and one that it would have been so easy to get wrong. The main body of the quail was stuffed with a well-flavoured, velvety smooth mousse and served alongside the bird’s confited legs. The accompanying caramelised peaches cut through the overall richness of the dish.

Quail
Next up were our main courses. My Pan Seared Sea Bass Fillets, Broccoli and Yuzu Purée, Steamed Prawn Dumplings, Prawn Bisque (€26.50) was a fabulous dish full of interesting flavour combinations where east met west in a way that made sense on the plate. Two sizeable pieces of expertly cooked sea bass were served alongside a single ravioli stuffed with finely chopped prawn meat and a enticingly fragrant broccoli and yuzu purée. Yuzu is a small Japanese citrus fruit that tastes like a cross between clementine and grapefruit. It was inventively paired here with the broccoli to create a silky smooth accompaniment to the fish. I loved it.


Sea Bass
My guest’s Skeaghanore West Cork Duck Breast, Rhubarb Purée, Carrot Textures, Walnut Granola, Braised Beluga Lentils, Five Spice, Balsamic Jus (€29.00) was an outstanding dish that looked absolutely beautiful. This was, for both of us, the dish of the evening. The duck had been cooked perfectly and literally melted in the mouth and was delicious with the braised lentils. Baby carrots sat on a little puddles of carrot purée whilst a slightly sharp rhubarb purée added some much needed acidity to the plate. Everything was brought together by a scattering of walnut granola and a deeply rich sauce made with Chinese five spice and balsamic vinegar.

We ordered a side of Steamed Market Greens, Soy, Sesame & Mirin Glaze (€4) which echoed the oriental flavours that appeared on both our main course dishes.

We decided to share a dessert and were both delighted with the freshness and palate cleansing properties of the colourful looking Pineapple Carpaccio with Coconut Ice-Cream (€7) with its scattering of jewel like pomegranate seeds. This was a simple dish but the perfect finish to a very enjoyable meal.


Duck
The menu in Bellini’s Restaurant has been cleverly crafted and manages to strike a balance between old-favourites and contemporary dishes which use experimental flavours and ingredients. I was pleased to see that quite a few of the dishes on the menu are gluten-free and suitable for coeliacs.

The Maryborough has an impressive wine list with many available by the glass. From it we chose  a Chablis AC Domaine Charly Nicolle (€9.50 per glass) which was dry with an underlying steely minerality that went particularly well with my sea bass main.

After our meal we retired to the adjoining Bellini’s Bar for a night cap before saying our goodbyes. I headed back up to my room and after a long soak in the bath, feeling well-fed, happy and relaxed I climbed into my large bed and had one of the best night’s sleep that I have had in a long time.

Eggs Benedict
The following morning I made my way down to breakfast in the restaurant. In addition to an impressive buffet selection which included breads, cold meats, cereal, cheese and fruit there was also a cooked breakfast menu. Although seriously tempted by the Stacked Pancakes, I eventually decided on my all-time favourite breakfast dish - Eggs Benedict which unsurprisingly, given the wonderful quality of the food I had already eaten during my stay, was excellent. Washed down with loads of strong hot tea, I felt ready to face the day ahead.

The hotel also has a spa with a cool, contemporary feel which provides a haven of tranquillity for guests.  A number of spa treatments and are on offer and facilities include a rock sauna, vitality pool, heated lounges, lifestyle showers and an ice fountain. I didn't get the chance to visit Maryborough’s Spa on this visit but had previously tried out some of the treatments on offer and can confirm that it is well worth booking into.

Toast & Marmalade
I loved every moment of my short break at the Maryborough Hotel & Spa. Everything that you could possibly want is close at hand… and I felt no need to venture out, preferring instead to relax in the comfortable lounge areas and sample the wonderful food and facilities on offer. You really feel like you are a much cherished guest. Nothing is too much trouble and staff are incredibly friendly and helpful, keen to make sure that you enjoy the whole experience.

Maryborough Hotel & Spa
Maryborough Hill
Douglas
County Cork

Telephone: 0214365555
 
Maryborough Hotel & Spa