The wondrous Wild Atlantic Way initiative created by Failte Ireland has without doubt been a roaring success to date with visitor numbers to the West up year on year, one county which has benefitted greatly is Mayo. Often viewed by many locals as the forgotten beauty, Mayo has really come into its own.
With Staycations on the rise and weekend escapes back with a bang we packed our bags and hit the road on the scenic route to Westport. Destination Knockranny House Hotel, just five minutes outside of Westport buzzing town centre.
If you have yet to visit this picturesque part of the world rectify it fast, it is a superb base to tour the West with the whole family as we found out.
We have all been there, after a few hours of traveling in the car with the kids you arrive at your hotel and think “Thank Christ” let this check in be quick and smooth so you hit the bar and reward yourself with a cold one.
Unfortunately our first impression of Knockranny was the opposite, having arrived at half past three we were told our room would not be ready until four, having experienced a luke warm check in we decided to pop down to Westport and explore with the kids.
Westport village always seems to be a hive of activity, packed with quirky shops, quaint bars and some very impressive restaurants such and An Port Mor, Sol Rio and most recently Sage.
After a few hours pottering around we picked up some goodies for the little one and made out way back to Knockranny to finally experience all it had to offer.
A busy weekend lay ahead for the staff as a large wedding party was arriving, immediately images of a sleepless night with late night revellers came soaring to mind, however this could not have been further from the truth.
Knockranny is an exceptionally spacious and well designed hotel, accommodation is comfortable and generous, even in the classic rooms are bigger than average.
We stayed in the Courtyard suite, which is located within the main hotel but features some nice little extras such as a spa bath – essential, 6’6 super king size bed that proved very difficult to leave the following morning and a BOSE surround sound system piped through the suite and bathroom.
The main purpose of our visit was to check out the culinary prowess of Head Chef Seamus Commons at their recently redesigned La Fougere Restaurant which elevated the interior to finally match the food. So after a dip in the vitality pool at Knockranny’s Spa Salveo we headed to dinner with the stunning backdrop of the Croagh Patrick in the distance.
One of the things we loved about the dining space was no matter where you are seated you can still experience the views, that and the fact the table are well spread so you can enjoy dinner in peace.
There was a nice balance of locals and guests in the La Fougere the night we dined which says a lot about Seamus’s cooking as there is fierce competition in this neck of the woods.
There is the classic Table d’hote menu with lot of choice such as Smoked Salmon, 21 Day Dry Aged Beef and Pan Seared Sole, however we opted for the tasting menu with wine pairings as we were curious to see what their award winning sommelier Nick Faujours would surprise us with.
We began with perfectly cooked Scallops, baby fennel, fennel puree and a refined compressed apple paired with a Picpoul de Pinet 2016 from Domaine Cabrol, beautifully balanced and a zingy match for the delicate flavours of the scallop.
Next up was delightful dish of Wild Turbot topped with chunks of lobster, succulent mussels and a simple dressing of fresh seaweed. Not only was is visually pleasing but utterly delicious in every way. Faujours partnered with an interesting Verus Pinot Gris from Slovenia which was a real revelation.
After a short reprisal a little work of art was set before us, an inventive take on the classic Beetroot and Goats Cheese pairing this time served with a mouth watering tempura of courgette flower, black olive and mustard frills. Three courses in and we were complete converts to Seamus Commons cooking,
The reds were calling and some of the best lamb in Ireland is Mayo Lamb, no surprise to see this carnivore’s treat beautifully paired with some pea, asparagus, lovage and rate potato, the clever addition of anchovy elevated the plate to a whole new level.
With so much flavour going on our sommelier had is work cut out, but he managed to pull it out of the bag with a cracking Moric Blaufrankisch Burgenland 2013 filled with berry flavours, hints of saltiness and perfectly balanced by a tart acidity.
Pre desserts can be funny old things and five courses in you really do need to arrive hungry, luckily we did so we had no problem devouring our Vanilla Panna Cotta, with raspberry sorbet, poached peach and tiny shards of tuille.
Our finale certainly ended on a sugary high note with a eye catching dish of Knockranny’s Strawberry Soup, surrounded by wild strawberry, pernod ice-cream, a perfect shortbread biscuit which was propping up a sublime cherry parfait. Only one paring for this, bubbly in the form of a Spumate Prosecco and you have the perfect ending to an incredible dining experience.
Knockranny House really is a tale of two cities, on one side a relaxed hotel catering for all the usual needs with very decent bar food and an impressive cocktail experience for these parts but on the other you have a room that transports you to a Parisian five star restaurant with a food and wine offering to back it up.
La Fougere is beyond any doubt the shining star and Seamus Commons and his team should be very proud of the creative dishes this hotel restaurant is pushing out.
A two night B&B stay, including dinner in the award winning La Fougere starts from €168pp.
Knockranny House Hotel
T: (098) 28600