The sun beats down as I make my journey along the M6 towards Athlone town. Taking exit 8, I am merely 100 yards down the road before I catch a glimpse of my destination for the day’s dining, the Creggan Court Hotel. “Convenient,” I tell myself, before I make my way to the car park out front.
The charming and welcoming Niamh greets me with a warm handshake and a smile as I make my entrance, introducing me to general manager Catherine Daly before leading me into the Granary Gastro restaurant where my table awaits.
The restaurant is spacious but cosy, warm earthy tones creating a certain ambience that induces relaxation. Windows let in just enough natural light and the whole room has a welcoming airy feel to it during what is a humid and heavy summer’s afternoon.
Strawberry champagne and a jug of water arrive at the table just moments after we sit down, brought by food and beverage manager, Jay McCann. Jay is like the friend you have yet to meet. Quick with a joke, he is also a treasure trove of information regarding the food I am to eat and about the establishment itself.
As I gaze down through the menu the variety on offer is something that immediately strikes me. Jay informs me that the menu was designed to provide an option for the individual taste of any customer who walks in the door - I feel spoiled for choice.
Garlic mushrooms, baby back ribs, warm capri salad, crispy vegetable spring rolls, flash fried prawns, goujons of tilapia, soup of the day, or seafood chowder - all so tasty and appealing. In the end I choose the sticky and sweet chicken wings marinated in the chef’s specially prepared sauce with a honey and sesame glaze - a mouth-watering prospect of flavours, I think to myself.
The dish is presented in a neat fashion, the smell of the honey-tinged sauce enticing me from the off. As I bite in the meat effortlessly peels away from the bone and unleashes the most savoury of tastes into my mouth. The portion is generous without being overwhelming, meaning I am more than capable of finishing my starter without fear of ruining my appetite for my main.
For the main course the menu is equally enticing - 10oz sirloin steak, 8oz rib eye, an Angus steak burger, traditional roast stuffed crown of turkey, lamb cutlets, spicy beef enchilada, supreme of chicken kiev, crispy duck spring rolls, supreme of chicken curry, freshly battered cod and chips, fillet of salmon, or homemade fish cakes, to name but some.
Chef Paul’s ‘special steak’, a tequila marinated 12oz rib eye steak served on the bone, sounds incredibly appealing, but I cannot look past the crispy half roast duck served with a sweet apple and plum relish and a classic orange reduction.
The duck is crispy and brown on the outside and tender on the inside. It is served with roast potatoes, vegetables, and dipping sauce. The dish is not just delicious, the food genuinely feels so healthy both as and after you eat it. I am full but not in that uncomfortable, bloaty way, and so the option of dessert is something of a must.
Again, the choices on the dessert menu are all so tempting - the knowledge that all the ingredients are freshly sourced always gives a restaurant a real edge, I feel. Belgian chocolate brownie, homemade apple pie and custard, strawberry pavlova, cheesecake, chocolate fudge cake, a knickerbocker glory, Eton mess?
When push comes to shove I choose the sticky toffee and pear pie served with butterscotch sauce, and I have no regrets. The chocolate and toffee is rich and sweet, the strawberry providing the explosion of juices and taste that brings the dish alive so well. Even the dessert tastes healthy, meaning I feel less guilt when I polish off the lot. We leave incredibly satisfied with the entire experience and with plans to return in the future.
The Creggan Court offers customers a great dining experience from the moment you walk in the front door to the minute you leave. The establishment’s long-serving staff give the hotel and restaurant a homely, personalised feel that not all eateries can provide. They are passionate about their work and about providing an enjoyable experience to every group that pays them a visit.
Head chef Paul McManus has been working at the hotel for 14 years, developing his own repertoire of tasty dishes during that time that has culminated in this new, impressive menu offering. All ingredients are delivered fresh each morning and represent the very best of local produce on offer.
Prices are more than fair, meaning you get quality and quantity for your money. There is a vegetarian menu and the chef caters for those with allergies as well. There is also a children’s menu on offer, meaning you can bring along the entire family.