Based in the heart Ballina sitting on the river Moy, the Ice House has a nordic feel surrounded by the Beleek forest and is a mix of rustic meets modern, which can be seen throughout the Hotel.
Arriving at the Hotel, the first thing that strikes you is the modern glass structures complimenting the original 19th century building. In most hotels you find the reception to be a rather formal setting however here the reception is warm, inviting and informal. We were greeted by the friendly receptionist who told us to drop our bags and head down for a complimentary glass of prosecco, which the Ice House provides for all guests on arrival, which is a nice touch after a long drive.
Walking down to the bar you can clearly see two distinct styles from new to old, as you pass throughout the old ice storage rooms and walk ways until you reach the uber modern bar and restaurant. In the bar, you have the most amazing views of the river and woodlands, you can also see some brave souls adventuring out into the iconic outdoor hot tub and sauna area. The bar has an extensive wine and cocktail menu, we settled on an excellent bourbon cocktail which was blended beautifully.
With the welcome drink finished we set out to find our room, which was the Wedgewood Suite. This is a beautiful presented, spacious room, with living and bedroom area separately by sliding door, adding an extra sense of space. The rooms are located at the rear of the hotel, ensuring every guest can take advantage of the woodland views. We were fortunate enough to have a private balcony which even in the rain we ventured out to, as it is partial enclosed. The rooms are tastefully decorated and have a modern Scandinavian design which boosts two flat screen TVs, surround sound, luxurious bedding and a contemporary bathroom. After staying in many top Irish hotels, we extremely impressed by this room.
The main reason for this visit was to taste the culinary skills of Head Chef Anthony Holland. For starters, we went for Assiette of Winter Vegetables which consisted of Beetroot Puree, Pickled Baby Carrots, Hummus, delicious Sweet Potato Crisp, Toasted Brioche & Nut Crust. A throughly enjoyable starter with a light crispy texture. Our second starter was Kelly’s Black Pudding Potato Cake resting on Chives, Scallions, Organic Creamed Leeks, mixed with Silverskin Onions, Apple & Raisin Chutney. An interesting take on popular ingredient in many an Irish Dish.
Before our mains, we were presented with a superb amuse bouche of seared scallop and celeriac puree and chirizo on the side, adding a spicy kick to complement the buttery, melt in the mouth scallop. In our opinion this dish should be on the main menu as it was outstanding.
A hard act to follow and continuing with the seafood theme, our first main was Pan Fried Fillet of Cod sourced locally with Wards Crabmeat & Herb Gnocchi was light and fluffy and the texture worked beautifully with the cod. The dish was completed with a small helping of Prawn & Ginger Wonton and nestled over a Mango & Coriander Coulis.
The second main was a Confit of Irish Pork Belly with caramelized apple, it was a generous portion with Enisco Organic Beetroot mixed with Carrot and Ginger Puree with prosciutto william potato and red wine jus. Pork Belly, if done right, is one of my favorite mains and Chef got it absolutely perfect, the sweet caramelized apple, has given me a lasting food memory and this alone would make me dine again in The Ice House.
For desserts with went for the Blueberry & Strawberry ice-cream with marshmallows, topped with Meringues and a raspberry sorbet and our second dessert was Warm Apple & Blackberry Crumble both were satisfactory but would have preferred to have seen a more adventurous list of desserts to match up to the previous courses.
You can clearly see that the Chef sources and supports local suppliers, on the menu they are proud to list Garvin’s Seafood, Ballina, Kelly’s Butcher; Newport, Falcon Fruits, Ballina, Wildwood Vinegars, Lacken; Eniscoe Organic Gardens and Crossmolina, Calvey’s Butcher, Achill.
Overall, for a hotel restaurant, the level of presentation and flavors was extremely high and Chef Anthony Holland should expect to be in the mix for connaught food awards next year.
This hotel has a new general manager in Niall Kerins and it is clear to see Niall is passionate about guest having the best experience possible, his staff are friendly and helpful and nothing is too much trouble. Unfortunately, we didn’t pre-book the extensive list of spa treatments and missing out this time however yet another reason to return one day.
This is a culinary break we would recommend however make sure you are staying for 2 nights so you get to experience all the Ice House has to offer.
From Room to View and Food to Staff, it is an experience, we can’t wait to have again!
Keith & Jules Mahon are the founders of TheTaste. We want TheTaste to be a culinary kaleidoscope to champion every taste, food, wine, cocktails, whiskey, etc. We are delighted to be part of such a creative and fast moving industry and are very passionate about sharing with you our unique journey around Ireland finding the best culinary hotspots.