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A perfect stay in the most beautiful of locations

Daub of beef with creamy Dauphinoise potatoes and tender stem broccoli Daub of beef with creamy Dauphinoise potatoes and tender stem broccoli
By Michael Jackson

WITH its stunning coastal views and a wide array of nearby tourist attractions, Ballycastle has always been one of the north coast’s most popular destinations. The area has witnessed a veritable tourism boom in recent years and there are few better places for visitors to base their trip than the Marine Hotel, where my partner and I found ourselves during a recent jaunt.

The hotel occupies a prime spot facing the Quays where the Margy River meets the sea and houses 34 spacious rooms among other things. At check-in we were politely greeted and given a succinct rundown of everything the hotel had to offer, however, given a previous recommendation by friends who frequent the town, our attention had already been drawn to the dining options at Marconi’s Bar & Bistro, which is conveniently located in the hotel.

Already looking forward to our evening meal, we made our way to our room where we were virtually stunned by what waited for us across the threshold. After a recent £1 million refurbishment the spacious and modernly decorated rooms make for a comfortable stay, and with views overlooking the stunning bay below, our room was particularly awe-inspiring.
After some time getting ready, taking in the view, and a quick glass of wine, we headed downstairs to Marconi’s where we had a 7pm reservation. Our waitress, Selena, who couldn’t have been more hospitable, showed us to our seats by one of the bistro’s large front widows, which allow for further views of the shore.

The first thing that struck me was that Marconi’s too seemed to be recently refurbished. The big space is brightly decorated and had a quite casual feel – a clear draw for those walking the outside promenade or nearby beach.

I had already studied the menu before our arrival and chose the fishcake with mango salsa that I had spied earlier. The lightly breaded fishcake was made up of freshly smoked fish, potato and herbs – a classic flavour combination that was perfectly executed. The mango salsa added a nice sweet element that pairs beautifully with fried foods.

My partner opted for the mussels, which were delicately cooked – avoiding the common pitfall of becoming too chewy. They were served in cream sauce and were accompanied by wholesome and soft Guinness wheaten bread, as well as some crispy seaweed, which added a contrasting texture.

After our seafood starters, we each opted to go a different route; for me, the duck confit with red wine and spinach risotto; for her, the daub of beef with creamy Dauphinoise potatoes and tender stem broccoli.

While my duck was incredibly tender and well seasoned, the risotto was nothing short of incredible. Made using a rich stock with a serious depth of flavour, the risotto could easily have stood on its own as a meal or small plate. The rice was cooked a perfect al-dente, red wine and spinach gave it a sweet and slightly sour taste respectively, while a generous helping of leak imparted an often elusive umami flavour. The daub of beef was so soft it could have been eaten with a spoon and felt like it was almost melting in your mouth. Served with a timeless gravy, it made for an incredibly comforting meal.

For dessert we sampled some of the chef’s recommendations, which included moist Jamaica cake and a milk chocolate mousse that was coated in a dark chocolate shell. Alongside the ginger-spiced cake, the chef’s at Marconi’s managed to utilise virtually every part of the orange to complete the dessert; candied orange zest and an orange compote that included the firm orange core as well as the more commonly used segments. If that wasn’t indulgent enough, the chocolate portion of our shared dessert plate was to die for.

Happy and full, we left Marconi’s contemplating a good nap. Near the entrance I noticed that the bistro proudly displays a brief history of restaurant’s namesake, Guglielmo Marconi, a Nobel Prize winner who once called Antrim’s north coast home. The Italian inventor is credited with the creation of the radio and as I read his story I felt that his name had been given to a worthy eatery that, while doing the basic things correctly, manages to keep things interesting and innovative.

There are few more words that could better sum up our stay at the Marine Hotel than contentment and as we sat in our room after dinner, glasses of wine in hand, watching the waves crash on the shore below we couldn’t have been more at ease.

Marine Hotel Ballycastle
1-3 North Street,
Ballycastle BT54 6BN
Tel: 028 2076 2222

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