The minute you drive through the automated gates of Monart you start to feel the complete sense of relaxation that awaits you. At the top of the winding driveway your car is parked for you and you don’t see it again till it is time to go home. Through the period house, you enter into an oasis of luxury and pampering. The reception is a glass atrium with natural timber beam supports and a wonderful winding staircase that brings you to the spa area. All areas of the building look out into the woods and there’s a lovely walk around the river.
Monart is consistently voted on eof the top spa destinations in the world, and once you slip into your comfy robe and everyone else does the same, just put all the hustle and bustle of outside away and totally unwind in any one of the relaxation areas, whether pampering yourself with treatments or just relaxing and reading a book.
Food is also a major part of the Monart experience and the main dining room is a large open area broken over two levels, again all looking out into the gardens, and at night time the trees are lit up with dainty fairy lights giving a real enchanted feeling. Dinner is a set menu of 3-courses at €39.95. It is short and to the point with six starters and the same again of mains.
From Monarts wine cellar there are a lot of options to choose by the glass which is spread over two pages and ranges in price form €7.50 to €20.00; when you go into bubbles for a glass of Tattinger Rose. There is a page of half bottles, and this is where we stopped as I wanted white and he wanted red. Prices here were anywhere between €15.50 and €23.50. I enjoyed a Sancerre 2009 from the Loire Valley at €22.50 and hubby chose a Fleurie Domaine des Marrans 2010 from Beaujolais for €20.50. From then on the list was broken into whites and reds, styles of wines and regions, and you can spend as little or as much as you like, with bottles from €25.50 for a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, a Los Tilos 2011 or at the opposite extreme, €1,779.00 for a Bordeaux, Chateau Latour 1990 Pauillac.
The starters gave you a choice of such delicacies as confit pork croquette served with quail eggs and red pepper puree; carmelised Kilmore scallops with pea blinis, black pudding boudin and cider vinaigrette or smoked haddock, ricotta & basil ravioli with tomato & truffle ragout and asparagus. I chose the confit duck & foie gras ballantine which was wrapped in Parma ham and served with a mango & chilli chutney on brioche. I enjoyed this with a small glass of dessert wine, counterintuitive but it really brought out the taste of the foie gras. Hubbie had the spiced chicken consommé which came with a confit chicken wonton, fava beans and pickled ginger. Simple dish, well executed, it really was a toss up who got the better dish here.
For mains the choice just got even better, if possible. There was a chargrilled fillet of Wexford Hereford beef with fondant potato; a roast saddle of Wicklow venison which was served with garlic & herb puree, steamed venison pudding and a chocolate jus. After the richness of the Foie Gras, I ordered the baked turbot fillet with sweet potato & scallion risotto, which came with fennel marmalade and preserved lemon. None of the Al Dente rubbish with this risotto, the texture was perfect and the flavours were light and fresh. Himself got stuck into the seared monkfish tail with curried Wexford mussels, spinach and lemongrass foam. Hearty dish for fish, it suited his more robust appetite, and the plate was cleaned.
On the menu all dishes are highlighted as a spa dish, or gluten free, contains nuts or available as a dairy free option on request. If like me you’re constantly battling with your weight you certainly don’t feel like you’re being deprived, there are plenty of healthy options. The dress code in the dining room is shabby chic and it’s the only time we weren’t in our robes.
The atmosphere is definitely relaxed but the service is exceptionally professional and the food would fall into the realm of fine dining.
When it came to desserts it would have been rude not to have a look, and once we did resistance was futile. We decided to continue treating our bodies nicely and went for Monarts take on banoffi, a banana parfait rolled in white chocolate crumble, salted toffee puree and buttered banana. Needless to say we left nothing behind.
After dinner we retired to the garden lounge and over a couple of drinks chatted about the wonderful experience we had just enjoyed. The atmosphere in the bar was just as relaxing. This was definitely one of these times we never wanted to come to an end, but as they say all good things do. We left Monart behind the next morning, and floated back down the drive on a cloud of Zen like wellbeing, all the better to face the world.
**There is also a page on the menu specifically for vegetarians with a choice of three starters and three mains. A goat’s cheese & fig Carpaccio with candied walnuts, roast figs and a fig & port sorbet is one of the delicious starters and there is a wild mushroom and purple broccoli risotto with rocket and poached hen’s eggs as a main dish, so a lot more imaginative then you may ordinarily find.