Weekend break: Limerick proves itself a real lady

Brendan O’Neill felt a sense of peace and wellbeing on a visit to the Treaty city.

Weekend break: Limerick proves itself a real lady

We lounged and drank our coffees admiring the panoramic views of the city skyline. And not a sound penetrated from the street below. The balcony was an oasis of calm.

Coffee consumed, we checked out the leisure centre — the pride of Limerick, comprising a 20m pool, sauna and jacuzzi, steam room, plunge pool and hydrotherapy pool, with state-of-the-art exercise and gym equipment. We used the main pool and jacuzzi and truly felt energised afterwards.

After a pre-dinner drink in the Terrace Bar, we headed to the hotel’s River restaurant. We both opted for slow-cooked pork belly adobo, which came with sweet and sour figs, parsnip and sweet potato puree. For main course, I chose supreme of Irish chicken, which was served with truffle mash, roasted seasonal vegetables, wild mushroom and tarragon cream.

Anne selected pan-seared monkfish fillet with spelt berry, barley and beetroot risotto. Executive chef Tom Flavin made himself known to us. He and his team pride themselves in serving the finest cuisine, with an emphasis on local produce. Tom was winner of the Best Chef Limerick award in 2013 and 2014 and is on course to make it three-in-a-row.

The next day, we decided to go walkabout, with all of the places we chose to visit very near the hotel. The signposting is excellent, so it was easy to get around.

Our first stop was at the Hunt Museum in Rutland Street. This is housed in what used to be the Custom House, built in the 1760s and restored in 1996/97 as the permanent home for the Hunt Collection, an internationally important collection of 2,000 original works of art and antiquity, formed by John and Gertrude Hunt.

The museum is open Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm, and Sundays from 2pm to 5pm and we had a welcome mid-morning short break here in the restaurant.

Our next stop in nearby Bridge Street was the Church of Ireland St Mary’s Cathedral, more properly the Cathedral Church of St Mary the Virgin. It has been a house of prayer for around 840 years and is the oldest building in Limerick which is in daily use.

A visit to King John’s Castle is a must — from 2011 to 2013 the castle underwent a massive redevelopment, with €5.7m spent to improve visitor facilities. Among the improvements were a brand new visitor centre and interactive exhibitions with computer generated animations.

The remarkable archaeology coupled with 21st-century technology help you to discover the history of Limerick city and the castle — a dramatic 800 years, all brought to life in a stunning exhibition.

On the second night of our stay, Limerick Strand Hotel celebrated the Chinese New Year by unveiling its outdoor entertainment space, The Secret Garden, adjacent to its Shannon Suite. The party began with cocktails, served with a canapé selection. Magicians wandered about surprising the guests with many tricks up their sleeves.

Again, executive chef Tom Flavin and his team stepped up to the plate with the buffet: crispy duck, sweet’n’sour pork, guinea fowl with plum sauce, beef ribs with black bean sauce, cod fillet, egg noodles and stir-fried vegetables. All served with wine and beer. What more could one ask for?

A visit to Limerick would not be complete without time in the Milk Market, one of the country’s foremost farmers’ markets. It’s an all-weather venue with a mezzanine seating area overlooking the main courtyard. Live music events are held in the big top in the evening time. While there we popped into a small gallery, run by Limerick Art Society, which is open each Saturday from 10am to 2pm.

Various packages are available at Limerick Strand Hotel. See www.limerickstrandhotel.ie

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