After a very long hiatus – I am back blogging! Hopefully will be back blogging on a more regular basis too!
I recently took a trip northwards to Cavan and its neighbour Fermanagh…of course for foodie reasons.
Firstly I should say that my friend and I booked this trip approx. 6 months ago so it was a long time coming and such is the popularity of the restaurant that these kind of pre-booking periods are required!
Following his graduation from college Neven worked in many Michelin star restaurants in Europe perfecting his craft. Macneans’ was a family enterprise and Neven took over as Head Chef and proprietor in 2003
On arrival we checked into our lovely room as we were staying for the night. (Picture is of double room – we stayed in a twin bedded room for €77 per person bed and breakfast).
When we were ready for dinner we made our way downstairs to the lounge area for a pre-dinner drink and were met again by more of Neven’s fabulous staff. A great idea too that we got to pre-order our meal here so that was all done by the time we took our table in the exquisite dining room.
Also like the way that you can mix and match between the regular tasting menu and the vegetarian option too. I’m not a veggie but all the veggies dishes looked particularly amazing – not that the other menu wasn’t – it absolutely was!
After dinner we retired again to the lounge area and we got to meet with Neven. This is a nice feature of MacNean that he comes out and talks to diners, a really nice touch. I’ve met Neven a couple of times and always impressed that he remembers faces, he must meet so many people. Being in the tourism business myself I was delighted to see that he recently won an award from the RAI for services to tourism! Love to see the image of Irish Food being raised and raised – not so long ago the perceptions of our food wasn’t that good but now it is thanks to the likes of Neven and others.
Some images of our dinner below
After a great night’s sleep we were down in the restaurant for yet more food – what better way to start the day than with some porridge with Irish mist! It was beautiful. Plentiful coffee, bread, pastries, fruits were also on offer.
Also worth remembering Neven’s amazing cooking school – I have been lucky enough to have attended one of his classes there before. I have been to many many cooking classes but his was by far the best I ever attended, hands down! I hope to go back again someday!
*Note – we paid €77 per person for the accommodation and dinner was €85 per person. Wine matching option also available.
After leaving MacNean*, we travelled over the border to Northern Ireland and the county of Fermanagh. We made a little detour to Belleek Pottery to have a wee look there and then headed to Belle Isle Estate – our home for the night. Belle Isle is a stunning Irish Castle set on its own Private Island on Lough Erne! Situated on the northern tip of Upper Lough Erne, Belle Isle is a 470 – acre estate spread over eight picturesque islands.
Belle Isle Estate
Belle Isle Estate has been a designated a Special Area of Conservation and the Award Winning Castle is a fantastic 17thCentury Country House offering lake views.
Belle Isle Castle’s guest bedrooms are as unique as its guests, each with its own unique style and personality. From the Ivy Room in The Hamilton Wing, with its four poster bed and antique furniture to the luxurious Bridal Suite in The Abercorn Wing with its opulent décor and stunning lake views……
The castle has been extensively yet sensitively refurbished, ensuring that a full range of modern facilities blends seamlessly with original period grandeur.
It also has some beautiful and charming self-catering cottages and a cooking school!
After we checked into our lovely two bedroomed cottage we went to the school for a lesson with the chef there Joe Kelly.
Joe has been a professional chef for over 20 years and a tutor at Belle Isle since 2005. Joe began his culinary career while growing up in America. He was formally trained in South Beach, Miami and San Francisco, California. In 2005 he returned home to Northern Ireland to start a family with his wife Jennifer. Joe has co- authored two cookbooks and also appeared on Channel 4’s Iron Chef and RTE’s Nationwide.
Chef Joe works closely with local Northern Ireland producers and growers to ensure that quality is always at the forefront of his food.
In the lovely relaxed atmosphere of the school we were taught how to make a deliciously fresh chowder and what better to serve it with than some Irish brown bread and butter.
Truly a great experience and one I would highly recommend if you’re looking for a culinary experience in Northern Ireland!
All in all Belle Isle is an exciting place with lots of future development plans – I will definitely be watching this one for sure and will recommend to any of our clients looking for private castle rental.
While there isn’t a restaurant on the estate at the moment – there are places closeby including the fabulous Lough Erne Resorts Catalina Restaurant where we dined that night. Noel McNeel is the Executive Chef there and is also one of the chefs at the forefront of changing perceptions on Irish food. Exciting food offerings in Northern Ireland this year as always but brought more to the forefront with 2016 being their year of food. Special thanks to Annemarie in Belle Isle & Joe Kelly in the cooking school!
Go a bit further – discover the North West at its best!!!