Showing posts with label Limerick. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Limerick. Show all posts

Monday, October 4, 2021

Limerick's Strand Hotel: Gateway to the city, the county and the coast.

Limerick's Strand Hotel: gateway to the city, the county and the coast.


It would be easy to say that the Strand Hotel is part of the fabric of Limerick City. And you’d be correct, to a degree. It stands foursquare on the Bunratty Castle side of Sarsfields’s Bridge with the mighty Shannon River flowing in front towards the Atlantic edge. Go up a storey or two and you see King John’s Castle and the much more modern Munster fortress of Thomond Park. Thomond Park and other local locations is where you see the European embrace.

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.

Pigtown Plate

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. 

Salmon Starter

It is not just a one-night stand with The Strand. Take a look at their current dinner menu and you’ll spot a Pigtown Platter (a very good one too, by the way!). And quite a few other examples of local produce being used.

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.

Reception area

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.


Thursday, February 13, 2020

Embrace a Shannonside Star: the Limerick Strand Hotel

Embrace a Shannonside Star: the Limerick Strand Hotel

The Limerick Strand Hotel has much going for it: a splendid location, terrific rooms, delicious locally based food and a top chef in Tom Flavin, and a splendid location. We appreciated all of those but we have to say that the staff here, from reception to bar, to the various dining rooms, are premier class, friendly and helpful.

They knew we were heading to the Milk Market on Saturday morning so they handed us a brochure and, as it turned out, there was a little map in the room as well with the market highlighted. But it wasn’t just for us. We saw numerous examples as they interacted with other guests, the bar staff making a toddler feel at home, the restaurant staff chatting and helpful to a foreign family. 
Just one small part of the superb breakfast offering.

Our room was on the third floor and we used the lifts all the time, never a bother, all working perfectly. The room itself was splendid with great views from the large floor-to-ceiling window out over the mighty Shannon. It had all we needed, comfortable chairs, TV, Wifi, Controllable Air Conditioning, Tea/Coffee Making Facilities, a cooler, Hairdryer, Iron/Ironing Board, Bottled mineral water and more, including 24 hour room service. 

All guests at the Limerick Strand Hotel enjoy daily laundry service, and access to the Energize Health Club with 20m pool. Our bathroom was top class, with separate bath and shower and Paul Costello toiletries.

Let there be light!
The decor in rooms and corridors and open spaces is excellent. There’s a chandelier that stretches over two floors and also a spectacular display of county jerseys. We had a beautiful large scale picture of King John’s Castle on one wall of our room.

The bar is long and very comfortable with its own food menu. Doors can be opened in the good weather. And while you can get all the mainstream drinks here - I enjoyed a Jack Daniels nightcap - they also support local and a couple of pints of ale from the local Treaty City Brewery (you’ll find that over by King John's Castle) went down well earlier.

No shortage of food here and they have two main restaurants. One is the Terrace Bar & Restaurant which is a stylish place to meet throughout the day and evening in an informal riverside setting. This was where we had an excellent dinner and you may read all about the experience here…
King John's Castle

The River Restaurant is another special dining room, again overlooking the magnificent River Shannon and again with an emphasis on fresh, seasonal produce. It is a great spot for breakfast and for Sunday lunch and more.

And it was here that we had breakfast, one of the very best hotel breakfasts that we’ve come across. No wonder they won Georgina Campbell’s Ireland Irish Breakfast Awards. Many more awards as well as you may read here

From our table, we could indeed see the Shannon below but, at this point we were really interested in the food, much of it sourced locally. You could ladle your porridge (Flahavan’s Jumbo Oats) from a large pot and spoon on some honey from a full Croom honeycomb alongside. Lots of cereals (including a Gluten Free selection) available too, seeds and yogurts and more. And a splendid selection of fruit. Breads and pastries from the in-house bakery. There were juices galore and even a smoothie station.

I enjoyed the muesli and a scatter of seeds while CL selected a plateful of fruit and that was a very good start. The staff again were very helpful, getting the teas and coffees out sharply and offering to take our order to the chef station. You could also order direct from the station yourself, egg dishes, omelettes, and pancakes all available.

If you wanted the Full Irish, all you had to do was help yourself from the buffet. It was the Cheese (including Cashel Blue) and Cold Meats that caught our eyes and we each filled a plate from a choice that included Chicken breast, sliced Irish ham, chorizo, salamis, Silver Darling Pickled Herrings, some leaves and relishes too. Splendid stuff and a great start to the day!

The hotel is easily found. You’ll see it as you cross the Sarsfield Bridge. It’s on the left and, after passing the main building, turn left immediately for the car park which is underground. You pay €8.50 for 24 hour parking. There is a lift up to reception.
Sarsfield Bridge and the Strand Hotel

The location is terrific for visiting Limerick city itself. Main attractions such as King John’s Castle, the Hunt Museum, and the Milk Market are just a walk away. This being Ireland, you’ll get various estimates. For instance, different people told us the Milk Market was  anywhere between three and seven minutes. As it turned out, we strolled over and forgot all about the time! Definitely more than three minutes though! And we were a lot slower coming back with our bags full! It was well worth it. As is a visit to Limerick and a stay at the Strand!


Taste the Place. Superb Dinner in the Limerick Strand Hotel

Taste the Place. Superb Dinner in the Limerick Strand Hotel

Tom Flavin
Taste the Place is the name of a menu at the Terrace Restaurant in the splendid Strand Hotel in Limerick. The comfortable dining room overlooks the Shannon and it is here that Executive Head Chef Tom Flavin and his culinary team put a huge emphasis on fresh, seasonal and local produce; the produce is carefully sourced from over 40 local suppliers. “Our ethos is to champion local produce where possible in all our menus”. 

We made our choices exclusively from Taste the Place and enjoyed every single bite of a meal, confidently cooked and presented. Add in excellent service from start to finish, even a chat with the accomplished chef himself, and the visit turned into an occasion to savour and remember.

The first name I spotted on the menu was Mulcahy’s of Ballinwillin and knew straight away that I had my main course sorted. The Mulcahy Wild Boar belly came with a Rigney’s Free Range Pork Sausage and that too was a gem, packed with texture and flavour. Also on the plate were O’Brien Mature Cheddar Colcannon, Urban Farmer Beetroot and Attyflin Estate Apple Jus. Quite a celebration of the best of local and also a demonstration of the skill on the kitchen. I'll certainly be looking out for Rigney's produce after this!

Across the table, CL was enjoying her fish of the day: Whiting, with a creamy risotto (including various finely chopped veg) and a drizzle of beetroot sauce. Amazingly, you rarely see this delicious fish, related to cod apparently, on restaurant menus. Cooked perfectly, as was the case here, it is excellent, is light, firm, lean, sweet and delicate.
Wild Boar, Sausage

We had stopped at the bar on the way in and glad to see that they had ale by the local Treaty City Brewery on draught. Enjoyed that at our leisure while keeping an eye on the Ireland v Wales U20 rugby international on the big screen over the flickering flames of the modern fire. Outside, the leaves were shaking as the edge of storm Ciara began to make its mark. 

They have a very extensive wine list in the restaurant. Our picks were the Havalos Malbec, aromatic, rich and lush from Argentina and the Rabbit Island Sauvignon Blanc, typically New Zealand, crisp with lively acidity that makes an immediate impression on both nose and palate. 

Both of our starters came from West Cork, well one from the ocean. CL’s choice was the Castletownbere Squid Calamari with chilli butter. Perfectly cooked and the butter certainly enhanced it.

I have a great fondness for all things from Skeaghanore Duck and the Strand’s homemade liver paté, with sourdough croutons, Cumberland sauce and a striking pickled cucumber, just reinforced that fondness.

Having enjoyed two compelling and courses that masterfully showcased the sense of place, we were feeling quite happy and not all that keen on round three. But once the dessert menu arrived, resistance melted. My Caramel Bavarois, plum compote and coconut, was colourful, delicate and heavenly while CL’s highly recommended Oreo and White Chocolate Cheesecake was rich and smooth. 

Time then to say thanks to the staff and head to the comfortable bar for a nightcap!

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Limerick's Marvellous Milk Market

Limerick's Marvellous Milk Market
More popular than ever!

Lovely to meet up with Lucy - we usually see her in Mahon -  from Ballyhoura Mountain Mushrooms. As always, she had a huge selection on offer. We bought these for lunch. The white ones are the highly versatile White Beech mushrooms while the velvet topped ones are Velvet Pioppino, also known as Poplar as they they are commonly found growing on the stumps of Poplar trees. Be sure and check the Ballyhoura website for more details and the best way to use these and other mushrooms.

More popular than ever! That's what I read on the brochure and that's saying a lot as the market was founded in 1852. You'll have no bother finding it; just look out for the sky-reaching white "dome" that covers quadrangular space between four rows of single storied stores and shops in Cornmarket Row. Or just follow the crowds, particularly on Saturday morning, the busiest day when it’s open from 8am to 3.00pm and when the emphasis is very much on the Farmers Market aspect. There's also much to see there on Fridays (lunch specials - cafe culture & live music) between 10am and 3.00pm and also on Sunday's Family Day (11am to 3.00pm), relax with coffee, cheese, crêpes, chocolates, occasional crafts - and yoga! Besides, the permanent market shops are open daily. 

The Flying Cheese Brigade are one of the cheese sellers in the market. They also service other local markets.
This Cratloe Hills Sheep's Cheese is produced by Sean and Deirdre Fitzgerald at their farm in Brickhill, Co. Clare since 1988. It is the first sheep's cheese to be produced in the country and a big favourite of mine.

We also bought this Tomme De Savoie from the Brigade. For old times sake! Many moons ago, when we used go to France with the kids, we bought this on a regular basis at markets and supermarkets there. It is mild and milky and proved very popular with the children. This is not the only "tomme" in France.

And it’s not just food, though most people seem to come for that - we certainly had our bags with us. You may get jewellery here, soap, arts and crafts, fashion (including vintage), health and beauty products, horticultural items (including plants and bulbs), and more (including lots of hot food stalls). You can even take part in a tour of the market to get your bearings. You'll have to visit - this piece and the pictures are only scratching the surface!
O'Driscoll Fish, from Schull, is a regular call for us when we visit the Mahon Farmers Market.
Indeed, you'll find their freshly caught reasonably priced fish at quite a few markets
 so perhaps it was no surprise to find them here in Limerick.

Colour ahead!

The Milk Market venue is very special and popular at Christmas and there are quite a few events throughout the year. It hosts on average eight large concerts each year featuring both national and international artists separate to over a dozen community, corporate and private market events each year. The venue is available for hire for a host of events from corporate to family events including movie nights, private BBQ dining, gala dinners, receptions, outdoor games, music, weddings, themed events, product launches and parties.

Want to know more about this thriving market? Check it all out here 

Nolan's of Corbally Butchers had some very tempting prepared dishes on offer and it took us quite a while to make up our minds before we bought a Moroccan sirloin stir fry for Saturday evening's dinner.
 It turned out very well indeed as you can see below.

A top notch brown sourdough from one of the bread stalls.

We had been looking at the prawn stir-fry above before choosing the beef one

There were some magnificent vegetable stalls at the market but I'm afraid I didn't get a good pic.
We did buy these sprouts though and they were excellent.

I hadn't been blogging for very long at all when, in Feb 2010, I highlighted the quality
 of Inch House Black Pudding. The post went down well, not least at Inch house,
and soon I received a superb recipe from Nora. If you'd like to try it out yourself, this is the link.
I bought this from Peter at the huge and so very popular Country Choice.

We met Olivier of On the Wild Side last year at the weekly
market in Kenmare. We enjoyed his Pork and Plum Paté
on that occasion and couldn't resist buying another slice
of it in Limerick. He does lots of cured meats as well
including a beetroot and pork saucisson and a delicious chorizo
and you're in luck if he has his Merguez Lamb Sausages on sale.
More posts from this trip
Taste the Place. Superb Dinner at Limerick Strand Hotel.
A Shannonside Star; Staying at the Limerick Strand Hotel

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Limerick’s Locke Bar. Food And Music Down By The River

Limerick’s Locke Bar
Lively, By The River
Crab claws

Limerick’s Locke Bar is so well located, just by the water on George's Quay. We were there a few weeks back and obviously the timber seats and tables on the river-banks were not in use. But you could easily imagine them full in summer with a string of boats tied up at the pontoon below. The bar, a large one, is also situated conveniently close to attractions such as the Hunt Museum and King John's Castle. And, in addition, it is well known for its food and music, not to mention the buzz.

That buzz hit us full on as we walked in the doors early on a Thursday evening. We were trying to get our bearings when a server spotted us and sorted us out. Soon we were seated in the small square restaurant, alongside the bar and facing part of the long counter.

She showed us the specials on the wall and soon we were ordering, sipping a deliciously zesty Deakin Estate Artisan's Blend Sauvignon Blanc Semillon (5.75 a glass) as we did so. My starter was the very enjoyable Dingle Bay Crab Claws with Chardonnay cream and Garlic Bread (10.50). I got through that pretty quickly while CL took a bit longer as she enjoyed her mussels from Castletownbere, served a la Mariniere (9.00).

Chicken (and Chardonnay)

We were tempted by the Pork and Salmon specials on the board but in the end settled for two off the regular menu. I was delighted with my the Supreme of Irish chicken with asparagus spears, gratin potatoes, bacon and mushroom cream (14.50). Excellent chicken with a rich and creamy sauce.The Tempura Fried Scampi (16.50) was not of quite the same standard, the tempura that bit much for the delicate fish.

We could also have had dishes such as the Beef and Locke Stout Casserole, Fish and Chips, Fish Pie and Burger. It is generally fairly typical well-priced well-cooked pub grub. Dessert was also an option but, after a good lunch at Sage earlier and a good feed here, we gave it a skip.

They serve their own stout and a very good selection of Irish craft beers including a few from Nine White Deer in West Cork. You often notice just one craft cider in Irish pubs but there were at least three here: Dan Kelly's, Craigie’s, and Longueville House. They specialise in whiskey too.

Benches on the bank

Locke's Bar is situated on the original site of one of Limerick's oldest pubs - they've been drinking here since 1724. It was cosy the other night, with the fires burning nicely. But it would be great to see it in its summer glory and maybe try that casserole with a pint of their own stout on the bench outside.

Whatever time you come, you'll get the buzz and the music. There is a session every night of the week and everyone is welcome. Will have to call back.

*In the Gents at the Locke Bar, they have a metal shield along the base of the pissoir to prevent you spraying your own shoes! I christened that the Parapee (based on the French parapluie!).
The Locke Bar
3 George’s Quay