posted on September 4th, 2019

Review: The River Room at the Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort


Ulster Tatler’s Hannah Reilly visits the Galgorm Spa and Golf Resort to enjoy a taste of the River Room Restaurant’s summer menu.

With the gradual arrival of darker and drearier evenings, summer is unfortunately coming to a close. Yet at the Galgorm Spa and Golf Resort, the season is still in full swing, with Executive Head Chef Chris Rees’ Summer-inspired six-course tasting menu celebrating the best of seasonal and local produce. I had the pleasure of attending an exclusive preview of the menu recently, and enjoyed a sensational dining experience from start to finish. After a welcome drink at the fabulous Café Parisien in Belfast City Centre, myself and several other guests enjoyed comfortable transport via a Travel Ireland coach to the Galgorm, located only an hour’s drive away from the city.

If you are planning a trip in the near future, a visit to its River Room Restaurant is a must. With scenic views of the resort’s grounds, visitors can enjoy a fine dining experience within the surrounds of a wonderful natural environment. I was lucky to be seated by the window with my colleague, and as we sipped our welcome drink of Boatyard double gin with grapefruit and rosemary tonic, we were eased into an atmosphere of comfort and tranquillity – it was bliss. Being one of Ireland’s largest gin collections (over 400 and counting), the gin was wonderfully balanced with the accompanying London Essence tonic, and it was freshly garnished with pink grapefruit.

Following a tasty plate of canapes, we were presented with our starter – pea, ham, goat’s cheese and tarragon, perfectly presented in a dainty glass. What initially struck me was the vividness of the dish – the bright green of the peas against the creamy-white goat’s cheese created an overt contrast of colours, reflecting the bright tones we associate with summer. Having dined in the River Room before, I was all-too-aware of the high standard set by Chris Rees and the kitchen team, and upon tasting my starter I was not disappointed. Delicate and light, the dish was the ideal beginning to the seasonal menu, and was paired perfectly with a glass of Bodegas Alvia Livius Rosado by independent wine importer, Neill Wine. Neill Wine, based in both Helens Bay and Groomsport Co.Down, imports from every major wine region globally, but focuses particularly on European wine. As a result, we enjoyed a taste of Spain, France and Italy throughout the evening.

The fish course soon followed: halibut served with courgette, miso and chicken skin. Again, the presentation of the food displayed a stark contrast between the bright colours of the food, and the black plate on which it sat. The fish was wonderfully flaky, and the dusting of chicken skin on top provided another level of texture and taste. This course was paired with a glass of Chateau de Mirande Macon Villages, which heightened every flavour of the dish.

What I enjoyed about the meal was its private yet communal nature. Each table enjoyed a level of intimacy, which for couples or groups of friends is certainly ideal; yet I could gather from the atmosphere of the room that the entire party was in food heaven as we moved from dish to dish, each one a sensational tasting experience. Robert Neill’s individual explanations of each wine choice also brought the group together, as we listened intently and tasted the wine before being presented with each course.

The meat course followed, which was in my personal opinion the star of the show. The dish comprised of a substantial piece of beef, which was genuinely the nicest cut of meat I have ever eaten. Served with tomato, onion and girolle mushrooms, the meat melted in my mouth, and its indulgent taste was enhanced by a wonderful glass of Cantine Torri Montepulciano D’Abruzzo. I would return to the Galgorm simply for another serving of this dish, which was sourced by Chris and his team from local suppliers.

The meal progressed to its sweet course, and I was once again floored by the dish, which included strawberries, rose hip, pistachio and vanilla. After several savoury courses, this dish was a perfectly light way to bring the evening to a close – each element was fresh and seasonal, allowing us to enjoy the dish at its highest quality. I love dessert wines, and Robert’s choice of Vivanco Dulce de Invierno 4 Varietals complemented the dish finely. A selection of indulgent petit fours concluded the meal, and I left the restaurant feeling satiated and in anticipation of my next visit.

The evening truly was a culinary sensation, with each dish perfectly proportioned and balanced in taste. My colleague’s vegetarianism was easily catered for, with the relevant dishes having an equally delicious vegetarian option. For an indulgent celebration of local and seasonal produce, I recommend paying a visit to the River Room and enjoying a taste of summer, while autumn lies in wait.

To book into the River Room restaurant and enjoy the summer tasting menu, visit Galgorm.com or call 028 2588 1001.