Merrion Hotel, Dublin

The Merrion Hotel has a surprisingly discreet exterior and is concealed behind one of the finest restored Georgian facades in the city centre of Dublin. It is proudly known as the city’s top hotel, an elegant five star abode where most of Dublin’s prestigious visitors stay. I know this to be true as I spotted actor Richard E Grant in the lobby during my stay!

The Merrion

The Merrion is the perfect place to stay for a 2-day city minibreak. Found in the heart of the city, it is the ideal base for exploring some of the cities best sights… we were delighted to find the National Gallery of Ireland and Trinity University just a few minutes walk away.

The MerrionThe Merrion

The hotel is made up of four beautifully restored Georgian townhouses and in total there are 142 rooms and suites to choose from. Despite the number of rooms the hotel has a cosy and boutique feel. I saw a couple of bedrooms, each as stylish as the next.

The rooms have been carefully designed to respect the heritage and history of the original buildings. Traditional patterned materials cover the chairs and curtains, the bathrooms are kitted out in marble (and fully stocked with Asprey toiletries) and ornate lights hang from the ceilings. Our huge bed was completely heavenly, with 400 thread count Egyptian cotton bed-linen and endless plump pillows. Thanks to the silence and opulent surroundings we slept blissfully well both night’s at The Merrion.

The MerrionThe Merrion

Alongside the beautiful accommodation, the Merrion has a selection of wonderful dining options and a luxurious spa, making it a great destination for day guests too. I enjoyed a relaxing afternoon at the spa and experienced a wonderfully revitalising massage. After a short stint in the steam room, I headed in for my treatment. The therapist used warm oil and strong hands to knead the knots in my shoulders and lower back. After an hour in her safe hands I felt my body was calmer and less stressed. The spa will be relaunching in June 2018 – a big expansion to make it even more luxurious and indulgent… watch this space!The Merrion

The brand new Garden Room Restaurant at the Merrion offers a relaxed but refined place to eat within the hotel. The dining room is contemporary and stylish and the service we experienced was top notch, efficient, helpful but not too stuffy.

I was impressed with the menu which showcases the finest Irish produce, from oysters to cheese. We skipped starters and went straight to main courses: a delicate plate of Grilled Black Sole with Creamed Garlic Baby Spinach and a 28-day aged, grass-fed Irish Beef Steak.

For dessert we enjoyed the Raspberry Soufflé with Anglaise Sauce & Lime Sorbet and the Chocolate Fondant with Honeycomb Ice-cream and Caramelised Pecan Nuts. These classic puddings were well executed and tasted delicious, I particularly liked the sweetness of the soufflé with the zesty citrus sorbet.

The prices at Garden Room are steep (around 25-30 euros for a main course and 15 euros for a dessert) but after an entire evening spent here enjoying the jovial atmosphere and faultless service, it didn’t seem so extravagant.

The Merrion

Each morning at the Merrion starts with a lavish breakfast. We took full advantage of the wonderful breakfast spread in our room each morning, feasting on sweet pillowy french toast, buttery pastries, and fresh fruit salads.

The Merrion Hotel is the dream destination for luxury travellers. With wonderful facilities and exceptional service, we felt excited to return to this beautiful accommodation after a each day of sightseeing.

More information and book a room at The Merrion Hotel here.

El Celler de Can Roca with Macallan Whisky

It’s not everyday that you get an invite to one of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants… so when the Macallan Whisky email came through about a trip to Girona for a meal at El Celler de Can Roca, my reply was an immediate and very enthusiastic yes.

El Cellar Can Roca

Girona is synonymous with the Roca Brothers. Joan, Josep and Jordi opened El Celler de Can Roca in 1986, and since it has won 3 Michelin stars and spent a number of years at the top spot on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. The brothers, known for their immaculate palates, have collaborated with the renowned Macallan Whisky, a brand which also prides itself on the highest quality of taste.

Our meal at the restaurant was part of the elaborate ‘Time Captured Experience’, a unique and artistic tribute to time and how it develops and transforms the best ingredients.

El Cellar Can RocaEl Cellar Can Roca

A group of keen foodies arrived in Girona in the morning. Before visiting the restaurant we were taken to the development house to see the inventions in progress. After watching the fascinating food scientists at work we walked over to El Celler de Can Roca for Macallan whisky cocktails and miniature canapes inspired by different countries around the world.

El Cellar Can RocaEl Cellar Can Roca

An exclusive sneak preview of the kitchen and a interactive Q&A with the three brothers gave us all a real insight into the Roca way of creating food memories. It was endearing to watch them chat and laugh together… and it was a rare privilege to meet them all afterwards.

El Cellar Can Roca

The grand dining room was set up with vibrant purple round tables, blue and red mood lighting and large screens for further explanation of the food. As the brothers only speak Spanish the English-speakers amongst us had a headset with a live English translation.

El Cellar Can Roca

The meal consisted of 10 courses with various little extra bites here and there. The first course was just as much about aesthetics as taste… a delicate glass egg timer was placed on our plates and a waiter passed round the table filling each up with Truffle Zabaione with Egg Yolk. It was rich, indulgent and utterly delicious, and we each scrabbled to eat the divine yellow liquid before it escaped through the tunnel and onto the plate beneath.

El Cellar Can RocaEl Cellar Can Roca

I was amazed by each plate, bowl and container which found its way to our table. The beautiful crockery is all handcrafted for the Roca brothers and adds a real element of excitement and beauty to the plates of food.

For the main section of the meal we first devoured a ‘Golden Apple with Sobrasada’. This wondrous spun sugar apple was matched immaculately with the pieces of salty pork belly. Next up was ‘Goose a la Royale’ cooked for 30 hours at 63 degrees with a beetroot jewel. It was a regal dish, intensely flavoured meat which melted in the mouth and a lovely earthiness from the pink beetroot.

El Cellar Can RocaEl Cellar Can Roca

Careful and clever wine and whisky pairings were matched with the food and brought out to us with each course. Though I couldn’t drink it all, I sipped each one amazed by the depth of flavour and variety of tastes.

El Cellar Can RocaEl Cellar Can RocaEl Cellar Can Roca

The desserts were a triumph and our table ooh-ed and ahh-ed as the plates were put down in front of us. My personal favourite was the ‘Flower Bomb’ a floral and elegant dessert concealed within a pearl sugar ball and sitting amongst a nest of candyfloss. It was almost too beautiful to eat.

No meal is complete without a chocolate course, and this was our last plate of the day. ‘The Macallan Amber Cigar Box’ was a masculine dish, woody smokey flavours of cocoa contrasting with a deep red berry coulis.

El Cellar Can Roca

Our final taste of the day was in the words of the Roca brothers, ‘the gift of time itself’. We were treated to 2 drops of history contained within tiny bottles: a drop of the Macallan 1946 and one drop of the Trafalgar 1805. There are very few remaining bottles of these vintage Macallan blends and I felt incredibly humbled to be one of few to taste such special and rare whiskys.

Straight after the meal I was whisked off in a taxi to catch a flight home my head still reeling from the incredible and immersive El Celler de Can Roca experience.

More information about El Celler de Can Roca here, and learn more about Macallan whisky here.

Coal Rooms, Peckham

The smell of sweet bacon in Peckham Rye station is a daily reminder of the arrival of Coal Rooms Restaurant, which has found a home in the old ticket office of the vintage station. Peckham residents have been eagerly awaiting this opening after the Old Spike Coffee Roastery team promised a comfort food eatery from the convenience of the area’s main station.

Coal Rooms

The venue is split into sections… first a small but bright cafe area where short-stay visitors can pop in for a croissant and coffee. Walk through the kitchen area and you’ll reach the clean and simple dining room, with chevron plank flooring and teal crushed velvet sofas.

Coal Rooms

The restaurant is open all day. At lunchtime a smaller selection of plates is available, each dish is priced between £5 and £10, and you will probably need four between two. Glancing over the menu I quickly realised this is not a restaurant for the faint-hearted or vegan, the majority of the dishes feature heavy and rich meat elements or at least plenty of cheese!

We ordered a selection and there were varying levels of success. Buttermilk fried mackerel, Bull’s Head tomato, Scotch bonnet hot sauce, kewpie was the obvious winner with my guest who silently and methodically made her way through the whole plate. The oily fish was cleverly paired with chilli to cut through the texture and had a lovely creamy kewpie mayonnaise on top.

Buttermilk chicken, jerk caramel was a tad disappointing – lack lustre chicken topped with a caramel sauce. We liked the earthy Smoked goat belly & beans but didn’t rush to finish it.

Of the vegetarian options, Coal roasted cauliflower with miso bagna cauda and furikake (available as a half or full cauliflower) was an unusual but delicious dish, clearly influenced by the flavours of Japan. ‘Peckham Fatboy’ fried potatoes topped with Ogleshield cheese, onions and beef fat mayonnaise was an indulgent and delicious side and Umami salad with crispy onions was a fresh and palate cleansing dish when eaten with the assortment of meat dishes.

Coal Rooms

Coal Rooms has become known for its Bacon Sandwich (which costs £5)… Coffee-cured streaky bacon, homemade brown sauce or ketchup sandwiched between a fluffy custard bun. The bacon sandwich is available all day (including at lunchtime) until sold out. It is an epic sarnie, overflowing with thick-cut pork with a smoky sweetness from the homemade sauce.

Coal RoomsCoal Rooms

At lunchtime there is only one dessert on offer and a cheese option. Apple & cheddar pie, cinnamon toast ice-cream was a simple but tasty dessert… I particularly liked the spiced ice-cream. Coal Rooms serve great coffee from Old Spike, which is lucky as you’ll need a pick-me-up after a hearty meal here.

PS. Don’t leave without visiting the beautiful bathrooms…

More information and book a table at Coal Rooms here.