Last week we were invited along to the Slieve Donard Resort & Spa in our home town of Newcastle for a lovely gourmet wine evening. We’ve been pretty fortunate over the last 8 – 9 months to be invited along to a number of fine dining evenings thanks to the NI Year of Food & Drink, although we like to think it’s down to the fact that we’re great company 🙂
This gourmet wine evening was hosted by Wakefield Wines, the UK brand for one of Australia’s most popular wines, the family run Taylor Wines. We arrived to enjoy an evening of fine dining in the Chandelier Room and were joined at our table by Julie Hastings from Hastings Hotels, Stephanie Buckley from EatSleepChic.ie and reporters from both the Irish News and Co Down Outlook. The Slieve Donard has built up a great reputation for food in the local area in recent years and our experiences have always been delicious, particularly on our wedding day. This gourmet wine evening however, took things to another level, and for us, if the Slieve can maintain the food standards on show that Tuesday evening, the hotel will soon find itself on many food guides and awards lists over the coming years.
Canapes and monkfish the perfect start to the evening
As we entered the hotel we were greeted with a selection of canapes and a 2014 Wakefield Chardonnay wine. We enjoyed the scallop and black pudding, and curried cod croquette canapes before taking our seat to begin the seven course gourmet meal. First up was a spiced monkfish tail dish. The monkfish was served with a Pernod and spiced mussel foam and paired with a Wakefield Riesling wine. The spicing was wonderfully delicate, enough to get your palette going but not overpower the monkfish taste. This fish dish was a nice portion size to kick things off, and set us up for the next two courses.
Terrine and sorbet
Next up was a terrine made from confit chicken leg, foie gras and artichoke, pressed in a champagne jelly. This dish was paired with a 2015 Wakefield Chardonnay which perfectly complemented the dish, and accompanied by some pickled veg. While foie gras is not everyone’s cup of tea, the terrine was packed full of flavour, and although foie gras can be quite a strong flavour, there was just enough of it to support the confit chicken and artichoke.
Following this was a superb palette cleansing grapefruit, basil and Jawbox Gin sorbet. The sharp taste of the grapefruit was wonderfully balanced by the basil and the botanical flavours of the gin which added a freshness to the tongue, setting us up perfectly for the main course. We’ve never had basil in a sorbet before but this was a winner.
Venison shines as the main event
In gourmet evenings like this, the main course is always the dish that the table looks forward to, and this event was no different. Indeed, when the wonderfully prepared Finnebrogue venison hit our tables, you could hear a collective excitement in those dining with us. Our mouths were watering at the prospect of tucking into the venison, and we certainly weren’t disappointed in the end result. The garlic potato gratin, celeriac puree and Shiraz jus added an earthy backdrop of flavours to perfectly complement the melt-in-the-mouth venison. The dish was paired with a Wakefield Estate 2015 Shiraz and with clean plates all round, it was clearly the highlight of the evening for many.
Unwinding with cheese and dessert
The final dishes of the evening were a cheese course and dessert. These courses are all about relaxing at the end of a meal, and this is exactly what we did. The combination of soft cheese were served with a wonderful slow gin jelly and crackers. We didn’t take too much of this as we wanted to leave some room for our dessert, but again we were left with happy tummies.
The finale of the evening was an iced gingerbread parfait and a poached pear. The pear was poached to perfection, and with the parfait sandwiched in between gingerbread cake to make a wonderfully fragrant ice-cream sandwich. We finished with tea and coffee and a selection of homemade fudge and macaroons before calling it a night and making the short trip home (one of the perk’s of this event being in Newcastle).
With the year of food and drink here in Northern Ireland into its final quarter, and the festive season quickly creeping up on us, we’ll be sure to keep you posted on any of our dining experiences over the coming weeks and months. Be sure to connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep up to date with all the latest happenings here at Pikalily.