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Food Hotel: Lough Erne, Enniskillen

Lough Erne
Belleck Road, Enniskillen, BT93 7ED
+44 (0)28 6632 3230
Cuisine: Irish
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The locavore revolution is in full swing at County Fermanagh’s Lough Erne Golf Resort. Andrew Copestake sits down to a Foodmakers' dinner with local producers.
Irish celebrity chef Noel McMeel’s trademark cuisine makes the most of local ingredients and his residency at Lough Erne provides the perfect showcase whenever they hold one of their much-anticipated Foodmaker’s Dinners.
The owners of Lough Erne in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, could be forgiven for feeling a tiny bit sorry for themselves; for bemoaning that they are somewhat stuck between a rock and a hard place. The ‘hard place’ is Northern Ireland, that lexical brick wall that can still dissuade the out-of-date from flying to Belfast. The ‘rock,’ of course, is Eire, the once-upon-a-time tiger economy of the EU.
Lough Erne isn’t in Eire, but if you think of it as being in Ireland you might start counting in Euros. And these days that means poor value for money.
Far from feeling sorry for themselves and bewailing their misfortune, however, the owners of Lough Erne should feel rather smug. Instead of a rock and a hard place they have landed upon one of the United Kingdom’s loveliest, and least discovered, lakelands. It’s as pretty as the Lake District, but with none of the Saga coach parties to spoil it. And being on the north of the Eire border, in the Sterling zone, you can spend a penny (yes, the ones with the Queen’s head on it) quite freely.
So spectacular is its vista you’d imagine there would have been a baronial home here for centuries. But whilst Lough Erne certainly looks the historical part, it was actually built from scratch in 2007. Some may blanch at this shameless artifice. Me? I settled in as contented as a nesting dove.
The rooms – there are 120, including six Romantic suites and 25 family-sized Lodges – are decorated in every hue of the beige swatch card. There are more corridors to wander down than the average Boarding School. It has the whiff of whiskey and leather-bound books; of cigars and scrabble. And every time you draw back the reassuringly heavy drapes there is that view.
It’s the kind of terrain that demands a golf course (gently rolling hills, plenty of water to trip up your swing), so the legendary Nick Faldo obliged, designing one with 7261 yards of green to challenge the ambitious. But if you are not into the sport there is another reason to visit, even beyond the newly installed 19th hole Clubhouse Bar and Grill.
Now firmly established in the kitchen, Executive Head Chef Noel McMeel has brought his own particular brand of modern Irish cooking to the attention of roving locavores. McMeel describes his cuisine as ‘the essence of natural freshness,’ which, on paper sounds like the tag-line for a shampoo ad. But translate it to the plate and it becomes something far more poetic. Enter; a’ terrine of roast Fermanagh chicken with fig and apple, confit garlic and shallot soubise’. Or try; ‘pan-fried Glenarm salmon with warm potato and caper salad’. And isn’t ‘home oak smoked Irish duck with pear chutney and roast hazlenut vinaigrette’ more worthy of Wordsworth?
The best way to sample McMeel’s simple but sumptuous creations is to get yourself an invite to one of Lough Erne’s Foodmaker’s Dinners. They have several per year, along with several more Winemaker’s Dinners. Here, not only do you get to dine as finely as is humanly possible, you also get to meet some of the men and women who bestow Lough Erne with its raw ingredients. Men like Jason Hamilton of Crossgar Foods who produces the sweet-tasting Dexter beef that McMeel then vacuum-cooks into a buttery fillet rossini. Or men like Lord Brookeborough from the Colebroke Estate who provides the venison that McMeel slices into papery-thin carpaccio and drizzles with roasted walnut cream.
Blustery with stories, Lord and Lady Brookeborough can regale you with tales of their family fortune (mainly) lost and found, and of how the Japanese sika deer ended up in Ireland. It’s the perfect accompaniment to fine dining; convivial chatter, the swell of local history. But, if you want something more tangible then, naturally, each Foodmaker’s and Winemaker’s Dinner come with liquid complements. Bottles of Crozes Hermitage, Chablis 1er cru and Chianti Classico are uncorked by a sommelier that clearly enjoys and knows his stuff.
And at the end of the day, knowing their stuff is what has earned Lough Erne their AA five stars and double rosette for culinary excellence and what makes it such an idyllic place for a self-indulgent weekend away.
And knowing they have that lexical brick wall to surmount the owners have decided to say that Lough Erne is located at ‘the gateway to the north-west’. Whether it will convince the skeptics is open to question. But it damn well should.
Lough Erne Golf Resort,
Belleck Road,
Enniskillen BT93 7ED,
Northern Ireland.
Tel: +44 (0)28 6632 3230




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1 February 2010
By: Andrew Copestake
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