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Holywood's Rayanne House: sumptuous tasting menu with perfect wine pairings

Warmed chocolate torte, salted caramel and vanilla sauce
Warmed chocolate torte, salted caramel and vanilla sauce
Seared Atlantic scallop, halibut, oyster mushroom & morel beaurre blanc, Copeland Island crab & apple salad
Beetroot &and gin cured venison carpaccio, whipped goats cheese, Armagh pears, garlic croutons, walnuts and herb aioli

By Paula Gracey

If you consider yourself a connoisseur of fine food and wine, Holywood’s renowned Rayanne House has to be on your to-do list.

Famed for its Titanic Menu, a stunning nine-course recreation of the last dinner served on the ill-fated liner, there is much more to chef Conor McClelland’s repertoire as we discovered at his latest sumptuous food and wine matched tasting menu. (He also owns the place with wife Bernie, who is our welcoming host).

It is such a fantastic evening which doesn’t happen every week, just on certain dates during the year, making the experience even more special and worth looking forward to.

Multi-award winning Rayanne House itself is an absolute gem, overlooking Belfast Lough in the Holywood Hills and on a summer’s evening the views are spectacular while on a cold winter’s evening it is so cosy and welcoming – I could actually move in.

This latest tasting menu consisted of six courses devised and personally prepared by chef Conor who never fails to impress with his amazing understanding of flavours and textures as he creates each delicious courses using our fabulous local produce. After a drink in the cosy drawing room we are joined in the dining room by two other couples, a table of three and a table of four and that’s it – intimate, cosy and comfortable dining at its best on tables dressed in rich burgundy linen table cloths and napkins, and wonderfully heavy cut glass wine glasses.  It has a sense of occasion about it and you know you are in for a treat.

Celeriac soup with toasted hazelnuts and truffle oil started the meal off with a bang – creamy and flavoursome with crunchy hazelnuts, matched with Ringelbacher Schlossberg Riesling Spatlese Trocken – a dry and full bodied Riesling with stonefruit aromas and flavours and a zing of lemon.

Next up beetroot and gin cured venison carpaccio, whipped goats cheese, Armagh pears, garlic croutons, Walnuts and herb alioli – oh the wonderful balance of flavours and textures – such a treat for the tastebuds as well as the eyes – pretty as a picture! This was paired with Fleurie Domaine De LaMadone – a classic Beaujolais served slightly chilled  with delicious cherry aromas.

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Beetroot ∧ gin cured venison carpaccio, whipped goats cheese, Armagh pears, garlic croutons, walnuts and herb aioli

Fish next, seared Atlantic scallop, halibut, oyster mushroom and morel beurre blanc, Copeland Island crab and apple salad. This was my absolute favourite course – so flavoursome and served with Sancerre Domaine Du Pre Semele from the Loire Valley, which is clean and zippy with stone fruit flavours and zingy citrus. A heavenly pairing.

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Seared Atlantic scallop, halibut, oyster mushroom & morel beaurre blanc, Copeland Island crab & apple salad

Next we were tempted with sauteed Portavogie prawns, cherry tomatoes and fennel, Pernod, smoked garlic, fresh dill and cream topped with puff pastry – this looked amazing when it arrived and underneath the inviting puff pastry lid lay another magical mix of flavours and those prawns! I was very happy to see this was going to be paired with an Albarinio – Orballo Albarino to be exact, peach, floral and honey notes mix and mingle with herby notes and citrus, not to mention that delicious minerality that makes it go so well with seafood.

Aged beef fillet, foie gras and truffles, Madeira and Cognac reduction, Parmentier potato and veg garnish then arrived in all its splendour, wonderfully tender and that Madeira and Cognac reduction was stunningly delicious. Again, joy of joys for me, this was paired with a Pinor Noir from Germany - those aromas of blackberry, black cherry and prunes are so inviting and this dry, elegant and fruity Pinot Noir matched the dish perfectly.

Finally, last but not least, dessert – warmed chocolate torte, salted caramel and vanilla sauce, nothing more needs to be said – gorgeous and not heavy or cloying, just the perfect end to a wonderful meal, served with a glass of Sauternes – heaven.

What a wonderful way to spend an evening, with just the right amount of time between courses and well judged portion sizes, we were happily full of delicious food and wine. Excellent value, too, at £65 per person. Look out for the next one – really, you have to try it, I’ll probably see you there!

Check out www.rayannehouse.com

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