Into the west for a feasting and feelgood spa weekend

Esther McCarthy discovered you can combine luxurious spa treatments and gourmet dining at the Galmont in Galway.

Last year saw the west of Ireland and Galway designated as the European Region of Gastronomy.

Now down south in Cork, we’re fierce proud of the three restaurants included in the 2019 edition of the Michelin Guide Great Britain and Ireland (did we mention that at all?) but, to give the west its due, when it comes to the essence of the relationship between food and culture, Galway, balancing on the edge of the Europe, is the cherry on the cake.

With 12,000 farms, 52 islands, and over 350 restaurants, the west coast of Ireland produces enough food to feed over 1.5million people (www.galwaygastronomy.ie) so it seems only polite to take a wander west for the weekend.

My aunt and I hit the motorway, braved those blasted roundabouts and, less than three and a half hours later, we land in The Galmont Hotel and Spa, ready for action.

On the cards, aside from the glorious gastronomy, is a bit of shopping, a session in the spa and chilling out. This, crucially, includes avoiding other people’s children at all costs. We grit our teeth through the guilt trips in the lead-up to our gallivant, we promise presents, we placate pouts and, finally, we literally shake the kids off our legs to get out the door. We set two rules. No talking about the kids and no thinking about the kids. Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy, as my 7-year-old would say... dammit, get out of my head, spawn of mine.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The Galmont is highly recommended by natives, so expectations are high. We are not disappointed, the hotel has an impressive large foyer, with high ceilings, huge circular lighting designs, modern modular furniture, and glass elevators that would have Willie Wonka looking for the architect’s LinkedIn deets.

It’s an intriguing blend of boutique funk and high-end opulence, with colourful art by Phillip Morrison dotting the corridors and pops of purple and blue scattered in the scheme.

Formerly The Radisson Blu, Galway, the hotel was acquired by MHL group — US businessman John Malone, a US businessman, who partnered with Irish entrepreneurs, Paul Higgins, and John Lally, partners since 2013.

Since then the trio have taken over some of the best four-star and five-star properties in Ireland, including The Hilton Dublin, The Strand Hotel in Limerick and Glenlo Abbey in Galway. The check-in is easy, the staff are friendly and helpful. The location couldn’t be better. We time ourselves and get to Eyre Square in 3 and half minutes.

The walk back at 2am is slightly longer but I think, ahem, we took the scenic route.

THE ROOM

The Galmont has 269 rooms and we booked a superior double. Everything is as it should be in a four-star bedroom, with little extras like complimentary mineral water, goose down duvet, flat screen TV and a fabulous view of Lough Atalia out our window.

THE FOOD

The breakfast in the hotel was an enjoyable experience. And not just because I didn’t have to defend my ‘no Coco Pops’ rule a million times. It’s a very well laid out buffet with solid silver domes keeping the hot food hot and wooden trays with cute primary colour buckets with wooden spoons and handwritten blackboard labels pegged on with walnuts, dried bananas, raisin and almonds inside.

There’s a Morning Mary station with all the makings for an alcohol-free bloody Mary, including freshly squeezed tomato juice in a science beaker.

Freshly-baked pastries, bread, and one of the best meat and cheese selections I’ve seen in a while. Everything is styled just-so, with thoughtful touches. It’s lovely to see how much care and consideration goes into the presentation of food here, almost as refreshing as that tomato juice.

Marina’s Grill is our spot for dinner, with a window table, a view of the lake, attentive staff, and surprisingly reasonable price points, it is a highlight of our trip.

Don’t dare dine here without trying the Galway Bay smoked salmon and the Clarinbridge mussels, and the seared Atlantic scallops. If seafood isn’t your thing, the rack of Connemara lamb should be top of the list.

Desserts were sublime, and when we couldn’t decide on a white or a red wine, the waitress recommended the Caves de l’Angevine Rosé d’Anjou from France. It complements the surf and the turf perfectly. A three-course meal is €40 per person.

We checked out Tartare Café and Wine Bar down on Lower Dominick Street on our wanderings around the city of tribes. Part of JP McMahon and Drigin Gaffey’s EAT Galway restaurant group, after our trip I was intrigued to see it was named as an entry in the Michelin Guide Great Britain & Ireland 2019 Bib Gourmand awards list. Looking for a casual but special Sunday brunch?

This is your spot. (See Facebook.com/TartareGalway). Hooked restaurant is the best place for fish (so fresh it’s practically flapping, the fish shop it sources from being right next door) and gourmet chips. (www.hookedonhenryst.com)

THE AMENITIES

Back at The Galmont, the award-winning Spirit One spa is a lift ride away, so you can wear your robe and slippers from your room and slip into an alternate universe. Don’t go straight into your treatment, you’ll miss some truly unique offerings here. There’s a range of cold and hot thermal rooms, from heated relaxation loungers, a laconium that emits a dry heat and uses light therapy and scented oils to get you in the mood for relaxation.

There’s a very cool beach room (the Sabia Med) that has real sand on the floor, and where the sun rises and sets in cycles. Our favourite was the aroma grotto, with essential oil therapy — we had to drag ourselves out.

The spa uses Elemis, Max Benjamin, Fuschia make-up, and Lindi Skin so you know you’re getting the best products. I went for the hot stone full body massage, it was an indulgent hour and 20 minutes and the pressure and heat were perfect.

THE BOTTOM LINE

The Galmont has a number of offers for the new year, including a city break with a 20% discount on B&B stays across January and February if you book via their own website.

For more information on The Galmont Hotel & Spa’s 2019 offering please See www.thegalmont.com.

ANYTHING TO ADD

Since I visited, they have introduced a new Himalayan Salt Stone Massage from Saltability.

There’s only one thing for it — I’ll have to go back. Where’s the babysitter?


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