Our first night in Northern Ireland took us to the north central part of the region and the famous Giant's Causeway which is truly a gorgeous place with many natural wonders, not to mention good food and hospitality. We chose the Bushmills Inn Hotel, which is unquestionably the top place in town and also dined there, another wise choice.
The restaurant is cozy and warm, which was nice as it had gotten chilly and wet just as we checked in at the end of the day, with lots of local charm. Samuel perused the menu and immediately declared his choices: Butternut Squash Risotto with garden herbs, basil pesto and parmesan to start, followed by the Pan Fried Mature Beef Fillet (8 oz.) flambéed in Bushmills whiskey with cream, cracked peppercorns and mushroom confit. I failed to mention that Bushmills is famous for the oldest Irish whiskey distillery on the entire island, and while we did taste, we were not huge fans. Furthermore, our experience the next day in attempting to take the distillery tour were fruitless and we ended up going elsewhere (no fear, we have other superior distillery tours arranged). Will and I started with a bottle of 2014 Saint Veran Macon-Villages, Vins Auvigues which was refreshing and superb with our starters of Kilhorne Bay (the southeast corner of Northern Island) Salad with endive, chicory, julienne vegetables, poached quail egg and lemon mayonnaise. It was tasty, but had a bit too much mayo and the crab was nice, but we are spoiled back home with our superb Maryland Blues.
Will chose the Crispy Pork Belly with Cauliflower Puree, Savoy Cabbage and Cider Soaked Golden Raisins which was one of the best main courses of pork belly ever; so crispy, tasty and so little fat. He had a Wyndham Estate Shiraz with his food while I continued with the Saint Veran with my Greencastle (on the Republic of Ireland side of the bay from Londonderry, Northern Ireland) Hake Fillet pan fried with Cockles & Mussels Beurre Blanc Sauce with Chives. It was superb fish and I have now decided to include chives in my sauce at home along with Samuel's favorite capers. We had sides of what the menu called "garlic fries," which were actually sliced roasted potatoes which were great in all the sauces, but especially Samuel's whiskey peppercorn and my beurre blanc, as well as Roasted Carrots with Courgettes in Almond Beurre Noisette which was yummy, especially the slight hint of sweet from the carrots.
Breads were delish with wheat/rosemary/ and sourdough with raisin, but the butter here in Ireland is always amazing.
Andrea offered dessert and we both decided we could not resist, while Sam chose to head back to the room to play on his electronics. Will had the with Warm Sticky Toffee Pudding rich Toffee sauce & fresh cream which he loved and I was nuts about my Rhubarb & Ginger which was Gingerbread with Poached Rhubarb, Rhubarb Sorbet, Sticky Granola, Whiskey Syrup & Vanilla Panna Cotta which had everything going for it.
Since it was our first night in Ireland we spoke to Alex, the whiskey sommelier, if you please, and told him our likes. He suggested a Connemara Peated Single Malt from Riverstown in County Louth (Republic of Ireland) which was just the peaty rich whiskey we loved. We did taste the famous local Bushmills 12 years and we remained unimpressed, and even moreso this morning when we stopped there! So onto Connemara for our whiskey!