Setting Sail to the Walled City – Shipquay Derry Hotel Review
Unless you’ve been living under a rock you will have no doubt heard of the Irish television show that is taking the world by storm. Derry Girls is a sitcom set in 90s’ Northen Ireland and is full of that Irish humour that we know and love. The series has sparked an increase in visitors to this city, and we are among that number. So we packed our bags and headed off to visit The Walled City.
The walls in question are the completely intact stone walls that form a walkway around the old town. Dating back to 1613 they were first built as a defence for the city. Today they give visitors and locals incredible views across the city, as well as encasing historic sites such as the Cathedral of St.Columb.
Our home for the night was the boutique Shipquay Hotel, which overlooks the city walls and is right in the heart of Derry’s arts and social scene. The heritage listed building dates back to 1895 and perfectly combines its beautiful old features with contemporary luxuries. Upon checking in each guest is met with a chilled glass of bubbly (a big A+ in my books), before being shown to their room.
We were staying in Guildhall. Each of the 21 rooms is named after famous landmarks in Derry, with ours aptly named Guildhall for its views across the government building of the same name. The rooms are tastefully decorated with soft furnishings. Later that evening I would have one of the most blissful night’s sleep I had in a long time, which undoubtedly was due to the extra large and pillow soft bed.
Everything you need for a brilliant stay is provided; fluffy white bathrobes and slippers, tea and coffee maker, water, a television, toiletries and more. In fact, if I didn’t have plans to explore the city I would have happily lounged in my room all evening!
Once we settled in and freshened up, a gin and tonic was in order. Shipquay boasts its own bar, Lock & Quay, which is a hit with the locals as well as hotel guests. When we arrived there was a buzz in the room, with tables of patrons enjoying cocktails and tapas. Plush blue velvet chairs blend with soft leather to give the bar a welcoming and modern feel. Sipping our G&T’s we relaxed in the bar, and soon it was time for dinner.
Heading to the onsite restaurant with our belles beginning to rumble we were pleasantly surprised to see the cheerful atmosphere we experienced in the bar was in full swing here too. The restaurant is lively without being overpowering, and our window seat meant we could people watch and have a little privacy while still being in a vibrant atmosphere.
Ordering a bottle of Argentinian Malbec we sipped away as we perused the menu. For my partner in crime the Pistachio & Chicken Terrine (£8.00) was the starter of choice. Served with toasted sourdough, pickled vegetables, pear jam and port glaze. Crunchy pistachios ran through well-seasoned chicken, with the pickled vegetables giving a tart bite to the dish.
For me deciding on a starter was a difficult affair. Some of the starters that drew my interest included slow-cooked beef cheeks and pan-fried scallops but I was content in my choice of Clonakilty Black Pudding Scotch Egg (£7.00). A generously sized scotch egg was served with crisp sautéed potato and red onion marmalade. This was my favourite dish of the evening. The black pudding was a delicious treat and our waitress tells us that it’s one of the most popular menu items.
Craving yet more meat I settled on Hereford Sirloin Steak (£23.00) for my main course. It’s hard to resist adding surf and turf to my steaks and this evening was no exception. Shipquay has put a spin on the classic surf and turf by serving a plethora of delicious additions; melt in the mouth beef cheek, crisp black pudding, scallop and prawn fritter.
Steak may seem like a simple dish, but to enjoy a perfectly seasoned and cooked steak is a joy like no other. Full of flavour and exactly medium rare as requested, this was a great piece of meat. The added surf and turf (£7.00) felt like pure luxury, the prawn fritter was notably my favourite part. Served with chips and a rich Bérnaise sauce, I was in heaven.
Across the table, my dining companion went for the interestingly named ‘Celebration of Irish Lamb’. Cooked three ways the dish was a delight. Featuring lamb loin saag, tomahawk lamb steaks and lamb sweet potato pie. The expertly cooked pink lamb was rich with flavour, and each element stood out in its own right.
Although I have a wicked sweet tooth, our gorgeous Malbec was crying out for some cheese. Sharing an incredibly large cheese board (£8.00) we nibbled leisurely at the local cheese before retiring for a nightcap. If you’re feeling too full for dessert there is are tempting dessert cocktails that would be a fantastic way to end your meal.
Food provenance is evident throughout the menu with suppliers proudly listed. Dairy goods are sourced from Donnybrewer Handcrafted Butter. Pork and bacon are supplied by McCarron & CO, the seafood comes from Donegal Prime Fish and beef is sourced from Irish Hereford.
The following morning we revisited the restaurant for breakfast. Starting with a self-serve continental buffet before our waitress took our hot breakfast order. Cooked to order we enjoy buttermilk pancakes with homemade blueberry compote and a ‘Walled City Fry’, complete with traditional potato bread which I devoured.
There is also prosecco at breakfast, so I would advise you to treat yourself to a mimosa! At weekends you can also enjoy bottomless brunch before you head out and explore the city.
Shipquay is a luxurious hotel, with all the mod-cons you would wish for, yet it has a distinctly homely feel. Its boutique size means guests will enjoy a stay away from large crowds, but its lively bar and restaurant mean you won’t miss out on the fun! It’s ideally located right in the centre of town; perfect for shopping, bar hopping and sightseeing. My stay at Shipquay was everything you could ask for; personal, friendly and a welcome respite from the rat race of everyday life.
15-17 Shipquay Street,
T: (0044) 28 71267266
[su_note note_color=”#eeede9″]REVIEW BY SINÉAD SMYTH[/su_note]