Situated in the costal town of Miltown Malbay, The Armada Hotel sits elegantly amid the breathtaking landscape of Spanish Point. We pulled into the hotel carpark just as the sun was setting, a sight to behold. Before we even walked through the doors of The Armada Hotel we already agreed the location alone would draw you back time and time again. The fact that this Hotel has been operating for over fifty years is also a pretty good indication that there is a winning formula at work here.
A visit to the West of Ireland is always a welcome reprieve. Growing up, it was the base of some of the most memorable family holidays. Back then it felt like it took an entire day to travel from Kildare to Clare, now a timely 2.5hours will see you there with ease.
Entering the Armada Hotel, the oceanic theme is maintained throughout. Reception is a relaxed, welcoming space. Rugged pine furnishings and rustic twine wall decor ensure the nautical theme is never in doubt.
Our package included a stay in a Superior Room. The moment we stepped into this ocean view room we were smitten. Every element of this room is well thought out, super spacious and of course the all encompassing sea views are very special. A king size bed is located in the centre of the room, angled perfectly for admiring those magical sea-view’s when you wake.
With some time to spare before dinner, we enjoyed a glass of Prosecco whilst enjoying the last of the daylight to savour the views on offer. A visit to the Cliffs of Moher earlier in the afternoon had ensured we had worked up an appetite so we were excited for an evening of delicious dining.
Making our way to Pearl Restaurant, an elegant, spacious room with subdued lighting and white linen clad tables. This restaurant has a distinctly romantic feel. Our table was furnished with some delicious home made breads along with a pre-starter of Duck Rillette, a smooth little bite topped with a spicy sauce. A tasty starting point. The kitchen in Pearl Restaurant is lead by Executive Head Chef, Peter Jackson who has a keen sense of keeping the menu local and seasonal.
Our first starter of Pan Roasted Wood Pigeon €11.95 was accompanied on the plate by a mix of sauté cabbage leaf and shredded Limerick Ham on a bed of pureed farm parsnips. The Wood Pigeon was cooked a little more than we would have liked but the flavour was still very good. Shredded Limerick Ham with its trustee sidekick, sautéed cabbage on a parsnip puree was absolutely delicious. Armada Farm is where much of the vegetables, fruits and herbs that are used in the dishes are grown. Meat is sourced from local butcher Noel O’Connor and Seafood is supplied by Garrihy Seafood. What a stellar example of conscious sustainability.
Moving on to Our second starter of St. Tola’s Goats Cheese €10.95, Beetroot, Walnut, Moyhill Leaf. Creamy little bon-bon’s of goats cheese coated in a crisp crumb were compliemnted beautifully by the addition of earthy beetroot.
For the Main Event we choose Duo of Scallop & Pork Belly €26.95, Cider Glaze, Apple & Parsnip Crumble, Jus. This was a very generous portion of meat, cooked really well. The scallops saw a quick end with both of us swiping for the last one of these caramelised mollusks. Special mention for the Parsnip Crumble adding such a subtle injection of texture and flavour.
One of us can never refuse Risotto and this Risotto of Roasted Pumpkin €19.95 Pumpkin Seed & Spiced Granola Crumb, Aged Parmesan did not disappoint. A delectable dish of rich, creamy, goodness with added warmth and crunch from the Spiced Granola Crumb. Again a very generous portion, this is not a restaurant that you will leave hungry.
Retro desserts like Baked Alaska are always a joy to spot on a menu. Mostly because we are always eager to see if any of them compare to the kind that our Mothers used to make when we were children. In this case, this was definitely not like what Mother used to make ( no offence to the Mom’s) This Baked Alaska Chocolate & Orange, Mulled Cranberry €7.00 was an absolute revelation in the Baked Alaska stakes. The marshmallow- like meringue peaks housed melting chocolate orange ice cream atop a bed of mulled cranberries. A flavour explosion of a dessert that we still talk about.
Proving again that the classics can’t be argued with. Classic Creme Brûlée €7.00 with a crisp biscotti for dipping. Shattering through the glass like crystallised topping to get to the creamy, comforting custard, every mouthful was heavenly. A richly satisfying end to a great dinner.
Ready for a night cap and good long sleep we headed towards Johnny Burkes Pub. It is always essential to sample the Guinness wherever we go. A creamy pint and half glass were tipped back with ease, another would have been had if the tiredness of the day had not caught up on us. Deciding to have breakfast in our room the next morning we placed our order and it was lights out.
Waking refreshed from a great nights sleep we were ready to get out for a brisk walk before breakfast. There is little more exhilerating that inhaling the salty sea air first thing in the morning. The beach is literally on your doorstep when you stay in this hotel and we made full use of this.
Ready for our breakfast, our feast arrived right on time and was enjoyed to the fullest. A hearty full Irish on one side and a delectable dish of smoked salmon with scrambled eggs on the other. Warm croissants, toast and tea, we were set for our next adventure.
It is easy to see why people that grow up in places like this so often choose to settle here. Armada Hotel owner, John Burke is a prime example of this. A well travelled man, having worked in London and Brussels along with conquering Mount Everest, it is clear that his love of this beautiful West Clare Hotel is something that he is proudly nuturing and driving forward. John is a credit to his parents who clearly raised him with an unrelenting work ethic and strong sense of purpose.
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On a side note, a trip to the Cliffs of Moher is an absolute must.
Unless there is a weather warning in place that prevents you getting out and enjoying this magical place, wrap up warm against the elements and soak up all of the wonderful views and fresh air. A trip here will feed your soul and we are all about that as much as we are about the food we eat.
WRITTEN BY KEITH MAHON & OLIVIA BYRNE