Written by: Luis | Photography by: Sarah
It seemed as if I had stepped foot in a palace's dining chamber as we walked through the doors of The Bell Tower. Relaxed yet elegant, this award winning restaurant serves Irish cuisine using local and seasonal produce. As we took a seat at our table, we gazed at Castlemartyr Resort's formal gardens and the woodlands of Cork through the restaurant's windows.
As one of the finest five-star hotels in Europe, Castlemartyr Resort was once a 17th century manor house. Today it is home to several world-class dining experiences. The maître d at The Bell Tower greeted us at our table and before we knew it we had begun our culinary journey.
Cocktails from the Knight's Bar were a fabulous start to the meal. As a stickler for a good cocktail, they met my high expectations. The raspberry cocktail was refreshing and had multi-dimensional flavors with each sip. It was unprecedented and the best cocktail I had in Ireland.
As a starter, I had the butternut risotto with crisp shallots, roast onion and sage pesto. The risotto was creamy and al dente (the way it should be enjoyed) and the fried shallots added a miniature crunch to every bite.
At the suggestion of the maître d, Sarah ordered the crispy hen’s egg as an appetizer. The egg was wrapped ornately in fried potato skins. It came with a flavorful chicken wing on the side. This appetizer was something that we would not have ordered if not for the maître d's suggestion. It was quite possibly the most unique part of our meal and we would order it again in the future. It was as delicious as it was beautiful!
For an entree, Sarah had the pan fried salmon with sautéed scallops, tenderstem broccoli and a wild garlic veloute. The soft garlic fragrance coming from this dish did not overpower the salmon and instead the flavors worked together seamlessly.
I ordered the pan fried sea bass with aubergine, celery and basil caponata. It was full of flavor, fresh, and the caponata’s acidity worked beautifully with the subtle flavor of the delicate white fish.
After all of these exquisite dishes, you’d think we would be full to the brim, but you know what they say; there’s always room for dessert! Luckily, we did not need much convincing. Sarah ordered the Irish rhubarb with grenadine pannacotta, hazelnut custard, and ginger crumble. This dessert was unlike any other dessert we've tasted. The rhubarb had a subtle fruity flavor and went great with the crunchiness of the crumble and creamy texture of the pennacotta.
I ordered the chocolate delice with coffee mousse, manuka honeycomb, and pistachio ice cream. The crust was a nice contrast to the soft mousse and combined two of my favorite flavors - sweet and salty. There was tremendous depth of flavor in this dish as a dessert. The most unique part was the honeycomb, created elaborately by the skilled chefs.
As we finished our meal, we were invited to experience the Knight's Bar, a 5-star bar located within Castlemartyr Resort. The cocktail bar is located in a separate room of the castle that was once a ballroom. It's cathedral ceilings paired with beautiful furniture and a warm fireplace gave this room a luxurious feel.
As we took a seat near the fireplace, the head bartender greeted us. Since Sarah is a cocktail lover, he helped guide her in making the right choice for a nightcap. As the three of us chatted, he shared his in-depth knowledge of the art of mixology and even gave us a sneak peak at the upcoming menu that he had been working on for the last six months. As world travelers, it's rare to find someone as passionate and talented as he was in making a world-class cocktail. I wish we could go back there more often to sample the rest of his expertly crafted drinks!
As the night came to a close, we headed back to our beautiful room and got a good nights sleep. It was a night of five-star dining at it's best.
We were guests of The Bell Tower, however, the opinions are our own. To learn more about the Bell Tower visit www.castlemartyrresort.ie.