Limerick's Strand Hotel: gateway to the city, the county and the coast.
But fabric, while it can be strong, pleasingly patterned and delightfully colourful, doesn’t quite describe this Limerick hotel. Might be too much to say that it is the heart of the city. Better maybe to describe it as an active organ of the Treaty city. And proud of its engagement with people from the surrounding area.
The river is hard to miss but let us dig a little deeper and we'll see another artery, not at the front but at the hotel's rear, and this is where their food and drink supplies arrive. From the long-standing orchards of the Attyflin Estate come apples and some of the best juices around. Speaking "juice", you’ll see the beer from close neighbours Treaty City on tap in the hotel bar.
I remember enjoying Cleeves toffees in decades gone by. Cleeves may no longer may be produced here (Kildare nowadays, like with Cork’s Hadji Bey Turkish delight, is the place of manufacture) but the Strand chefs have the recipe and it appears on the dessert menu.
|Night Time Panorama from the glass walled balcony
Limerick was and is known as Pigtown and that name is coming into wider prominence in recent years and could well help market the city into the future. This year, the recently concluded Pigtown Festival featured “The 061 Dinner” (0 Imports, 6 Restaurants, 1 Goal) with a 3-course dinner being served in different restaurants at the same time using only Limerick suppliers on the menu. Of course, the Strand was involved.
And that includes a can of Pigtown Lager that I enjoyed in my room, another beer from the Treaty City portfolio. You can get their Pale Ale on tap in the hotel bar. Atlantic Edge and European Embrace are recent marketing buzzwords for the city but I must admit I much prefer the punchier Pigtown.
|Chicken and rosti
I was a guest of the hotel recently and also stayed there early last year and took advantage of its central location to visit quite a few of the local attractions including King John’s, the weekend Milk Market, and the Hunt Museum. You can walk to all of these and more. Speaking of walks, Limerick has no shortage: guided, self-guided, even a food tour. Take a stroll up Thomas Street and see for yourself: restaurants and cafes galore, even a micro-brewery.
|Dish of the Day: Salmon, mussels
Hop in the car and within sixty minutes you can be on the west coast of Clare or in the heart of the Burren or meeting your match in Lisdoonvarna. Doolin and Ballyvaughan are about 70 minutes away. Head southwest-ish and you’ll be in the Foynes Flying Boat Museum in 35 minutes. Interested in more modern flying machines? The Shannon Aviation Museum is just over a quarter of an hour away. And that is just a handful of the attractions in the area.
|The amazing Burren, an easy drive from the Strand
And you’ll be returning to one of the most attractive and comfortable hotels around. I really enjoyed it. From the moment we arrived on Thursday afternoon until we left on Friday morning, we met with nothing but smiles and courtesy from every single person, from reception to the bar, to the restaurant to the guy serving at the breakfast buffet.
|Dessert with Cheeves!
Speaking of smiles and courtesy we met some members of the Stormers Rugby team from South Africa and enjoyed a couple of brief chats with them ahead of their game against Munster. It is a large hotel but a very friendly one. Four stars for sure but a chatty engaging informality also abounds.
Lots of hotels are now focussing on sustainability. Energy Conservation, Water Conservation and Waste Management are three main targets for the Strand. You see lots of press from various organisations and you wonder what’s really going on behind the scenes. But, without doing any deep digging, I noticed two ways in which this hotel is tackling the issue.
Firstly, the waste bins in the rooms are dual purpose in that each bin has two separate (marked) containers, one for recyclables, the other for more general rubbish. And the drinking water for guests comes not in a glass bottle, not in a plastic one, but in a special carton (made by Borrisoleigh Bottling Company in Tipp). It has a paper based body with a plant-based shoulder and cap and is recyclable.
In the heart of the city and a gateway to the Wild Atlantic Way, the Strand is very well equipped. It has a 20-metre pool, on-site parking, free high speed broadband, air conditioning in all 184 rooms, plus a variety of well-equipped spaces for special occasions (anything from parties to conferences).
|Award winning juice
The River Restaurant & Bar, renovated this year, boasts floor-to-ceiling windows offering stunning river and city views. Enjoy Al Fresco dining during the long summer evenings on the outdoor terrace overlooking the Shannon. Paddy Anslow is the new executive head chef, having replaced the renowned Tom Flavin earlier this year. The venue is open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner and more.
The main event for us in this room was, of course, the dinner. Quite a choice of starters, soup, chowder, Chicken Wings, Golden Arancini and a Local Salmon Plate included.
That Salmon Plate was one of our two and it turned out to be a superb plateful indeed which included Poached and Burren Smoked Salmon and roe, pickled onion, saffron mayo, seasonal leaves. Perfectly cooked and presented and CL did it justice.
I wasn’t found lacking either as I too had a beauty based on pigs from the nearby Rigney’s Farm (see what I mean by supporting local). Full description: Rigney’s Pigtown Plate - ham hock croquettes and ham hock terrine, 24 hour slow cooked and pressed, apple gel and crisp apple. Local and luscious.
|Beer from the nearby Treaty City
A trio of salads on offer included the New Leaf Urban Farmers Salad (roasted vegetables, red onion jam, Leahy's Farm goats cheese, citrus scented pesto dressing). Hard to resist that but we did and also the burgers!
Rigney's Farm also featured on the list of mains which also included Catch of the Day, Sirloin Steak, a Thai Coconut Curry, Roast Rack of Bacon and more. A fine selection of sides also, including Cajun Spiced Chips!
Not too easy to make our selections here. CL choose the Pan Seared 100% Irish Chicken Breast (with Rigney’s black pudding and leek potato rosti, all in a red wine reduction); a superb piece of poultry and that innovative rosti also a delicious delight.
I had the Dish of the Day: grilled salmon with mussels. Arrived in a tempting presentation, at the proper temperature and it was cooked to perfection. One or two pieces of grilled lemon plus little bits of bacon (not quite lardons) added a lovely little tang to the flavour and the result was a 4th clean plate on the way back to the kitchen. By the way, we also had a shared dish of seasonal greens (beans, mangetout, and some roasted potatoes).
|Delicious Beech Tree & Velvet Piopinno Mushrooms at the Milk Market
And we would finish well, and locally also. From seven desserts plus an Irish Cheese selection, we picked and enjoyed the Attyflin Apple and Pecan Crumble (with vanilla ice cream) and the Cleeves Toffee and Chocolate Slice (with Scup gelato peanut butter ice-cream).
So it was a happy couple that made our way, just a few steps, to the very comfortable bar area to try out the Treaty City Pale Ale, regarded here as perhaps their best beer. And that too got a big thumbs up as did our total stay in the Strand, including their Taste the Place campaign.