This small hotel is in a choice corner location overlooking Belfast Lough and Bangor Marina, and offers contemporary style - together with the hands-on hospitality that is not easy to find in larger establishments.
It’s a pleasant place to stay and not only handy to the town but also within an easy waterside stroll of the attractive Ballyholme area of Bangor, where there’s a pleasant promenade and a beach leading on to the National Trust coastal walk at Ballymacormick Point.
The ground floor is semi open-plan, taking advantage of the views over the harbour and lough from both the bar area and the restaurant.
Although the ambience is contemporary, it’s an old building and the varying size and décor of the guest rooms reflect this – those on the first floor, for example are spacious and comfortable, with traditional furnishings, while those at the very top are smaller, modern and more sparsely furnished. The range of rooms offered includes single, twin and family rooms, with the difference in size and outlook reflected in the price.
A seriously good breakfast is served in the bar, overlooking the marina – included among the treats are freshly squeezed orange juice and fresh fruits, homemade muesli or porridge (with honey, whiskey & cream) freshly baked bread and delicious brown toast, continental options including pain au chocolate - and a choice of hot dishes including, of course, an excellent rendition of the traditional Ulster Fry (delicious Fermanagh black bacon and Kettyles sausages, that must-have potato bread and much more). It’s a great start to the day.
Conferences/Banqueting (30/55); secretarial services; free broadband wifi. Rooms 15 (all en-suite & no smoking, 2 family, 1 single); B&B £70-95 per room; single £55; children welcome (under 3s free in parents room, cot available, £10 charge). Dogs permitted (staying in bedroom).
With an emphasis on fine cooking rather than fine dining, the dining experience is very relaxed, and the creative menus offered throughout the day promise treats with every mouthful.
Attention to detail is evident from the outset; homemade breads are served with flavoursome hand churned dulse butter, for example – and the potato & leek soup is no ordinary soup, coming with a deep fried oyster, stout wheaten bread and that delicious dulse butter.
There’s a natural leaning towards local seafood - try a Strangford Lough mussels speciality, made with Armagh cider and barley, for example; or a variation on classic fish & chips: accompaniments are upbeat traditional (mushy peas, tartare sauce & chips), but the dish is based on salt water cured coley, and local Hilden ale is used to achieve a very light, crisp batter.
Meat lovers will be pleased to find that Black Angus is the favoured beef (in simple dishes such as the homemade burgers as well as prime cuts) and, along with a choice of fashionably slow cooked lamb and pork dishes, poultry and game may include wild pigeon as well as an imaginative chicken dish.
Not too much for vegetarians, on the face of it, but the service here is spot on and one senses that any request would be happily accommodated.
On the dinner menu, some premium classics among the starters and desserts show particular finesse - a luxurious foie gras & chicken liver parfait, for example, that is served with homemade date & pear chutney - and the cheeses offered on all menus are Irish farmhouse (a quartet, with seasonal fruit chutney and homemade raisin biscuits).
A short ‘Classic Menu’ offers bistro favourites – seafood pie, fish & chips, beef & Guinness with pomme purée etc; a Sunday menu includes many of the dishes otherwise offered at dinner; and parents will be pleased to find a proper little children’s menu too.
There’s a full bar as well as a comprehensive drinks list (including, of course, the Salty Dog cocktail: Plymouth gin, fresh grapefruit, a pinch of salt & lemon); very little information on wines (no vintages or tasting notes) but they are well chosen and fairly priced, with plenty available by the glass.
All round, this is a highly enjoyable place to eat, with all the flavour and finesse expected of classical cooking (and good service to match), plus the advantage of informality. A casual dining destination par excellence.