We arrived back home on Saturday from a really lovely family holiday in East Cork. For the most part it was sunny which made easy planning of daily activities. When away I like to make the most of amenities so we managed to get to Fota Wildlife Park, of course the beach was a massive attraction to the kids however it proved awkward with Millie who protested to only wanting to get in the water. Fionn turned 4 last week so a trip to the cinema followed by bowling and a visit to a play centre fitted in nicely on one of the wet days.
Somewhere that we hadn't visited before and it most certainly was worth a visit was The Blarney Stone and Castle. The grounds are magnificent with so many interesting hidden areas that the children just loved exploring. I'm sorry to say that I didn't kiss the stone. I did attempt to climb the winding stairs to reach the top of the castle but I buckled. I'm not terribly good with either heights or confined spaces so being stuck in a tight que while slowly climbing to the top of the tower made me feel a little light headed and in fear that I might collapse back on the American tourist, that were behind me, I apologetically squeezed passed them with Millie on my hip. To my disbelief Fionn, who's only 4, had no issue with climbing the tower and in turn lay back and kissed the stone without batting an eyelid! I was so proud of him!
While on holidays I found it quite difficult to eat to the standard that I would at home, its just wonderful to have plenty of fresh veggies and fruit in the back garden as well as fresh eggs. Of course not having my well stocked store cupboard and many kitchen bits and bobs also influenced what meals I cooked while away. We limited the amount of times we ate out with the children as more often its expensive and in many cases at least two out of the four would barely finish what they order so I find picnics are always the best option. One of the days we stopped at a cafe as it was a little blustery and a bowl of soup was sure to warm us up. As always I ask plenty of questions before deciding what to order. On enquiring whether the soup was home made the young girl glanced to an older girl and both answered 'yes'. I went on to order soup for each of us but once it reached the counter I could see little pieces of imitation veg floating on the top. I had a little taste and with it's distinctive packet soup flavour I knew this vegetable soup had never seen any vegetables. I had five hungry kids at the table awaiting their soup so I was buying it anyway but I had to advise this young girl that 'I don't think this is home made' in turn she was completely insistent that it was. If their version of 'homemade' was mixing a packet with with some milk and water, well yes it was 'homemade'. I felt like a child who had to get the last word in of a fight 'NOT HOMEMADE!'
Diarmuid's parents joined us for two of the days and this gave us the opportunity to dine out one of the evenings. The house which we stayed in was a mere two minute drive from Ballymaloe House so this was our chosen eatery. In all the times I travelled to Cork and visited Ballymaloe I never actually had a meal at the house. I have always wanted to but the opportunity never arose. I was so excited about the prospect of a child-free meal and where better to enjoy this than in the the beautiful setting of Ballymaloe. On our arrival we were given the choice of three tables. We choose one by a window which had a beautiful view but also was conducive to taking a few photos. On reading the menu it seemed fairly straight forward, no unusual ingredient but plenty of choice.
We both had a Potato & Fresh Herb Soup to start which was seasoned well with a lovely creaminess. Lots of deliciously fresh bread accompanied it. Next I had a Beetroot, Marsh Samphire & Knockalara Salad which was simple but bursting with fresh flavours. Diarmuid had the Pate Campagne which was so tasty and had lots of pistachio nuts flecked through it. For main I had Cod with Scallops and Diarmuid had Beef, both really scrumptious meals. The cod was the nicest I've ever had and when I complimented it to the waiter he replied that it was only caught earlier that day in Ballycotton. Such comments I love to hear when eating out and not that 'Mr Knorr' had been busy over a stove all night ;) To accompany our main were some carrots, new potatoes and a green salad. To my husbands delight seconds were offered not only of the veg and spuds but also more meat.
The staff at Ballymaloe were all perfectly groomed and so nice and friendly, each eager to make our dining experience a good one. The cheese course consisted of some well chosen local cheeses with little homemade crackers. For dessert one of the young waitresses wheeled over a very well presented dessert trolley on which was a lemon tart, poached plums, fresh plums, carageen moss pudding, meringue roulade and homemade vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce. I opted for a little taste of everything! As if all that wasn't enough some pretty little petit fours were offered with our very nice cup of coffee.
Each dish completely showcased the freshness of their ingredients. There were so many delicious dishes that I could see myself recreating at home. What an amazing dining experience that was a complete treat that surpassed all my expectations.
After a week away it's always lovely to come home especially when ladened down with lots of lovely memories of a fun family holiday.