Review: Cruise into Christmas with AC Hotel Belfast
Ulster Tatler’s Hannah Reilly visits AC Hotel Belfast to get a taste of their upcoming festive offerings.
Once the period of costumes, candy apples and spooky decorations passes, our car radios are quickly overloaded with merry music, and shop displays inundated with gift ideas. In the midst of autumn, the countdown to Christmas is officially on, with many businesses and corporations in the planning stages of their festive celebrations. While the traditional set-up of ‘a three-course meal and entertainment’ is rarely a let-down for party-goers, AC Hotel Belfast is offering a unique experience for those looking for a Christmas party with a nautical twist. I recently had the pleasure of attending an evening of private dining to get a taste of what this modern, riverside hotel is cooking up for the festive season.
The four-star AC Hotel is an attractive building that boasts luxury décor and contemporary dining, as well as breath-taking views across the River Lagan to Titanic Belfast. I knew I was in for a treat as soon as I walked through the doors and was taken to the hotel’s restaurant, Novelli at City Quays, for a prosecco reception. The restaurant’s stylish furnishings and stunning riverside views make it the perfect spot for an intimate meal or for after-work drinks with colleagues.
Following the reception, we were shown to a private dining room on the first floor to begin the festivities. This seasonal offering is available for groups of 20 to 40 people, ideal for a Christmas work party or a large family gathering. Each table was beautifully decorated with a mini sleigh full of chocolates, and crackers for each diner; with Christmas music playing quietly in the background, I became instantly immersed in the room’s joyous atmosphere. We were looked after all evening by friendly waiting staff, who ensured that our wine glasses were never empty and that we all received our courses at the same time – the high level of attentiveness was clear.
The indulgent Christmas dinner, specially designed by Michelin-starred chef Jean Christophe Novelli, was certainly a highlight of the evening. The meal began with a creamy goat’s cheese tartlet, with shallot and thyme marmalade and port sauce. Beautifully presented, the tart was a comforting start to an indulgent dining experience. Christmas was definitely in full swing with the arrival of the main course: ballotine of Antrim turkey, which was served with apricot and sage stuffing, roast potatoes, braised ham hock (which was particularly delicious), and Brussel sprouts. It is an unwritten rule in my house that turkey is eaten exclusively during the Christmas and Easter period, so while enjoying my meal and watching the evening draw in outside, I almost forgot that it was only October.
With simple strawberry trifle being a staple dessert at home on Christmas Day, AC Hotel’s more eclectic menu offered a twist on the classic, with a passion fruit and clementine trifle and cardamom shortbread presented to us to conclude the meal. Other options on offer for this course include poached pear, dark chocolate delice and the classic Christmas pudding.
Dinner certainly got me in the mood for the festive period, but the star of the show was the fantastic river cruise following our meal. With the weather being less than ideal, we were provided with Christmas jumpers to keep us warm outside – a lovely, thoughtful touch. The hour-long journey along the Lagan featured gift-wrapped boxes of wine, festive music, disco lights, and stunning views of Belfast everywhere we looked. The cruise is definitely a unique and entertaining aspect of AC Hotel’s indulgent Christmas offering. By the time we arrived back at the hotel, spirits were high and everyone enjoyed a warming cup of mulled cider as a nightcap.
This Christmas season, AC Hotel Belfast is offering the ultimate festive experience, full of exceptional dining, scenic views and woolly jumpers. For those looking to shake up their company’s Christmas work party, or for a family gathering with a difference, I highly recommend AC Hotel as a destination for seasonal celebrations.
Private Dining is available from Friday 29th November – Tuesday 31st December, Monday to Saturday from 12pm to 10pm. A Prosecco reception and 3 courses is £40 per head. There is a £15 supplement to combine a river cruise with a private dining package.
To find out more about the Christmas hospitality available at AC Hotel Belfast this year, visit www.novellirestaurants.co.uk/belfast/occasions/ or call 028 9531 3180.