Destination Delicious- Browns Restaurants

At the recent Tourism NI ‘Year of Food and Drink Awards’, Derry /Londonderry was named as ‘Destination Delicious’.  (Another name for the area!)

The Award recognises the city’s reputation for excellent local produce and eateries, and last week I was lucky to join fellow bloggers and media in trying out exactly what the area has to offer.

We left Belfast and made our way to Browns in Town (23 Strand Road) where there was a fantastic showcase of Destination Delicious food and drink producers. I chatted with, and tried samples from, the likes of Brendan Gallagher meats, Donnybrewer Butter, Kee Fruits, Northbound Brewery, Quiet Man Whiskey and Dart Mountain Cheese.

I particularly loved the cheese so I had to find out where I could buy it in Belfast- Sawers Deli in College Street, by the way!

It was then time to head to Browns in Town’s sister restaurant, Browns Restaurant & Champagne Lounge (1 Bond’s Hill) where we were first treated to a live cooking demo by chef Ian Orr.

Ian has created a bespoke menu in celebration of ‘Destination Delicious’ and it was this very menu we were about to tuck in to.

For the first course we shared a selection of homemade breads served with the Donnybrewer butter we had just sampled at Browns in Town. The rich and creamy butter is churned in a traditional batch churn at the company’s Eglinton farm. The breads were  swiftly followed by a fantastic dish consisting of Loughview Farm Egg with Errigal Bay Scallop and Pomegrante.

IMG_7974

IMG_7975

Sticking with seafood, it was time for the third course- Donegal Prime Crab with Apple and Cucumber. The crab tasted incredible paired with the apple jelly and was served with Lapostolle Chardonny.

The final course before the dessert was my favourite, Beef Cheek from Brendan Gallagher with Northbound Beer and Kee Fruit Mixed Beetroot. That beef! It just fell apart at the touch- delicious. This was served with Tomero Malbec supplied by R&R Wines and Kolsch style Lager from Northbound Brewery.

IMG_7981

IMG_7990

The final course was Rhubarb Parfait with Long Meadow Cider, which looked as beautiful as it tasted! Loved the presentation! This was matched with dessert wine, Sichel Sauternes.

IMG_7995

We then boarded the bus and made our way to Ardtara Country House in Maghera. This boutique hotel is owned by the Browns Group and has previously been named as one of the best places to stay in Northern Ireland. Here we had a nightcap of tea/coffee and dulce de leche shortbread bites.

IMG_8004

We arrived back to Belfast at midnight after what was a fantastic evening celebrating the best of the best food and drink in Destination Delicious!

Browns is a restaurant group which prides itself on using the freshest, local produce. No wonder it was named the ‘Best Restaurant in Co Derry’ for the eighth year running at the Irish Restaurant Awards just days after our visit! Well done guys!

 

 

 

 

Beech Hill Country House, Derry

A few weekends ago I treated my mum and sister to a night away in Derry for both of their birthdays. I had booked Beech Hill Country House which is a stunning Georgian house, with 30 bedrooms and suites, based at Ardmore Road.

I had booked a classic double room for my mum and a superior room (as it included both a king size as well as a single bed) for my sister and I, but on arrival were delighted to receive two superior rooms beside each other with adjoining door! A lovely touch.

The rooms were huge, warm and comfortable and we were looking forward to relaxing in them later that evening. (I later found out that each room in the hotel looks different as they have all been individually restored, so different décor, paints, fabrics etc)

But before we relaxed in our rooms, it was down to the bar for a few drinks and dinner! It was a cold evening so we parked up right in front of the fire- bliss! In fact, we didn’t leave and decided to have our dinner right there.  The Beech Hill is famed for its food and a number of people remarked to me that I would enjoy it when I mentioned I was staying there.

The next morning we went down for breakfast and were impressed with both the cooked and continental selection- with all three of us having a bit of both! After breakfast, we walked round and explored the grounds. The hotel has different trials, with 32 acres of woodland and gardens. During our walk I was so impressed to learn about the history of the site.  In June 1941, the United States constructed a naval base on the Foyle, named ‘Base One Europe’. It remained the US Navy’s main centre of operations in Europe until June 1944. The Beech Hill Country House Hotel provided the location for one the main accommodation camps and we couldn’t believe a hut was still in place. Fascinating!

Overall I had a brilliant night, particularly the comfortable rooms and amazing history. Looking forward to bringing Barry next time as he will love it!

Front of Beech Hill Hotel

Mum at Beech Hill Hotel

Our room

Mum’s room

Relaxing by the fire

Breakfast- continental selection

Breakfast- continental selection

Cooked breakfast

Beech Hill grounds

Beech Hill grounds

History- Beech Hill Camp


History- Beech Hill Camp

 

Tyrone and Sperrins Visit: Campsie Karting

Before two days ago, I’d never been go-karting! And I can honestly say, I’ll be back! On Saturday morning, as part of our visit to Tyrone and Sperrins, we headed to Campsie Karting which is situated in Campsie, not far from Derry.

On arrival we were greeted by Eamonn who talked us through the 400m indoor racing circuit, including the technical corners, and got us set up in our racing gear, such as suits, helmets and gloves.

Then it was straight into the go-karts, myself in position to go first out of the pits, with Barry coming after me just a few seconds later. With only 2 pedals- accelerator and brake, it was time to get racing!

The first few laps we were just getting used to the track (57 seconds and 48 seconds, for example) but by lap 8 I was down in the 30s and raring to go. Soon, I was learning how to go round the corners much quicker, without having to slow right down and adding seconds to my time.

15 minutes later we stopped for a short break and were given the all-important  results. While I had managed one lap more than Barry in the 15 minutes (21 compared to 20), he had managed to get a faster lap than me and so won that section! I was raging!

His fastest was 36.064 seconds, while mine was 36.093 seconds. So, we’re talking a fraction of a second here- it takes longer to blink, Eamonn said! (maybe I’m a sore loser, but I kept reminding Barry of that fact!)

So, that was me- determined to beat him in the second half. The red mist came over me and I zoomed round the track as fast as I could! Concentrating so hard, I was calm, I was focused and I was “in the zone.” Surely I’d won?…..

The second results were in…both of us managed 25 laps in the 15 minutes but he beat me again! His fastest was 31.788 seconds on Lap 23, while my fastest was 32.331 on Lap 10! About half a second faster! Gutted, once again!

I think I did myself proud though, taking four seconds of my time in the second half and not too far behind the fastest of the week- (The Top 12 ranging from 28.980 to 30.134 seconds).

We had such a laugh (even if I was defeated!) as the go-karting is great craic. There are different packages for corporate groups or hen and stag parties, for example, as well as specially designed junior karts for the younger ones. (Just as a side note, it’s not just go-karting at Campsie Karting but paintballing, crazy golf and a shooting range.)

I’ve got the go-karting bug so I’ll beat Barry yet!

 Campsie Karting, Eglinton

 Geared up and ready to go

 400m circuit

 Barry racing 

VIDEO – Me racing at Campsie Karting

 Top racers 

Celebrating the LegenDerry Maritime Festival and channeling the Hunger Games

This week I headed up to the North Coast to visit the LegenDerry Maritime Festival in Derry. It was a week long festival (ending just today) to welcome the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race. The 12 Clipper Yachts had just raced from New York and the atmosphere was even more electric as the Derry~Londonderry~Doire yacht won this particular race leg.

Derry was absolute packed with people out to celebrate the yachts coming in! The 12 teams left today for Holland and then the final race will be Holland to London. (They’ve been racing since last September so credit to the crews!) Derry~Londonderry~Doire is currently fourth so here’s hoping for a podium finish! There was lots happening during the week including Music Day, the Ubuntu Festival of World Traditions, a continental market and even the Beach Boys! Yes, the Beach Boys! Featuring none other than Mike Love. The city was buzzing and I was delighted to get up and see the festivities plus interview the Skipper of the Derry boat, Sean McCarter:

Image

LegenDerry Maritime Festival

Image

LegenDerry Maritime Festival

Image

Beach Boys concert at Ebrington

Image

Continental Market

Also this week I visited Slim’s Health Kitchen for the first time. The restaurant is all about healthy, but still tasty, food- somewhere friends can go for a bite to eat and not have to worry about “a lifetime on the hips…” The menu was a good mix of simple, lean choices to something perhaps, say, a little more “guilty.” I choose the Spicy Mixed Bean Burger while my friend Claire went for the steak sandwich. We also shared the sweet potato fries, Great place for dining out if you want a healthier alternative to fast food!

Image

Slim’s menu

Image

Spicy Mixed Bean Burger

Image

Steak Sandwich

Finally this week I decided to try something different and headed for an hour’s archery lesson at Elite Archery in Bangor. Not a natural sportsperson, I wasn’t sure I would be very good but I surprised myself! Our instructor helped us through different target lengths using different bows and Barry and I both ended up being pretty good! (If I do say so myself) On one round I hit the bullseye twice while Barry hit it all three times! At the end of the lesson we tried the ‘big one’- the apple. Channeling Katniss from the Hunger Games, I’m delighted to say I hit the apple!! Thinking I might take this up as a sport…

Image

Barry going for the apple

Image

Us mid-shot

Image

Proud of my ‘bullseye’ shots!