Maiden voyage to Everglades

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Let me begin with a shocking confession, I have reached the grand old age of 40 and I have never, I repeat, never, been to Londonderry. How can that be? Such a glaring omission. So when the chance came to visit the Everglades Hotel in the city, I jumped at the opportunity to take my maiden voyage to the Maiden City.

Run by the Hastings Hotel group, the facilities, staff and service at the Everglades is everything you could hope for and proved to be the perfect base to explore the city.

Joined by my mum for a mother/daughter break, we started our visit to the Everglades with Afternoon Tea.

Relaxing on the comfy sofas, listening to the pianist gently tickling the ivories in the background, there is no better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

The phenomenon of afternoon tea has skyrocketed in recent years and its popularity isn’t showing any signs of declining anytime soon. And thank goodness for it. It always feels like such a decadent yet sophisticated way to spend an afternoon and the offering at the Everglades is without doubt one of the best afternoon teas I have had the pleasure of experiencing.

There was no shortage of food on offer, from delicate sandwiches, including a platter suitable for a vegetarian as requested, to warm, freshly baked scones, and, of course, as described in the menu, the ‘Legenderry’ pastry assortment, all of which were baked in-house.

Served on the finest local bread, the sandwiches had filings to suit all palates, including Grant’s Irish Baked Ham, Smoked Irish Salmon, Clements Free Range Egg and Cress, Northern Irish Chicken in tikka dressing, and roasted vegetables.

As well as a selection of traybakes, the array of cakes and buns are enough to satisfy any sweet tooth, including banana loaf, zingy lemon drizzle cake, vanilla cupcakes, fresh berry tartlets, homemade shortbread, and dark chocolate mousse.

All washed down with as much tea and coffee you can manage.

And if all of this is too much for you, and believe me, it will be, the hotel provides boxes so that you can take home anything you can’t manage to squeeze in while you’re there.

I thought this was a fantastic idea and at about nine o’clock that night, when you fancy a late night cuppa, it is fantastic to have a little box of delights to go with it,

When I am staying at a hotel one of my top priorities is the bed. Surely this must be the case for everyone? There is nothing worse than climbing into bed at the end of a day of sightseeing to find it is too hard, or, just as bad for anyone with a dodgy back, too soft, But thankfully, like Goldilocks, I found the beds at the Everglades to be just right.

They were comfortable, supportive and at the end of a long drive and a lot of shopping, a good night’s sleep was well deserved.

The rooms are bright and airy with all the mod cons you would expect, including an iPod dock, which in this day of gadgetry and tech was greatly appreciated.

The rooms are designated as ‘superior’ and ‘executive’ but whichever you are in, you will have all the amenities you need including a flatscreen television, hairdryer, trouser press, and of course, tea and coffee making facilities, essential when you want to tuck into your afternoon tea leftovers.

The bathroom is modern and spacious, with essentials such as body wash, soap and shampoo from the ESPA range included, adding a touch of luxury to the stay, And, of course, don’t miss out on Hastings trademark rubber duck, making its home amongst the towels.

We decided to stay in the hotel that evening for dinner and we were very glad we made that decision. The food in the Everglades Grill was second to none.

After gorging on afternoon tea, a main course was all we could manage. The Cajun dusted escalope of Irish chicken, served on a bed of Lyonnaise potatoes, smothered in a rich chorizo cream and topped with crispy tobacco onions was superb.

The vegetarian options were also first rate and I am reliably informed that the roasted vegetable curry, which was served with boiled rice, naan bread and coriander yogurt was one of the finest dishes ever consumed.

The executive head chef, Desmond Morris describes the food at the Everglades as ‘traditional with a twist’ and that seems to perfectly sum up the menu. Whether you are adventurous or prefer something more down to earth, there will be something to delight you.

Breakfast the next morning included all of your favourites, If, like me, you look forward to your hotel breakfast then you will find everything you could think of here, including a full Irish breakfast made with locally sourced produce.

A lovely touch on the table was a little booklet that tells you exactly where food has come from, showcasing the local suppliers who have made your start to the day just a bit more special.

A particular mention must go to the staff at the hotel who were friendly and extremely helpful throughout our stay. They were on hand to offer help and advice, including guidance on things to do and see in the city for inexperienced visitors like ourselves.

If you are planning a visit to Londonderry this summer, there can be no better place to stay than the Everglades, It is central yet set just outside the city centre within easy driving distance. It offers the very best in service, as well as a first class dining experience.

Find out more about the Everglades Hotel, including their special offers, online at www.hastingshotel.com, or contact the hotel on 028 7132 1066.