A Country House With City Cuisine
Derry is one of the few walled cities in Europe still surrounded by its original fortifications, making the historical city centre an atmospheric place. Derry, officially known as Londonderry, has always been a city partial to the arts, and support for the arts in all its forms is still very strong. Given the relatively small population of the city, there range of artistic endeavours is surprising in both diversity and proliferation. Luckily for us, food is among them.
The Playhouse is a success story in bringing the arts to the people. After a thoughtful renovation of an old convent, The Playhouse now hosts small theatre and dance productions as well as an art gallery and space for use by outside organisations, such as the ones bringing the youth of Derry deeper into the creative and performing arts. Quirky touches like the fireplaces in the restrooms remind us that art and functionality can work well together. One restroom even has an old stove next to the sinks.
One of the arts growing in stature is the culinary arts. The stereotype of British/Irish food being bland and uninventive is long gone; one local bistro, 21, unassuming on the outside, has a nice selection of spicy options like fiery peppersteak sandwiches to please the palates of adventurous or experienced diners.
Just outside Derry is the lovely Beech Hill Country House Hotel, an estate where fine food and wine are at the forefront of hospitality. The estate has extensive grounds, heavily treed and lovely in autumn as the leaves change colours. The period-style bedrooms evince a respect for tradition. There is something about a fireplace in the bedroom that gives an immediate sense of peacefulness; the level of comfort and quietude are equally enjoyable. The staff in this family-owned property are without exception eager to make every guest feel at home.
Come dinnertime, Beech Hill’s restaurant steals the limelight. The evening’s experience begins with a relaxing aperitif in the drawing room. It is here that dinner orders are placed before guests are escorted to their tables for the first course. One would think the historic ambience would indicate traditional food will be featured on the menu. As in other places across Northern Ireland, the menus list a few surprises. Under no circumstances should you skip dessert. The buttermilk panna cotta is a refreshing bit of tartness in what is now a near-ubiquitous option. More surprising still was the champagne jelly presenting fruits of the forest in a marvellous state of suspended animation.
While in Derry, a visit to the newly opened Museum Of Free Derry is a must for an insightful look into the massacre inflicted by British soldiers on 30 January 1972, the notorious Bloody Sunday. As in the case of Australian Breaker Morant, the subsequent investigation was a travesty of justice and the policemen involved were deemed to have done nothing wrong in causing the deaths of thirteen people, some of whom were shot in the back or shot while waving white handkerchiefs in attending to those already wounded. The man who volunteers his time to run the museum is the brother of one of the youths shot 37 years ago.
Source = e-Travel Blackboard: R.L.B