Monday, 24 March 2008

Portballintrae Weekend

It was bitterly cold at Portballintrae, County Antrim, despite layers of thermal clothing. Still, it was dry and there were sunny intervals. We arrived about four o'clock and, whilst driving past the Bayview Hotel in the village, darted in to reserve a table that evening. The front entrance was firmly closed due to the weather; the sea was particularly rough. Instead, we drove to the rear of the hotel and entered there. We intended to dine that evening at the Catering College's Academy Restaurant, but it was closed.

There have been a few changes at Portballintrae in the sense that Sweeney's Bar has just re-opened after being closed down for a while; it's a transitional period while they change the management of the place. The previous management appear to have re-located up the road to the Bayview Hotel, so the Kanes now run the hotel and the proprietor of both the hotel and pub appears to be Seymour Sweeney, Esquire.

When we arrived at the Bayview Hotel, at about half-past seven, it was busy. Our table was just outside the front conservatory. By the way, the waiting staff have changed too. The Dowager and my aunt both ordered the same starters: smoked salmon salad with wheaten bread. I had the scampi and there were about ten little pieces resting on a substantial bed of shredded lettuce. I felt that the portion of scampi was less than generous; and that's saying something, for me! We all shared garlic fries, French-fried onions and sauted mushrooms.

For pudding I ordered sticky toffee pudding which we all tasted and deemed quite dry; not moist enough. Its flavour was OK though. Including a bottle of red wine, our bill amounted to about fifty-one pounds. An enjoyable enough meal.

The next morning we drove to the East Strand car park in Portrush, County Antrim, which has 350 spaces. Parked opposite the beach we watched the hardy surfers, kite-flyers, walkers and footballers for a while before going for a walk into the town. In the White House store, which is greatly improved, we browsed and spotted the brand new elevator! The ancient, original one with wood panelling (and the door kept jamming so the old lift wouldn't budge until the door was properly closed!) has been replaced by a shiny modern one. Incidentally, the White House has a very good self-service cafeteria upstairs, serving home-made food.

From Portrush we moved on to the lovely village of Bushmills, County Antrim. Bushmills is one of my favourite villages in Northern Ireland. It has the Bushmills Inn Hotel which, to my mind, is one of the very best hotels in the Province; and too many shops and eating-places to list here. There's a splendid little second-hand book shop cum curio shop on the main street which we always visit. There are two good fish & chip shops, a family butcher, three or four small supermarkets and a variety of pubs too. I am very fond of Bushmills.

On Saturday evening we ate at Bushfoot Golf Club in Portballintrae. The clubhouse was busy with diners and golfers. Their system is that one goes up to the bar counter to order one's drinks, including wine. At out table, I ordered a plain fillet steak and the others shared a steak between them. we all shared the chips, onion rings and side salad. I went up to the bar and bought a bottle of red wine. We also shared two desserts, "Lemon Lush"(a sort of roulade) and strawberry Pavlova. I'm afraid I cannot recall the overall cost; however it was reasonable. I think my steak cost £14.50 and the vegetables were extra. We retired to the lounge bar and were entertained by a man who sang and played the guitar.

On Sunday it was still extremely cold and I went for a brisk walk. Later on we drove to the tiny hamlet of Portbradden, County Antrim, and spotted the Reverend McConnell Auld seated on his chaise longue and looking out to sea. His miniature St Gobban's church was open. We motored on to Ballintoy harbour where there was a fair number of cars. Roark's harbour tea-room was open, serving fresh mackerel with wheaten, various pies etcetera. We ambled to the harbour for a walk. I had noticed in the newspaper that some local Christians had organized a dawn service at Ballintoy harbour, at half-past six that morning followed by breakfast in the village of Ballintoy. I hope it was an Ulster Fry! There is a picture of Ballintoy harbour above.

That afternoon we packed up and had a snack lunch of assorted sandwiches in the Bushmills Inn Hotel; including egg and crispy bacon mayonnaise, chicken and chutney, and real ham & cheese. Delectable. They cost £5.45 per round. We sat in the front lounge bar. It was busy and very cosy indeed, what with all those log fires generating such a prodigious heat! Full blast. Ending up at the hotel was, yet again, a change of plan because we intended to have lunch at Bushmills Garden Centre whose gates were firmly shut for Easter Sunday. Their loss was the hotel's gain; mind you, they deserve a break like everyone else. They are open most days of the year.

So that's our Portballintrae weekend. We enjoyed a straight and trouble-free run back to Belfast by late afternoon.


Anonymous said...

The Bayview hotel is not owned or operated by Mr. Sweeney. It is ownede by the Kanes and Mr. Menary.

Timothy Belmont said...

Apologies for that. I stand corrected.