My Northern Ireland adventure was drawing to a close. Never had I been so full for such a long period of time. We had stuffed ourselves silly, but only because the food really had been fantastic. I'm one of those people who can't stop if it's that good.
I also hadn't felt more welcome in a place in such a long time. The Northern Irish had really been so welcoming, and it made a really nice change from the 'don't look at me' attitude of Londoner's.
However it wasn't quite over yet. We had one last stop before heading home, and this time we were off to the country, to a place called Ardtara House.
Ardtara is a Victorian Country House turned hotel and restaurant, built by the linen baron Harry Clark, set in 8 acres of land.
Inside is a gorgeous country manor, complete with warm, cozy fireplaces and even a grand piano. I love places that have character and charm, as you can feel the stories of past in the walls and furniture.
However tonight we were here to try Eddie Attwell's menu, who recently awarded "Best Chef in Co. Derry, 2015".
We started with a 'pre soup' of leek, potato and ginger, and of course some of that fabulous Irish bread. I have no idea what makes a pre soup a pre soup, but it was rather nice, if a little foam-y for me.
We then moved onto a medley of carrots and stilton. Pink carrots!
Then came the real substance; the seared tuna with egg yolk, green olive puree and heirloom tomato's. I rarely have tuna that isn't out of a can (guilty) so this was a real treat. Just seared, it was delicious, and the olive puree paired wonderfully.
Show a Northerner a meat pie and I swear our hearts leap a little. Although this was a little more fancy than what I grew up with. Venison 2 ways; haunch and pie. It was paired with elderberry onions which were so sweet against the rich venison. It was definitely the highlight of the night.
Again we had mashed potato, as well, it is Ireland. However I have to say, Harry's Shack from my last post wins hand's down. Sorry guys.
Next up was pigs head. Yep, that's right, pigs head. Northern Ireland have a fantastic culture of not wasting food, and that applies to the animals at the butchers. In England we are sometimes too fussy and won't eat certain cuts of meat, just because they are deemed a little... off?
Well I'm here to tell you, that pigs head is really nice. Seriously guys, there is nothing 'gross' or 'gruesome' about it. We eat there rest of a pigs meat right?
Finally, to refresh after all that richness, we had plaice with mussels and confit combers.
While beautifully done, the complexity actually was it's downfall. Yesterday's plaice at Harry's Shack was much simpler, and that let it shine. Don't get me wrong the food was fantastic, but sometimes simple is actually better.
Even after all that food, we still squeezed in a couple- yes a couple- of desserts. Rhubarb and yoghurt mousse with brown butter sorrel. Light, tangy, with a hint of sweet cutting through, I enjoyed this a lot.
The second was a deconstructed apple and blackberry walnut cake. Having grown up on cakes like this, it was an unusual surprise, and one I very much warmed too.
It was such a great, special dinner, and one I would recommend if you are looking for a fancy night out in Northern Ireland. Make sure you get someone to give you a tour of the house, as it really is beautiful, with so many quirky story's.
Sadly though it was time to say goodbye to Northern Ireland and my foodie tour.
If you haven't been, please make sure you visit. A weekend is perfect. Take a look at the tourism board website for more information and inspiration. You'll be very surprised.