A welcoming and tasty stay in Enniskillen
Jenny Lee goes Wilde during a shopping and dining break in Enniskillen
THEY say Ireland is a friendly nation – yet countless gloomy lunchtimes spent navigating lengthy shopping queues and busy cafés with rarely a welcome or thank you, let alone conversation, has left me pondering whether this is really true on countless occasions.
However, a weekend trip to Enniskillen quickly restored my faith in our humanity – not to mention exceed my culinary expectations of our country.
Yes, the city boasts some excellent water activities and historic Enniskillen Castle. But travelling with my mother, our aim was a spot of retail therapy.
The town boasts a mix of high street stores and independent retail outlets, including Houston's department store and the Buttermarket craft shops.
We were immediately struck by the smiles, personal service, chit-chat and friendliness from everyone, from the talented busker on the street to the comedic bookshop assistant and the enthusiastic clothes assistant who went above and beyond while offering suggestions.
The cheerfulness and helpfulness continued in the massive Erneside Shopping Centre, where the Belleek Living and Lakeland kitchenwear shops ate up our credit cards.
Our overnight accommodation was The Enniskillen Hotel. Located just off the Irvinestown Road, the sister property of Lusty Beg Island is a four-star boutique style hotel with a sign behind the reception desk which boasts 'The Warmest Welcome'.
This perfectly summed up my earlier impressions of the town and is exactly what we experienced during our stay.
Our superior room, whilst having no modern gadgets, was spacious and comfortable and had a pleasing modern decor. After resting our tired legs, we got dressed up for some fine dining at the hotel's Becketts Dining Room – named after the Nobel winning playwright Samuel Beckett.
The restaurant boasts a six course set tasting menu at weekends, steered by head chef Marty McAdam, who previously worked under Michelin star chef Tom Kitchin and Neven Maguire at McNean House, Blacklion.
Keen to source new ingredients and use innovative techniques to excite his diners, menus are changed seasonally.
Our menu was presented inside an old novel. The waiter told me he chooses the titles based on what he thinks the diner's personality is. Worryingly, I was given Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon.
Whilst main ingredients are listed in the menu, there is no detailed description, so you are kept guessing. In-between your starter, main and dessert come three surprise dishes.
My autumnal starter was quail, something I've never eaten before. Beautifully presented, I received the meat cooked in three different ways, accompanied by a colourful plate of blueberries, garlic puree, leek fondu, micro-herbs, edible flowers and mushroom ketchup – made from mushrooms foraged by the chef himself in nearby Fort Hill.
Living up to its theatrical name, for me the highlight of the meal was the surprise pineapple pina colada dessert with popping candy. This was presented on a plate of dry ice, the waiter then pouring on hot liquid to produce cold white smoke which covered our entire table.
My dessert of dark and white chocolate and beetroot once again surprised with an unusual beetroot sponge cake and beetroot sorbet which, when accompanied by chocolate, tantilized the tastebuds.
A lovely touch at the end of the meal is that the chef comes out himself to talk to the diners and present petit fours – delicate meringues, after eights and truffles on a bed of chocolate flakes. With complementary tea or coffee, the six course meal actually turned into eight.
In Beckett's famous play Waiting for Godot, he writes "habit is a great deadener”. For just £35 per person, this theatrical fine dining experience is certainly worth changing your dining habits for.
Next door to Becketts, is Wilde's Bar – named after another literary great, Oscar Wilde, who spent his schoolboys years in Enniskillen. Wilde's honours his reputation for being a bit of a drinker and boasts a wide range of beverages and extensive cocktail menu. They even offer whiskey tasting and cocktail making classes.
The next morning, a powerful rain shower provided the ultimate wake up call before we returned to Beckett's for breakfast where, along with a continental selection, you can choose cooked-to-order hot food from smoked mackerel to homemade porridge.
Now all that was left to do was to walk all those calories off and enjoy the fresh Fermanagh air.
The four-star Enniskillen Hotel is currently offering a special deal of stay two nights and avail of one evening meal in Wilde's (two courses) for only £89 pps. Available Sunday to Thursday bookings. To book call 028 6632 1177.
Budget rooms are available in the new Enniskillen Motel annex, offering a continental breakfast-to-go.
Becketts Dining Room is open Friday and Saturday evenings only. Six course fixed menu, £35.
For further information visit Enniskillenhotel.com.