The Galgorm?? I hear you say, where is that? What is it? Well I thought the same until a couple of months ago when I received an invite from Scarlett PR to complete a review of the resort and restaurant, after a quick Google, I very gladly accepted the invitation! The Galgorm is in fact the 2016 Northern Ireland Tourism Awards Hotel of the Year. It was my Mam’s birthday a couple of days before the planned trip so what better way to celebrate than accompanying me on this getaway.Little did I think, we would not only get to taste some incredible food from the triple AA rosette awarded restaurant, The River Room, but also get to be pampered whilst enjoying the spa and Ireland’s only outdoor thermal village which only opened earlier this year. The resort has undergone some major redevelopment in the last few months with a new accommodation wing and the aforementioned addition of the outdoor thermal village alongside an extension to the existing spa. These additions exude luxury in a very sympathetic way to the beautiful natural surroundings that the Galgorm is nestled in.
The Galgorm is situated just outside Ballymena in Galgorm village, which is 30 minutes from Belfast and just over 2 hours from Dublin. Once you pass through the gates of the resort you are suddenly cocooned in a tree lined avenue before the hotel comes into view in front of carefully manicured lawns with the River Maine cascading to one side. You are immediately captivated by the natural beauty whilst being whisked far away from your daily life and I felt myself already begin to switch off before I had even checked in. For a hotel a lot of people haven’t heard of, we were greeted by a queue to check-in at reception!! Thankfully, head doorman David welcomes every guest on arrival, he found out we were booked into a deluxe bedroom and we got whisked away to a separate reception to complete our check-in. If you get the chance, I would highly recommend the deluxe rooms, they are beautifully furnished, spacious and provide a great view over the river and thermal village.Once we had settled into the room, it was straight into our robes and direct to the spa to let the pampering begin. They provide you with a map of the thermal village and you really do need it….outdoor and indoor saunas, steam rooms, outdoor jacuzzis and pools, mutliple relaxation areas, two indoor pools and an ice cave (-10°C…..yes it’s very cold) are just some of the things to try. Last but not least are the outdoor wood-fired hot-tubs nestled along the River Maine, one was booked for us to try and they really are a treat, the bottle of champagne and chocolate truffles added just a little to the experience!
All that pampering is tough work so it was no length before hunger had struck and it was dinner time at The River Room for a fabulous four course meal. Chef Jonnie Boyd has lovingly created a small but creative menu offering extensive use of local artisan and seasonal ingredients. To start, we were treated to some snacks of perfectly cooked arancini balls and crab meat on crisped chicken skin alongside some beautifully baked sourdough bread with Abernethy butter.
For my starter, I had local pickled eel, radish and blackened cucumber – a simple dish packed with light and fresh flavours.
Next up were the mains, where I had to go for the beef fillet, brisket, purple sprouting broccoli puree and curly kale – the beef was cooked to perfection and very well presented with some gorgeous onion puree. As a side, I ordered the seasonal greens which for me were just perfection, al dente green beans and mangetout served on a bed of pea purée – I literally could of eaten an entire plate of just them alone!! Then came the dessert, a buttemilk pannacotta with raspberry sorbet, elderflower jelly and honeycomb was my selection whilst my Mam went for a dark chocolate pavé with passionfruit purée and sorbet – both dishes were expertly crafted and displayed, with plenty of subtle flavours that didn’t overpower each other whilst leaving you wanting more.
And more was what we got in the form of handmade chocolate orange truffles and cherry marshmallows. After all that eating, you’d imagine you might be stuffed to the gills but no it was a very well balanced meal that left you feeling content and satisfied.
After a great nights sleep, it was time for breakfast! This is one of my favourite things about staying in a hotel, both the cold buffet and cooked breakfast provided plenty of selection that you couldn’t be disappointed. We went for salmon gravalax and a Mediterranean chorizo and vegetable tagine which normally is served with baked eggs but I substituted them with some goats cheese. These lovely little fruit and yoghurt pots were the perfect finish.The resort grounds really are naturally beautiful and perfect for a leisurely walk or jog along the river banks. There are also plenty of sightseeing to be done with the Causeway coastline only 30 minutes away with Portush, the Giants Causeway, Bushmills, Ballycastle, Cushendall and Rathlin Island all within reach. If you do venture to Portrush, I came across a lovely little beachside café called Babushka which is well worth a visit.Since, we had made the journey from Tipperary, we decided to add on another’s night stay. This really meant we got to get full value from the spa and the hotel, as it has three dining options including Gillies Bar & Grill and Fratelli Ristorante & Pizzeria, so there is something for all taste-buds and budgets. The resort also has two bars including the Gillies Bar which has nightly music with the Conservatory boasting a gin bar with a selection of over 300 international varieties to choose from, one of the mixologists mentioned that they have to get the shelving extended to showcase the full collection. I’m sure the most keen of G&T drinkers would be spoilt for choice.
In my opinon, I would return to the Galgorm in the morning as it combines the perfect combination of quality food, great service, gorgeous surroundings and needless to say a very relaxing spa and thermal village. It would be a great place to celebrate a special occasion, birthday or simply for anyone in need of a well deserved break. The Galgorm may only be two hours from Dublin but I felt a lot further away from my busy normal routine!
I was invited along to experience the Galgorm Resort & Spa by Scarlettt PR, although all thoughts and opinions shared in this post are entirely my own.