The art of relaxation

MY seven-year-old was not impressed.

The art of relaxation

Why were we going to a hotel where children are not allowed? How could kids be banned from anywhere? And why, how, could we choose to visit such a place?

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Her guilt trip had me firmly in its grips as the grand gates of Monart opened before us. We entered the stately 18th century house — and there was silence. Serenity. No children running around reception. No crying babies. No toddler tantrums.

And just like that, my guilt disappeared.

I was just weeks away from having my third baby and I realised just how much I needed a 24-hour-child-free zone. The seven-year-old and 20-month-old were back home with their grandparents. And I had a chance to sleep. Unwind. Relax.

I couldn’t have chosen a better place to do it.

It was clear from the moment we checked in we were really going to be spoilt. We walked through the glass corridor from the old house to the new quarters. We were chided at reception — a simple desk with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the gardens — for parking our own car, for insisting on carrying our ridiculously light bags to our rooms ourselves.

Monart is all about relaxation, we were reminded as we were escorted to our room.

THE ROOM

There are two suites and 69 ‘standard’ rooms at Monart — though there is nothing standard about these sleeping quarters.

It’s a large space, with room for a sumptuous couch and coffee table, where we enjoyed a stunning welcome plate that could compete with any hotel’s afternoon tea offering. One slight downside was the fact there were no facilities to make tea or coffee in the room, but both, we were assured, were just a phone call away.

There was a beautiful balcony overlooking the spectacular Celtic Gardens, designed by Mary Reynolds, Ireland’s only gold medal winner at the Chelsea Garden Show.

The room was all neutrals, yet it was homely and cosy, the Italian marble bathrooms in keeping with its five-star status.

THE FOOD

So many hotel restaurants can be a disappointment. Not Monart’s. From the décor, to the service, to the food, it’s the type of place you’d seek out on a Saturday night. And for five-star dining it represents exceptional value. We opted for the set menu at €39 per person.

It seems churlish to complain about any aspect of our meal, but virtually every dish had an addition off limits to pregnant women. There was endless shellfish on the menu — and while it was no problem to have it omitted from the final dish, I found myself imagining how just how my dinner might have tasted had I not arrived with bump in tow.

It’s a small complaint really as my starter — Spiced Beetroot Cake with Goats Milk Pannacotta and Smoked Paprika with Honeyroast Hazelnuts — and my main — Steamed Fillet of Stone Bass with Crisp Razor Clam, Tomato, Asparagus and Smoked Bacon Bouillabaisse Sauce with (minus the clams, of course) — were exceptional.

The best was yet to come though in the shape of the Milk Chocolate and Passionfruit Mousse — the best dessert I have ever been served in any restaurant. The Guinness bread was also unforgettable — don’t forget to bring a loaf home.

The Garden Lounge also serves food and acts as the hotel bar — though we declined to have an after dinner drink. It just didn’t seem cosy enough.

The spa café also offers healthier food options.

Breakfast was another revelation. Forget hot buffets at this five star — here, the food is cooked freshly and served to your table. And most of the guests choose to eat it in their Monart dressing gowns and slippers. In the packed dining room that morning, my husband and I were the only ones who opted to eat fully dressed. At first glance it might seem like some strange cult — but truly, that is how relaxed Monart is. You only get dressed for dinner.

WHAT TO DO

At Monart, it’s all about the spa. And no wonder when Conde Naste voted it one of the top three in the world.

The hotel is essentially an adults-only health spa. By day guests saunter around in their dressing gowns (see breakfast, above).

I had signed up for two pregnancy treatments. So many times spas offer prenatal massages and you find yourself crouched over a chair with pillows and cushions for support. Not the case at Monart.

My first treatment was the Water Lily Float — one hour of absolute luxury for €100.

It begins with a holistic, oil-infused body wrap, accompanied by a scalp and foot massage.

Then, the table beneath you is lowered until you are floating in a deep bath, a layer of plastic between you and the water. For the first time in months, I honestly forgot I was pregnant. I was floating, weightless. It took every ounce of pressure off my body.

Half an hour later, the table went back up — and all the tension returned.

Thirty minutes of dry floatation is deemed to have the same therapeutic effect as up to two hours of traditional rest, the therapist told me. And it certainly felt that way to me.

The following morning I savoured a Pregnancy Hot Stone Massage. I thought it was a treatment that wasn’t given to pregnant women — but Monart worked with a midwife to make the temperature just right. Even my bump was massaged — and I was wonderfully rewarded with kicks afterwards.

Weeks later my skin is still feeling the benefits.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Monart Midweek Haven is available from Monday to Thursday, offering accommodation, dinner, breakfast, a 30-minute treatment plus access to the hotel’s scheduled classes — Swiss Ball, Aqua Excercise, Stretch & Relax, Sauna Ritual — for €159pps.

The Spring Rejuvenation package offers two nights accommodation, breakfast each morning, dinner one evening and a treatment from €235pps. Vaild from Apr 1 to Jun 30.

Monart also offers a range of detox programmes see, www.monart.ie.

ANYTHING TO ADD

Make sure you spend time in the old quarter, a little maze of beautifully designed libraries and conservatories. The hotel was full when we arrived, but these rooms remained a haven of tranquility. They were largely empty for the duration of our stay.

The day’s newspapers are all there for the reading — but with a little sign that asks that they are not brought into the main hotel. Monart is so utterly obsessed with relaxation, the hotel must remain a news-free zone.

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