There are many ironies in life and in my case it is the fact that despite having circumnavigated the earth on several occasions during my 41 years spent working in the travel industry, there are still parts of Ireland that I’ve yet to experience — The Aran Islands, The Giant’s Causeway and, until last Thursday — The Cliff Hotel in Ardmore, Co. Waterford. I reside in Dunmore East Co. Waterford and I have lost count of the number of times that I’ve talked about visiting this small hotel with a big reputation, located just an hour’s drive away from my home.
I eventually got to see what all the fuss is about when I was invited by Ben Bouldin, Sales Director of Royal Caribbean Cruises in the UK & Ireland to attend a celebration of the 2nd birthday of Royal’s loyalty programme, Club Royal. I was one of 17 travel people from around the island of Ireland to be invited to spend 24 hours at the Cliff Hotel, along with Ben and his team. It turned out to be one of those team building events and over the course of a long October afternoon in which we were buffeted by strong winds coming in off the Irish sea, whilst we foraged for edible species of seaweeds along the rocky Ardmore shore; were taught to paint seascapes by local artists; tried our hand at archery; tested our collaborative skills whilst engaging in a series of fun beach activities before trying to hit a ball into a floating pontoon masquerading as a golf green that was temporarily resting ashore due to the uncommonly choppy waters before returning to the warm embrace of the hotel where we learned how to mix exotic cocktails such as the provocatively named ‘porn star’.
The real star of the show however was the food served at dinner that evening and I, for one, was not disappointed. We’re not just talking Michelin standard here. We’re talking molecular gastronomy standard as popularised by the now sadly closed El Bulli — brainchild by culinary genius Ferran Adria. It is high end. It is rarefied. It is food as art. Food as a feast for the senses, both visually and for the taste buds. When one hears about something for some time before getting to experience it for oneself, it is often possible for expectations to be unrealistically raised with the reality — when it eventually arrives — being something of a disappointment. No so with the Cliff House.
I take my hat off to Martijn Kajuiter and his team of talented chefs for delivering a culinary tour de force and to Ben Bouldin of Royal Caribbean for an inspired choice of location!