If you were to visit Clandeboye Lodge just for the pleasure of staying there, it would already be a much rewarding experience. But thanks to its privileged location at barely fifteen minutes from Belfast yet surrounded by the lavish greenery of the Clandeboye Estate in Bangor, Co. Down, it becomes the ideal point from which to explore the county’s gentle walks, scenic beaches and woodlands, charming golf courses, and numerous attractions of historical or cultural significance just a short drive away.
This award-winning four-star hotel was built and expanded with utmost attention to detail and all around, its contemporary interior design and beautiful architecture combine local craftsmanship, bright colours, and an openness that unites its various spaces into an inviting building and an experience that is rich in both style and substance.
We experienced Clandeboye Lodge’s ‘A Taste of Freedom’ package, which includes one night B&B, dinner at the Coq & Bull Brasserie, and a glass of Prosecco. The package is one in a series of staycation experiences launched by Clandeboye Lodge to help guests relax and reconnect with a little extra, be it wine, a round of golf, an organic VOYA spa pack or more.
The room, an elegantly furnished large double, was modern yet warm, with a decor where a touch of art deco glitz and the charm of a countryside retreat merged harmoniously.
Lush fabrics, premium mattresses and quiet, it was designed for great sleep. The restroom, well-lit and stocked with VOYA toiletries, was the icing on the cake.
Coq & Bull Brasserie
The restaurant, Coq & Bull Brasserie shines with its own light. In fact, it is popular with both guests of the hotel and as a destination itself. Seasonal and local produce stars in a menu that combines the familiar and comforting with a high level of sophistication.
In tune with safety standards, they have expanded their outdoors space and designed an abridged version of their menu for this summer, which they update frequently.
We enjoyed our dinner at a table for two in the outdoors area. Spacious and inviting, each table had its own heating and the view of the gardens during sunset was splendid.
For starters, we shared the Beetroot and horseradish cured salmon, with fennel and baby herb salad, and the Chicken liver parfait, with red onion marmalade, and crispy sourdough toast.
The salmon was bright and intense, with a lovely texture and a great contrast of flavours against the homemade brown bread and the fennel salad.
The chicken liver parfait was very neatly presented and as smooth as they come. The combination of earthy and rich flavours matched the sweet touch of the onions and worked perfectly.
The mains were Loin of cod with confit Jersey Royals, pancetta, samphire and lemon, and Chicken breast in its own jus, with creamy potato puree, spinach and toasted pine nuts.
We learned that the fish they work with is sourced locally (and in the case of the salmon, cured in-house). The chicken, both in our other starter and a main, was organic, corn-fed and sourced from local farms as well.
The surprising balance between the cod and the bits of pancetta, and the crunchy, saline flavours of the samphire were wonderful together. The chicken was tender and the sauce had a real depth of flavour.
The quality of the service was on par with that of the food, and it was a pleasure to ask questions about our dishes and listen to the enthusiastic and passionate team elaborate on precedence and cooking methods with a sense of pride and joy that outstanding kitchens inspire.
Our meal was accompanied by a bottle of De Wetshof Bon Vallon Chardonnay from South Africa. A bright, vibrant, unoaked white wine with medium body and loads of citrus, mineral and fresh apple notes.
For desserts or puds, we shared a Lemon meringue with the house’s twist, served with strawberries, and a Hazelnut, caramel and sesame mousse cake with malt ice cream.
The lemon curd was one of the best I can remember trying, just the right balance between sweet and tartness, and neither too dense nor runny. Spot on. The hazelnut dessert was creamy and with a crunchy base, the sesame and the malt provided an unexpected and delicious complement to the main flavours.
As the sun went down and the food was gone, we headed back indoors for cocktails. A French 75 for me, and a Coole Swan Silk for my partner. Both were a delight, the French 75 perfect for lovers of bubbles and sharper flavours, the Coole Swan Silk for a decadent treat, perhaps even in lieu of a dessert after dinner.
Breakfast at Clandeboye
Breakfast at Clandeboye Lodge was plentiful and hearty, with the option of grilled or fried Irish breakfast being the top choice.
There is also a well stocked section with continental breakfast staples -think juices, pastries, cereals and even the Clandeboye yogurts made in the estate.
We tried a full Irish breakfast and an omelette with mushrooms and cheese. Other options include smoked salmon, porridge or poached fillet of smoked haddock.
Weddings and events
As parties return, the team at Clandeboye Lodge is ready to host unforgettable events again. On the same grounds as the lodge, there is a state-of-the-art events venue which still preserves the charm and beauty of the original 19th-century school structure and features a variety of areas for weddings, parties, product launches, and corporate events.
As we were ready to depart, all preparations were being set up for a wedding that afternoon, and we were allowed to have a quick look at the place. Spacious dance floors, elegant lounges, ornate reception rooms and carefully chosen art were just some of the highlights.
The ‘A Taste of Freedom’ package at Clandeboye Lodge, includes a glass of Prosecco on arrival with three-course dinner, and bed and breakfast. Prices from £180 for two guests.
10 Estate Road Bangor, Co. Down Northern Ireland BT19 1UR
+44 (0) 2891 852500
WRITTEN BY GABY GUEDEZ