We sometimes take it for granted that we have one of the best restaurants in Northern Ireland right on our doorstep in Ballymena. The award-winning River Room at Galgorm Resort & Spa has been on my ‘must visit’ list for quite some time but somehow have never got round to trying.
And so my other half and I found ourselves one wintry Wednesday night, taking up an invitation to try the River Room restaurant at the resort.
On arrival, we were ushered to a table by the window - from which during the day has stunning views of the River Maine.
For a mid-week evening, the restaurant was busy, but not in a loud or brash way, with parties of two or four sitting chatting quietly while they enjoyed their meals.
After perusing the menu and making our choices, our server brought over a selection of amuses bouche, beautiful morsels giving a hint of what was still to come.
A short time later, we were brought over a selection of bread with Abernethy butter, before being presented with a celeriac velouté, and I found myself thinking ‘we haven’t even got to the starters yet’.
Our starters soon arrived and I had opted for the Pithivier of Local Game.
The pastry on the pithivier was light and the game filling extremely moreish.
Himself had chosen the Hot Smoked Salmon and was suitably impressed when his dish was brought over with a glass cover filled with smoke, encompassing the dish. For main course, I had chosen Beef with oxtail, while Himself chose the Pheasant.
The beef was tender and melt in the mouth and I was glad I’d taken the chance to try it with the oxtail as it was full of flavour and a great addition to the dish.
Following the main course, we were brought over a pre-dessert appetiser of mini doughnuts served with a zingy lemon posset, a perfect palate cleanser ahead of our desserts.
For dessert, I’d chosen the pear and walnut cake, while Himself opted for the Honey parfait.
To finish, we were brought over a selection of petits fours - a soft, chewy macaron, a coffee truffle and a piece of the best fudge I’ve ever tasted.
Timing is everything and the team at the River Room, under head chef Chris Rees, have everything down to pat.
A perfect amount of time was left between courses, in between which our charming maitre d’ would pop by to top up our drinks and check if everything was ok.
The attention to detail on these dishes is just stunning and there’s no let up in presentation throughout.
And it’s definitely not a case of style over substance as every dish left you wanting more.
I think that being a typical Ballymena person, we can be far too thrifty at times and let the price tag put us off.
Yes, the food is expensive but the price doesn’t take into account the outstanding quality of perfectly cooked dishes; the fine detail paid to each dish; the excellent service throughout.
We both remarked that it was one of the best meals we’ve ever had, not just because of the delicious food, making the best of local produce, but also the ambience and being able to sit back and enjoy every course, never feeling rushed once. All I could think of afterwards was ‘why didn’t I visit sooner, and when can I go back’!
n For more information, or to book, visit www.galgorm.com