Bonamargy Friary, Ballycastle

On our trips to Ballycastle we often pass ruins of an old Francisan friary.

At the end of September we decided to explore them a little more, as you are able to walk in and around them which I thought would be fascinating.

Bonamargy Friary was built around 1500, but many of the features are well preserved, including the cloister, gatehouse, altar and church.

The remains of Sorely Boy MacDonnell, a Scots-Irish chieftain, are said to reside there.

The friary is also supposed to be haunted by the “Black Nun” Julia McQuillen, who lived there alone in the 17th Century after it was no longer in use.

Some say she fell to her death while others say she was pushed and that’s why her ghost still haunts the grounds. (Thankfully we didn’t experience anything sinister!)

It was a really interesting place, full of  history. Have a look at some of my pictures:

Tomb from 1630

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Brunch at The Gallery

The Gallery cafe and bar opened its doors on the Dublin Road in Belfast a few months ago.

Since then, I have seen many pictures of its stylish interior, elegant crystal chandeliers and most importantly, mouth-watering food!

I was invited down to try out the new breakfast menu which is served from 8am. My mum and I went at 11am on a Wednesday morning and were shown a seat beside the window.

The place was relatively busy with locals drinking coffee, as well as three American tourists who were praising the food. Good start!

The breakfast menu is priced between £4.95 for the Gallery Organic Porridge which is served with a mixed berry compote and honey, to £9.95 for the New York Breakfast, which was to be my choice after a recommendation.

Other breakfast dishes include French Toast, Homemade stacked pancakes, Smoked Salmon and Eggs, Poached Eggs and Avocado, and of course, the Gallery Ulster Fry.

I was torn between the Ulster Fry and the New York Breakfast, but I was told the New Yorker was really good – so I put my trust in them!

The New York Breakfast is two poached eggs served on a toasted bagel, with baby spinach, smashed avocado, Halloumi, cream cheese, sun blushed tomatoes and pastrami.

When it came I wasn’t disappointed in my choice- it was filling, it looked elegant, it combined different flavours and textures and most of all, it was really, really tasty!

My mum went for the Eggs Benedict which is two poached eggs served on sourdough toast, with honey roast ham and Hollandaise Sauce. She, too, was impressed with her brunch and said the Hollandaise sauce was zingy and creamy but not too thick.

The Gallery is chic with an impressive arty decor, and fits in really well on the Dublin Road. I’m looking forward to seeing what else it has to offer.

New York Breakfast

Eggs Benedict

Stylish arty interior at The Gallery

Stix and Stones at Balmoral Hotel

I’ve been to Stix and Stones in Belfast City Centre numerous times since it first opened just over 3 years ago and always loved the “steak on a stone” experience. What better way to get your steak just how you like it by cooking it yourself!

At the start of August I visited the Balmoral Hotel for the Belfast Masterchef Challenge where we told the exclusive news that Stix and Stones Part 2 was opening…in the very place we were sitting! Yes, Balmoral Hotel!

I thought it was a fantastic idea. There are loads of people who want to experience Stix and Stones who don’t necessarily want to go into Belfast city centre, who prefer to eat locally, who want ample parking or who want to have dinner and a few drinks and be able to stay over too!

So, when I was asked if I would like to try the new restaurant last week, of course I couldn’t say no!

We arrived at 6pm so were able to avail of the Pre-theatre menu which is available Monday to Friday from 5pm to 6.30pm. You can get 2 courses for £15.95 or three for £18.95.

The starters include Minestrone Soup with warm bread, or Goats cheese with pickled pears, pear gel and filo pastry.

I went for the Stix and Stones Chicken wings which are served with a creme fraiche salsa, while Barry choose the miso glazed salmon with fennel, blood orange, quinoa and rocket.

I loved the starter- the chicken wings had a slight sweetness to the glaze which worked very well with the tangy sourness of the creme fraiche. Barry said his salmon was beautifully cooked and coated with the simple and delicate miso dressing. He said the hints of fennel were mild but enough to come through on the palette.

Then it was time for the main course. You can choose from the “On the Stone” selection and the “Off the Stone” selection. The “On the stone” menu includes the rump steak and the rump of Lamb, while the “Off the Stone” includes pan roast supreme of chicken, chorizo and three bean stew, or Gnocchi served with wild mushroom ragu, smoked garlic and pea shoots.

We both went for the ‘cook-your-own’ experience and I selected the 7oz matured rump steak which comes with a flat cap mushroom, slow cooked tomato, balsamic glazed beetroot and sauce.

Barry selected the 6oz Yellowfin Tuna steak which was served with roast butternut squash, chilli, soya beans and quinoa.

Soon we heard the loud sizzle of the meat as our waitress brought the hot stone down to our table and explained the best way to cook the meat, from the size of the strips to the time we should each strip for.

I just love doing this- I think it is novel and fun and a different dining experience! My steak was gorgeous- a big juicy bit of meat which I cooked medium-well and devoured every bit. Barry thought his Tuna steak was fresh and delicious, and cooking it quickly over the high heat meant it didn’t dry out. Great!

Finally, we both went for dessert to round off a lovely meal. The desserts include Strawberry semi-freddo, Vanilla rice pudding or Lemon posset.

We went for our firm favourites- cheesecake, which was White chocoloate and Passionfruit- and anything with chocoloate in it, picking the Chocolate Tart served with a salted caramel macaroon and ice cream.

The tart is not the way to finish if you are looking for something light!! It was rich, dark and oh so chocolatey! Right up my street. The cheesecake was much lighter and more to Barry’s taste!

Overall, we had a great night out at Stix and Stones in Balmoral. It has only been open for a few weeks but I am already hearing that it has been very popular with both locals and people traveling from further away.

The atmosphere was lovely and the food was great so perhaps we might hear about Stix and Stones Part 3 in the future!

Starters- Chicken Wings and Miso glazed salmon

Mains- Rump steak and Yellowfin Tuna Steak

Dessert- White chocolate and Passionfruit Cheesecake and Chocolate Tart

Disclaimer: I was invited along to the Balmoral Hotel so the food was complimentary. I paid for all the drinks. All views expressed are my own. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Armagh Food and Cider Festival- Part 4

The final two stops on our food tour of Armagh were to the Armagh Robinson Library (where I attended the pop up restaurant last year) and 4Vicars.

The two will, this year, play host to a “Harvest Supper and Concert” during the Armagh Food and Cider Festival in September.

Following a canapé reception in 4 Vicars restaurant, guests will be led by lamplight to the elegant setting of the Robinson Library to enjoy a short concert before returning for a harvest supper featuring the best of seasonal Food Heartland produce.

We were greeted to Armagh Robinson Library by two “interesting” characters who informed us about the customs and etiquette of the day!

Robinson Library is one of the oldest libraries in Ireland and we were shown some of the rarest collections of books and manuscripts, particularly those to do with food and travel, given us foodie bunch!

We then made the short distance to 4 Vicars, a restaurant which is the current holder of the Georgina Campbell award for ‘Best Casual Dining Restaurant’.

There, we were treated to the most delicious four course dinner introduced by each of the local producers- I honestly couldn’t fault a thing!

The first course was O’Chatten Smokery Lough Neagh pollan with carrot and sauerkraut slaw and a Cavanagh free range egg.

The second course was Tyndale Goat kid meat ball with yogurt sauce and Swiss chard from Crannagael House (which we had visited earlier in the day.)

We then had Kilkeel hake with Crannagael House fennel puree, fennel salad and Connemara air dried pork.

To finish, we had Plum and Almond tart with Crannagael House plums and homemade vanilla ice cream.

The food was simply amazing, a wonderful spread!

I have to admit I was sceptical about goat thinking it would be very tough, but it was tender and juicy- a surprise! Guests to the Harvest Supper are in for a treat if this was anything to go by.

Armagh Robinson Library- teaching us etiquette!

Music at 4Vicars

Cocktails and canapes at 4Vicars

O’Chatten Smokery Lough Neagh pollan

Tyndale Goat kid meat ball

Kilkeel hake

Plum and Almond tart

For more information on the Armagh Food and Cider Festival, visit http://www.armagh.co.uk/foodandcider

 

 

Armagh Food and Cider Festival- Part 3

The third stop on our tour of Armagh was to The Moody Boar, a restaurant recognised by the Michelin Guide and located in the grounds of the Palace Demesne.

With an ethos for fresh and local food, many of the herbs and vegetables they cook with are grown in their own gardens.

The Moody Boar was one of the eateries which had created a course during the pop-up restaurant in the Dean of Armagh Cathedral’s house and it really stuck out to me back then.

During this year’s Armagh Food and Cider Festival, guests can enjoy “Pairing under the stars“. This is a wine, cider, tapas and chocolate evening held within the Palace Greenhouse, pictured below. What a lovely way to eat looking up at the night sky!

We went to the greenhouse where the event will take place and the owner Sean Farnan plated up a dessert individually for us to enjoy. A take on the warm apple pie!

I can just imagine how nice this setting will be in the evening!

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Read more in Part 4

 

Tesco Taste Northern Ireland- Thompson’s Tea

As I write this I have just finished my first week back at work after maternity leave. I was off for seven months after having a beautiful baby girl Niamh on New Years Day.

As any new mums know, having a cup of tea, never mind a hot cup of tea (!), can be a real luxury. Quick, she’s sleeping- put the kettle on! So, when Tesco NI asked if I would like to try some Thompson’s Tea, of course I had to say yes.

Thompson’s Tea is a Northern Irish tea blender whose range includes Punjana Original Blend, Titanic Blend and Irish Breakfast Blend. I received the Thompson’s Signature tea and Green Tea with Lemon.

Stocked up with the tea bags, I decided to host an afternoon tea party on my last day of maternity leave to say thanks for all the help I had received over the past few months. It was also my birthday so another perfect excuse for cake!

I’ve written on my blog numerous times about my love of afternoon tea so I wanted to give my own a go, including baking for the occasion.

To start, for the savoury layer, I made wheaten bread to be served with honey roast ham, mature cheddar and tomatoes. While the wheaten bread was in the oven, I whipped up some vanilla scones, which I served with butter and jam.

To finish Tesco kindly supplied me with some lovely sweet treats from local producers, Howells Florence Cake and Genesis Crafty buns.

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But of course, the best bit of any afternoon tea is…the tea!

I opted for the Signature blend which was a strong, full bodied cup of tea, without being too bitter. Thompson’s Tea have stated it is “tea like it used to taste”, because they have recreated the family’s original blend from way back in 1896. It’s a rich, flavoursome cup of tea and actually reminds me of loose leaf tea. Lovely!

The verdict? Well the afternoon tea went down a treat! Even my baking got some rave reviews!

Now, quick she’s sleeping, I’m off to enjoy another warm cuppa!

 

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Post originally appeared on Tesco NI website: https://www.tasteni.com/eat-me-drink-me/belfast-travels-takes-a-tea-break-from-motherhood

Day out at Victoria Square- TGI Friday’s

Once we had explored the pop-up museum at Victoria Square,  we headed to TGI Friday’s for our lunch.

TGI Friday’s is an American diner, well known for its exclusive Jack Daniels range and, of course its cocktails, but as I had my 7 month old daughter with me, we couldn’t indulge in those!

The menu is all about big portions, big flavour – think burgers, wings, fajitas, ribs, steak!

We went straight for mains and it was the Mexican menu which caught my eye. I was torn between the Grilled Sirloin Mexi Bowl and the Blackened Chicken fajita (Cajun-spiced),  but it was the Mexi Bowl which won it for me.

The Mexi Bowl is grilled sirloin, crisp bacon, roasted corn, black beans, cherry tomatoes and pico de gallo on a bed of rice pilaf.  It is garnished with Feta cheese, Sriracha aioli, green onions, coriander and lime wedge.

I’m so glad I went for this. I love coriander (I know it divides opinion!) and it, alongside the lime, really enhanced all the gorgeous Mexican flavours for me. A winner!

My mum wanted to try a dish from the Jack Daniel’s menu I had been telling her about so she went for the Jack Daniels salmon. This is chargrilled salmon fillet served with seasonal vegetables and cheddar mashed potatoes.  Mum said she was impressed by the interesting sweet and smoky glaze.

The other two in our party decided they couldn’t resist a big burger! Go on, it’s Friday!

They both choose the ‘BBQ Burger’ which was a char-grilled burger covered with Colby cheese and Cajun-battered onion rings, and drizzled with Fridays barbecue sauce. Again they both enjoyed their meal with nothing left on the plate.

Just two of us went for dessert (of course one of them was me). I went for the Brownie Obsession while mum went for the Caramel Apple Pie.

The Brownie Obsession is a warm brownie covered in chocolate fudge sauce, vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce and chopped nuts. Seriously delicious!

The Caramel Apple Pie is a deep dish apple pie topped with warm caramel and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I tried some of her dessert and it was really good too!

Overall, I was very impressed by my lunch. I maybe had it in my head that it would be another typical American diner but I really loved both my Mexi Bowl and Brownie. A lovely way to end our day out to Victoria Square!

Disclaimer: this meal was complimentary from TGI Friday’s and Victoria Square but all views are my own