Fine Dining in Dublin’s Tranquil Suburbs – Castleknock Hotel Review
Castleknock Hotel was officially opened in 2005 and since 2009, has been part of the FBD Hotels & Resorts. This award winning 4-star hotel is located close to the Phoenix Park and the busy Dublin suburb of Blanchardstown, within easy reach of the city centre, airport and other amenities.
However, due to its tranquil countryside setting, you really feel that you are far away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Castleknock has a reputation for being an ideal family hotel and this was certainly in evidence during my recent visit, which coincided with the Easter holidays.
In 2017, the hotel launched a new children’s indoor activity room and this along with the 18-metre swimming pool with a separate kiddies’ pool area and outdoor children’s playground mean that younger guests are well catered for.
In fact, there is something for everyone at Castleknock – whether you fancy a round on the fantastic 18-hole golf course, some pampering in the spa area or relaxation in the steam room and sauna.
The hotel recently completed a major refurbishment programme which also included the building of an extension to house additional bedrooms to bring the total to 190. The contemporary feel of the hotel continues through to the bedrooms, which are kitted out with every mod-con you could want.
We were delighted with our luxurious executive grade room with its large comfortable bed and sleek flat-screen television which had Netflix and premium sports channels available.
Accompanying me on my short-break away was my 17-year-old daughter and for the youth of today, these are the things (along with good broadband wi-fi) that really matter!
I’m probably showing my age, but I was more focused on sampling the plate of delicious patisserie treats that greeted us in our room when we checked in.
One of my main priorities when booking a hotel are the dining options that area available and at Castleknock Hotel I was not disappointed as there are several to choose from. There are two restaurants, Earth & Vine, the hotel’s fine-dining signature restaurant and 22 Bar & Restaurant which offers a more casual trattoria-style dining experience, influenced by the cuisine of southern Italy and Sicily.
The beautifully designed and well-stocked Lime Tree Bar which also has an outside terrace is the hotel’s main bar and it was to here that I headed for a restorative Passionfruit Bellini before dinner.
Earth & Vine follows a farm to fork concept based on great relationships forged with some of Ireland’s best artisan producers. These traditional ingredients are cooked in a contemporary style, letting their true flavours come to the fore.
Earth & Vine Restaurant is in a beautiful dining room on the ground floor of the hotel. High ceilings give a sense of spaciousness and the views of the setting sun through the tall windows as we took our seats were spectacular. This is an impressive room which has been thoughtfully designed to maximize space and ensure that diners have a comfortable and relaxed meal.
There is a well-curated wine list which has several interesting choices on it but tempted by the large selection of gins on offer, I decided to have a pre-dinner Shortcross gin and tonic which I happily sipped on whilst I examined the menu.
The menu changes regularly to reflect the changing seasons and is very appealing using locally-sourced ingredients throughout. Classic dishes are re-interpreted in a modern way and presented beautifully on the plate. My daughter’s choice of Roasted Tomato & Red Pepper Soup was a case in point.
A mound of finely and precisely diced fresh tomato and pepper was topped with a thin crème fraiche jelly onto which the hot soup was poured from a separate jug. The jelly melted as the hot soup hit it to create a deliciously creamy but fresh tasting soup. It’s hard to present a bowl of soup in an exciting way but here this was achieved with aplomb.
My Kilmore Grilled Scallops starter was outstanding. The perfectly cooked sweet scallops were served with a single black pudding and smoked ham hock ravioli on top of a fragrant sweetcorn and saffron velouté; – beautiful flavours which all worked extremely well together.
A touch of decadence was provided by the tiny black pearls of avruga caviar whilst peas shoots added a freshness and lightened this extremely rich but deeply satisfying plate of food. With our starters we nibbled on some excellent breads including a fantastic brown rye offering.
After a refreshing sorbet packed full of the flavours of fresh strawberry we moved on to our main courses. My Slow-Cooked Crisp Pork Belly was another wonderful dish where everything on the plate complemented the flavoursome and expertly cooked pork belly.
I’m a huge fan of red cabbage so loved the sweet and sour notes of the red cabbage sauerkraut but was particularly taken with the crispiness of the colcannon croquette and the flavour of the accompanying blue cheese mousse with the pork. This was a truly excellent dish.
Across the table my daughter was tucking in to the Pan-Fried 7oz Ribeye Mulhuddart Muscle Steak with an addictive tasting beef rib ravioli. The steak had been cooked medium to well-done as had been requested and came with roasted cherry tomatoes and sauté spinach.
A Yorkshire pudding (described on the menu as an English muffin) was filled with a cloud-like potato foam flavoured with truffle whilst a deeply rich jus made from oxtail and ceps completed the dish.
Special mention must be made of the side dishes of velvety smooth Pomme Purée, Roast Root Vegetables and the truly amazing ‘Stealth’ Fries (aka skinny chips with the skin still on). Too often side dishes are second-class citizens in culinary terms, but the fries were out of this world. We both commented on how tasty they were.
We finished our meal with a duo of delicious desserts – the Castleknock Warm Cake, which included wild cherries and dried cranberries and Dark & White Chocolate Spring Rolls which oozed out their centres of hot chocolate when eaten.
Both desserts were served with crème anglaise whilst my cake had a luxurious Jameson whiskey brown bread ice-cream and the spring rolls came with a very refreshing lemongrass and mascarpone sorbet. Both were fabulous and a great way to end a memorable meal.
Throughout our meal we were looked after by our waiter Andrew who with his friendly professionalism added to our enjoyment of the experience. Making our way back up to our room for the night it struck me that the thing that really sets Castleknock Hotel apart from the rest is the quality of the staff that they have. Service delivery and making sure that guests have the best experience whether it be on arrival at the reception desk or when ordering a drink at the bar etc. seems to be the main aim of all staff.
After watching a film on Netflix back in our room, we both fell into a deep and relaxing sleep and woke up refreshed the next morning to make our way down to breakfast.
A buffet-style full Irish and Continental breakfast is served daily from 6.30am – 10.00am Monday to Friday, and 7.00am – 11.00am on weekends and bank holidays. Despite our huge meal the night before we both still managed to tuck into a leisurely meal of cereal, pastries, Belgian waffles and poached eggs… all of which were delicious. Again, service was excellent and our requests for copious refills of tea were quickly dealt with.
We decided to take a stroll around the hotel before checking out and noticed that despite it being early there were some golfers already out on the pristine greens of the golf course. Similarly, there were other guests who were heading off to the state-of-the-art aerobics studio and to the swimming pool. We both agreed that the next time that we visit Castleknock Hotel that we would treat ourselves to facials and other treatments in the hotel’s luxury spa.
Our stay at Castleknock Hotel although short was extremely enjoyable. For me, it ticked all the boxes on the food front and I was very impressed by the excellent meal that we had enjoyed in Earth & Vine Restaurant. The hotel is tucked away in the northwest of Dublin but is near to all the main attractions that the city has to offer.
However, it is also a great place to go to if you want to stay put and enjoy the impressive facilities that they have on offer. I would have no hesitation in recommending Castleknock Hotel for a luxurious break away from the humdrum realities of everyday life.
Niamh believes Ireland produces some of the best food in the world, and travels around the country; seeking out the best food producers, and places to eat.
An accomplished cook and baker, Niamh is also a previous MasterChef Ireland finalist. During the competition she had the opportunity to cook in some of Ireland’s top restaurants and experience life on the other side of the kitchen pass.
Working with TheTaste allows Niamh to write about her experiences and to share her passion for food and cooking with a wide audience.
Visit Niamh’s blog The Game Bird Food Chronicles.