You know I love Monart. I buy into the vibes and genuinely unwind there. A couple of weeks ago I did a short one nighter with a friend (my first time leaving baby P overnight with just her daddy) and it was as relaxing as ever. But I've visited quite a few times now (and I've also experienced the peerless luxury of Ashford Castle) so my praise is more measured and a little less effusive.
It is still, hands down, the best spa experience I've had in Ireland in terms of treatments and the expertise of the staff. My hot stone massage was nothing short of amazing and was tailored to my preferred pressure (which isn't often the case with hot stone massages because they're more focused on the effect of the heat than on the pressure exerted). My friend highly recommended her ear candling and Indian head massage treatments and found them both really relaxing. She thinks she might even have dozed off half way through. She's a spa connoisseur, having sampled some of the best spas around the world on her travels, and she agreed that Monart is a world class destination spa. There's a reason it was voted one of the world's best spas (along with my honeymoon location Pangkor Laut!)
The interiors are beautiful and well maintained. The staff are beyond friendly and professional. No complaints on the the rooms either; they're airy and spacious and each room has either a small decked terrace or balcony.
I hate finding fault with Monart (I really enjoy staying there!) but if we're being honest, the food lets it down somewhat. There. I said it. So this post is firmly about the food offering at Monart.
Lunch was open sambos (salmon for me and chicken for my partner in crime) in the garden lounge. Perfect. Dinner was a large chicken caesar salad for me and steak for herself, also in the garden lounge (the restaurant was fully booked). Steak was good and cooked as she requested but there was some confusion over the sides which accompanied the steak when our waitress was taking our order. At the end an additional €5.00 marked 'open food' appeared on our bill. It could have been for the extra portion of homemade bread we were offered (which seems a bit mean if that's what it was) or it could have been for the chips which we had been told would come with the steak but didn't. We could have queried it but life is short and it's only a fiver. To put this in perspective, my massage cost €120 plus tip.
The salad was... fine. Chicken strips were tough and a bit chewier than I'd like and the dressing wasn't tossed, just squirted over the hot chicken but I'd eat a tyre if it was coated in caesar dressing so it wasn't a big issue.
After dinner we shuffled (in our robes and slippers) into the old house for cocktails. My friend's were nice. It's not the Blind Pig (more on which in the next post!) but no complaints either. My Grey Goose martini was fantastic. That said, a martini depends of the quality of the vodka so I'd be concerned for a bar if a Grey Goose martini with some olives wasn't perfect every time.
My longed for espresso martini certainly looked lovely. But my misgivings, when I saw it presented in a margarita glass, were proved correct. An espresso martini should be premium vodka, coffee liqueur and espresso all shaken vigorously with ice and served in a martini glass. Mine was suspiciously big and when I checked the menu I realised that the house espresso martini has an extra shot of a sweet liqueur - creme de cacao. Yuck. This left it sickly sweet and more like a watery dessert than an after dinner digestif. The waitress noticed my untouched cocktail, asked was it alright and thanked me for letting them know it wasn't to my liking but we were still charged for it...and no replacement cocktail was offered. That might have been a nice touch.
So I moved back to Grey Goose martinis for the rest of the evening!
Breakfast was as lovely as ever. I LOVE how they use proper polished silverwear at every meal!
After our treatments on Sunday afternoon followed by a nap in the dark relaxation room and a couple of hours' reading in the quiet room, we got dressed for the first time in 24 hours for afternoon tea. My last experience of Monart's afternoon tea was marred by the butter on all of the sandwiches. Mum can't eat butter so she requested butter free sambos but the kitchen didn't get the memo.
This time around, when the waiter checked if we had any allergies or preferences, my friend asked for no fish and no eggs. Of the savoury finger foods, this left her a ham sandwich on brown bread and a large tartlet. So the waiter said he'd give her two of each to replace the egg and watercress sandwich and the the smoked salmon cream cheese wrap. I don't think it would have been a huge imposition on the kitchen staff to have offered her an alternative (maybe chicken sandwiches) instead. Of course, the tartlet was actually a quiche made of eggs so that was a non-runner! The scones were powder dry and required copious amounts of jam and great globs of cream but the miniature desserts were as lovely as they looked.
Afternoon tea starts at only about €22 so it's not particularly pricey but it could be better.
I'll caveat this post by saying that I didn't eat in the restaurant this time (it was booked solid) but I've always enjoyed the evening dinner menu there. In fact, at about €40 per person for three courses plus various amuse bouches it's excellent value.
So the upshot is that I'll go back (not immediately though - I've a list of other Irish spas to try first) but I'll be giving afternoon tea a miss and booking dinner in the restaurant well in advance.