It is four o’clock in the day and I’m in a robe, with no intention of changing that situation – all, I think to myself, is right in the world. I nearly have to be peeled from a curved cocoon lounger, sipping on herbal tea and for once not staring at my phone. I’ve only been at Monart Hotel and Spa for an hour, but already the stresses of the outside world have begun to melt away.
Having arrived earlier at a grand gated entrance just outside Enniscorthy town, the first indication that this adults-only spa haven is something a little exclusive is the intercom to gain entry – if we weren’t booked in there’s no way we were getting in for a nose around. The mystery is instantly alluring and what lies beyond these gates reveals itself to be even more so.
A winding driveway through a scenic estate leads us to a stunning manor house, and because parking your own car is just a bridge too far for those seeking ultimate relaxation, a friendly valet immediately unpacks the car and ushers it away. Monart is a drop your car and forget where you put your keys kind of place – and I quickly did.
While Monart’s immediate fascade resembles something almost Downton-esque, stepping inside you realise there is something altogether more awe-inspiring to behold. A magnificent glass corridor leads to a marble clad reception, also gilded in glass and overlooking a lush green lagoon – the word otherworldly springs to mind.
The Wexford welcome is up there with the finest, not unlike that in Kerry, both have the mentality of offering hospitality with genuine warmth and we are personally guided to our spacious room, which is more like a suite in terms of sheer size. With high ceilings and glass doors leading to a petite balcony with sweeping views across the gardens and surrounding woodlands, if the rest of the hotel wasn’t so tempting this room would be difficult to leave.
Contemporary decor, a sumptuous king size bed and the kind of roomy marble bathroom you dream of having at home make the rooms at Monart stand out, with a seriously generously sized rainfall power shower and double ended bath. The icing on the cake? Two more inviting robes, even more plush than the ones downstairs, which we happily changed into before making shapes towards the crowning glory of Monart – the state of the art spa.
A firm but delicious Anti-Tension Back Massage lulls me into the Monart mentality, having arrived stressed and weary after a long week. My partner in crime is similarly unwound after his, and ponders getting used to the Hugh Hefner robe-clad way of life.
With our post massage glows, we retreated to the relaxation spaces, both a dark room and light room are dotted with aspects of nature like sprawling branches, so even though the sun was beaming in and the day lived up to the Sunny South East moniker, I was tempted to stay indoors curled up in luxury. We did manage a stroll around the grounds to check out the happy looking ducks paddling around in the waterfall and idyllic is an understatement.
The Spa Cafe sprawls out onto the lawn and serves freshly squeezed juices and Prosecco all day – whichever voice on your shoulder whose advice you choose to heed. This reminds me that Monart is a tale of saints and sinners – and we certainly fell into the latter camp – as it is ridiculously indulgent, yet can also be cleansing.
Even if you choose not to detox, and it is tough not to, putting your feet up in the Caladarium with views across the waterfall feels like a cleanse for a stressed out mind and a trip to the Infrared Pro Cabin reduces inflammation and helps rid the body of toxins, so technically your break still has benefits on that side of things.
Panning out on a heated tiled lounger after a frolic in the (guaranteed kid-free) hydrotherapy pool was like a prescription for a happy Sunday – Monart is truly good for the soul. Reluctantly retreating upstairs and redressing (robes are totally ok at breakfast, not so at dinner) after a glass of wine on the sun-soaked terrace, we both felt our craving to unwind had been more than sated, and appetites were now calling.
Arriving at a packed restaurant (Monart is fully booked every weekend of the summer, I learn) we were happy to be seated overlooking the gardens and settled in to peruse the menu. My first thought was how impressive it was to see such an extensive list of local suppliers on the opening page – it is clear Monart is dedicated to championing its neighbours, from Killowen Dairy and Staffords Butchers in Enniscorthy to Millstream Seafood in Cairn.
My starter of Organic Chicken Terrine was dotted with tart stewed cherries and decadent whipped foie gras, scooped up with buttery brioche still warm from the oven and finished with a generous drizzle of sweet port wine reduction which cut across the confit chicken’s richness nicely. This dish offered slightly autumnal flavour but was thoroughly enjoyed gazing out at the setting summer sun.
A mysterious sounding Prawn Mosaic was an artfully plated dish comprising many elements – paté-like tranches of compressed prawns, pickled cucumber and dehydrated heirloom tomato. While definitely light and summery, it couldn’t really compete with my boldly delicious terrine and possibly would have benefited from letting the well sourced main ingredient shine a little more.
A main of Herb Crusted Lamb Cutlet sourced from the nearby Slaney Valley was cooked pink as requested, resting on a moreish lamb shoulder (the king of lamb cuts if you ask me) croquette and a velvety sweet carrot purée. Served with delectable Wexford queens, this dish succeeded in shining a spotlight on the restaurant’s commitment to provenance.
Attempting to embrace the saintly side of Monart, I plumped for a light-ish sounding Butter Poached Turbot dish. The addition of pickled cockles, which I am now seeing on menus everywhere, drew me in and I very much enjoyed them here. These little sea gems adding a spike of acidity to cut across an unctuously fork-coating caper beurre blanc, which was well-made indeed.
I loved the fact that a dedicated vegan menu is on offer alongside the a la carte – an impressive selection with three starters and three mains which would certainly have tempted me if I hadn’t already given in to the more decadent side of things – not least with a dessert choice of Belgian Chocolate and Orange Tart.
An almost buttery chocolate mousse was deeply satisfying, topped with shards of hokey pokey-like toasted almond praline, oozing Cointreau sabayon and finished with local raspberries – sinful in a good way.
Across the table, a celebration of the jewel in Wexford’s food crown came in the form of Greenhill Strawberry and Marshmallow, a whimsical dish with three berried delights – sorbet, cloud-like homemade marshmallow and petite and sweet ruby strawberries. I may have nicked a few of these to add to my own dessert, much to my dining companion’s disgust!
Having ended the night back in the our robes with a glass of Prosecco on our lovely balcony and awaking refreshed, a leisurely breakfast rounded out the Monart experience nicely.
Wheat-free granola, dairy-free smoothies, delicious date-spiked nutrition slices and an abundance of fresh fruit was warmly received by those of us atoning for the night before (guilty), alongside the kind of bountiful continental spread you expect in a five star resort. My partner in crime was also offered a packed breakfast to go as he dashed off for an early meeting – a very nice touch indeed.
For something a little more indulgent, an extensive menu of classics like Eggs Benedict, Brioche French Toast and Pancakes with Roasted Pecans and Banana was also on offer, but I had my sights set on returning to the Spa for one last hurrah as residents can lounge until 2pm on the day of checkout.
As my car is brought round to leave, I think to myself that Monart is like Disneyland for weary adults. I felt the same way – pouty-faced and near teary-eyed – as I did waving goodbye to the Magic Kingdom as a (24 year old) child. It is impossible not to relax and recharge in this luxury cocoon. Monart has earned it’s title of Spa of the Year at the Irish Spa Awards ten times over – it is the Rolls Royce of Irish spas and one you simply must add to your bucket list.
Overnight packages for two at Monart start from €169pps, for more information or to book click here.
Monart Destination Spa
T: +353 (0)53 92 38999
Growing up with the name Darina, I was constantly asked if I could cook like my namesake. With that(and greed) as the ultimate motivator, I realised that baked goods make excellent bribes and an obsession was born! I am the only person to have contested both Masterchef and the Great Irish Bake off, fuelling my desire to focus on food in a serious way. Working with TheTaste allows me to satisfy this craving and marries my food fascination with my love of writing and ranting.