By George, this is a proper birthday feast
How Limerick spoiled me as I said goodbye to my twenties
IT is only three years since Limerick was designated as the inaugural City of Culture – and three years since I promised myself that I would make the trip and see the city for myself.
But it was only on my third trip – earlier this month – that I would finally get the chance to see exactly what Limerick has to offer.
My first two jaunts to the city were for all-day work conferences, both in the depths of the Irish winter.
Ready to strike for my third time lucky, I and my husband Alan travelled from Dublin to Limerick for a birthday weekend to mark the last (sob) year of my 20s.
We stayed at the George Hotel, a boutique hotel located centrally on Shannon Street that has the hard-won reputation of being one of the city’s most exclusive places to stay.
The hotel itself is ultra-modern, very laid-back, with an almost open-plan design once you take the escalator to the first floor.
It took us less than a minute to check in before we were whisked up to our room on the top floor. As we stepped out of the lift, we were greeted with panoramic views of Limerick’s skyline.
If I thought this view was impressive, I was in for an even greater surprise when I pushed open the door to my room. The first thing that caught my eye was a decadent chocolate cake – and it was love at first sight.
But the same can also be said for the luxurious room, which was split into a separate bedroom, living room and bathroom. And just beyond was a balcony, which also looked out across the rooftops of the city.
In the living room, I sank into the deep, sunken couch and spent quite some time curled up there, just me and the birthday cake, which was a lovely touch from the restaurant’s management.
THIS was to be our first taste of Limerick’s genuine hospitality and the generous spirit of the locals – a theme which would continue until our very last hour at the end of the weekend.
We decided to prop up the counter of the hotel bar before dinner in the restaurant, Da Vincenzo. The bar has got the mix of modern but traditional spot on. A beautiful rectangular glass ceiling pours light down into the bar, which is decorated with chandeliers and stencil- style art on the walls. The restau- rant is almost part of the bar, but extends into a more formal setting towards the front of the building.
I struggled with the amount of choice on offer when asked the simple question of what I’d like to drink – being an indecisive person – because the menu was laden with many different cocktails, wines and beers.
Given that I was celebrating my last year of unbridled youth, I went with a celebratory Prosecco and followed it up with a ‘Para- dise Island’ cocktail (Havana club, Cointreau, pineapple and lemon juice – very tropical).
For dinner, we were led to a table which had views down across Shannon Street. It was perfect for people-watching.
The menu, as can be expected from the name Da Vincenzo, is a mix of classic and new Italian dishes, with a vast array of options to suit pretty much any palate.
For the more ravenous guests, the restaurant offers ‘by the metre pizza’, which is generally recommended for between three to five guests. Given there were just two of us and I had already scoffed half a cake, we went straight to mains.
I played it safe once again (I’m sure this will change when I turn 30) and opted for the oven-baked lasagne.
Alan chose the turkey milanese, which is a breaded turkey escalope, served with or without a carbonara tagliatelle.
Italy is our favourite place to holiday and we have shared some of our best memories, including food memories, there.
And the food in Da Vincenzo is the real deal. The lasagne was fresh, with a deep and rich tomato sauce topped with a melted buffalo mozzarella.
The turkey milanese was lightly breaded, thin, crispy, a generous portion. Both plates were cleared completely and the whole lot was washed down with a bottle of Chianti that was perhaps a little too easy to drink.
For those who have space for dessert (mine being the entire chocolate cake) the type of fare on offer includes tiramusu, gelato, chocolate mousse and even a pizza Nutella, which I I’ll drink to that: Our birthday girl Jennifer is in fine spirit have promised myself I will return to try. The service was impeccable, never intrusive but never too far away if you needed something.
It was a perfect day and evening, made wonderful by the staff of the George, who went out of their way to make us feel welcome at all times.
Not being familiar with the city, I had wondered before the trip what we would fill our weekend with – but my worries were unfounded. We spent the Saturday wandering around the ‘milk market’, taking in the sights and smells: fresh cheese, meats, chocolate, wine, soaps, antiques.
We ambled around city centre shops and pubs and were amazed once again at how the locals of Limerick go out of their way to be friendly and to help.
One thing is for sure: I won’t be leaving it three years to make my return trip to Limerick and to the George Hotel.