Not so very long ago hotel restaurants tended to be held in low esteem. How times have changed. This year we ate memorably well at the Hotel d’Angleterre in Copenhagen, Denmark, and at Ashford Castle in Ireland. And our favorite meal of the year was at Le Petit Nice, a 16-room hotel with an eponymous three-star restaurant, overlooking the Mediterranean, on the outskirts of Marseille.
Ashford Castle – Cong, Ireland
Ashford Castle has recently been restored at vast expense. On arrival, we had high expectations of the food; we were not disappointed. George V Dining Room is an elegant space with a coffered ceiling and glistening Waterford chandeliers. During our stay, everything was delicious, but standouts included a starter of wild pigeon with sweet corn and foie gras, and a main course of Connemara lamb with roasted château potatoes, asparagus and a Paloise sauce. Cooked to pink perfection and carved tableside, it was Irish lamb at its finest. Chef Philippe Farineau, who is French, places a great emphasis on local produce and ingredients.
George V Dining Room
Cong, County Mayo. Tel. (353) 94-954-6003
Château de la Treyne – Lacave, France
King Louis XIII would surely have felt at home in this regal restaurant, with its ceiling of deep octagonal coffers, a massive wood mantelpiece, walls paneled in silk damask and a wide Aubusson tapestry. We had a delicious candlelit dinner of white asparagus with a walnut crust, morel duxelle and lemon sabayon; flawlessly cooked local lamb with multicolored carrots; and a delicate dessert of mille-feuille topped with vanilla custard and orange gelée. Our knowledgeable and personable waiter also acted as sommelier, recommending some fine Cahors pairings, both red and white. Our dinner here was delicious and extremely romantic.
Louis XIII Salon
La Treyne, Lacave. Tel. (33) 5-65-27-60-60
Hotel d’Angleterre – Copenhagen, Denmark
In a food-mad city like Copenhagen, a hotel restaurant has to be truly excellent to attract diners who aren’t hotel guests. The Michelin one-star Marchal succeeds thanks to a menu of sophisticated comfort food dishes by chef Andreas Bagh. The lunch and dinner menus are quite different, so if you dine at noon, look for the crayfish with consommé, agnolotti with mint and chorizo, and squid cooked with oysters and Champagne butter and topped with caviar. Highlights of the dinner menu include roasted pigeon with salted plum sauce; lobster served two ways — the tail with pumpkin, grapes and ginger sauce, the claws with Jerusalem artichokes, chestnuts, vanilla and lobster bisque — and baked Alaska flambé with lemon sorbet and licorice ice cream.
Kongens Nytorv 34. Tel. (45) 33-12-00-95
Le Petit Nice – Marseille, France
Chef Gérald Passédat is one of the world’s finest fish cooks, and having just celebrated the centenary of his family’s seaside Michelin three-star restaurant in Marseille, his cooking is better than ever. During a recent lunch at his 16-room hotel, in a handsome dining room overlooking the Mediterranean, every dish dazzled with marine freshness. Passédat’s fascinating sauces and garnishes never overwhelmed the natural flavors of the fish and shellfish. We especially loved a carpaccio of sea bream with bottarga and caviar, sea anemone beignets with seaweed sauce, and sea bass in an aromatic bouillon of tomatoes and Mediterranean herbs. Service was charming throughout the meal.
Le Petit Nice
Anse de Maldormé, Corniche JF Kennedy. Tel. (33) 4-91-59-25-92