Thursday, 29 November 2012

Sir Mark Horner

The Queen has been pleased to approve that the honour of Knighthood be conferred upon Thomas Mark Horner Esq, QC, on his appointment as a Justice of the High Court in Northern Ireland.

The Honourable Mr Justice Horner was called to the Bar of Northern Ireland in 1979 and took Silk in 1996.

Mr Justice Horner was a Bursar of the Bar Library and Chairman of the Personnel Committee with responsibility for, respectively, overseeing the Bar Library’s finances and staffing.

From 2008, until his appointment to High Court Judge, Mr Justice Horner was an Independent Assessor for Compensation in victims’ cases in relation to miscarriages of justice.

Additionally, from 1996, he has been a Governor of Campbell College where he has been involved in the Curriculum and Pastoral Committee.

Glorious Goodwood


One programme I am determined to view this evening is a documentary about Charles, Earl of March and Kinrara, and the challenges he faces in the maintenance of his ancestral seat, Goodwood House, near Chichester, West Sussex.

The Aristocrats is on Channel 4 this evening at 9pm.

Lord March is heir to the Duke of Richmond and Gordon.

Charles, 1st Duke of Richmond, 1st Duke of Lennox, 1st Duke of Aubigny (1672-1723) was the natural son of CHARLES II and his mistress Louise de Kérouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth.

The trouble is that it clashes with two other programmes I've been watching, Goodnight Britain and Great Continental Railway Journeys, which I shall have to record simultaneously.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Gibb's Revisited

Five or six of us spent another glorious day at Gibb's Island today.

We were burning the reminder of the gorse. The task is now largely complete.



Lunch for a contented Timothy Belmont was chicken & bacon sandwiches, washed down with a flask of tea.

Royal Photos

 Picture: Carl Court/PA


The state arrival and welcoming of the Emir or Amir of Kuwait at Windsor Castle yesterday.

The Prince Philip, wearing a heavy, black, double-breasted, Chesterfield overcoat, top hat and carrying a Swaine Adeney umbrella ~ with its distinctive silver band  ~ escorted the Emir of Kuwait to inspect the guard of honour lined up in two rows in front of the royal party.

I wrote about my umbrella collection here.

Picture: Matthew Lloyd/Getty Images 

The Sovereign's escort provided by the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment in their breastplates and plumed helmets.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Killynether Copse




SATURDAY, 1st DECEMBER 2012:  HAZEL COPPICING AT KILLYNETHER WOOD, COUNTY DOWN


Coppicing involves cutting the trees right down to the stump at ground level.  If done correctly, rather than killing the tree, this can actually encourage fresh regrowth and actually extend the lifespan of the tree.

But more importantly, it temporarily opens up the canopy and allows light to reach the forest floor, which benefits a great deal of woodland plants and insects.

It is a traditional method of woodland management that our volunteer group has spent the last 8 years recreating at Killynether.

This year, the National Trust Volunteer Group will be joined by some crafts-people who will show us the techniques they use to harvest some of the hazel to use in their crafts.   

The Group will meet at the Killynether car park (round the corner from Scrabo country park) at 10am.


Contact Craig McCoy on 07776 462537 for any further details.

Charles Eager McDowell, 1923-2012


I am greatly saddened to learn of the death of my first cousin, once removed, Rear-Admiral Charles Eager McDowell, US Navy (retired), on Sunday morning, 25th November, 2012.

My cousin Charles was born at Manchester, New Hampshire, on 9th September, 1923.

He lived for a large part of his life at Alexandria, Virginia.

He served as  Judge Advocate-General of the US Navy from 1978-80.

Millionaire!

Since the 2nd December, 2007, visits to Lord Belmont in Northern Ireland stand at 1,000,166.

The one million mark was passed early today, Tuesday, the 27th November, 2012.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Countdown: IV

500 hits more and the target of one million will have been surpassed.

Kuwaiti State Visit


His Highness Sheikh Sabah IV bin Ahmad Al-Sabah, Emir of the State of Kuwait, will pay a state visit to the United Kingdom tomorrow:

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Morning - The Amir of the State of Kuwait is accompanied to Windsor by The Prince of Wales on behalf of The Queen. 

Afternoon – The Amir will be met by The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh at the Royal Dais in Datchet Road, Windsor, and take a State Carriage Procession to Windsor Castle where The Amir and The Duke of Edinburgh will inspect the Guard of Honour; luncheon and exchange of official gifts and viewing of an exhibition of Kuwaiti items from the Royal Collection. 
Evening - Visit to Sandhurst; call at Windsor Castle by the Leader of the Opposition; call at Windsor Castle by the Convenor of the Liberal Democrat Peers; State Banquet hosted by The Queen.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Morning - Visit to Clarence House; Visit to Lancaster House. 

Afternoon - Meeting and Lunch at No. 10 Downing Street. 
Evening - Presentation of an Address of Welcome and Banquet at Guildhall.


Thursday, 29 November 2012

Morning – The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh bid farewell to The Amir of the State of Kuwait at Windsor Castle; Visit to Westminster Abbey; Address at the Palace of Westminster.

Lobster Pot Appeal

I HAVE RECEIVED AN APPEAL FOR INFORMATION AND OLD PHOTOGRAPHS RELATING TO THE LOBSTER POT (LP) BAR AND RESTAURANT, STRANGFORD, COUNTY DOWN.

THE PERIOD WOULD BE FROM THE LP's ESTABLISHMENT IN THE 1960s UNTIL THE EARLY 1990s, PRIOR TO MAJOR STRUCTURAL ALTERATIONS BY SUBSEQUENT OWNERS.


I have read with much interest your commentary on the old LP. My first visit to the LP was in or around 1974. My father (a publican) had sold some items from an old pub he owned in Belfast to another publican.

The purchaser was the owner of the LP; probably at that time Seamus McMorrow. Some weeks later my father bundled us into his Austin 1800 and we headed to Strangford to enjoy a Sunday lunch. It was the first of many visits.

For the next thirty years members of my extended family made many visits. During my frequent summer holidays in Cloughy I would travel with friends to Strangford (packed in like sardines in an old VW Beetle) to indulge in a generous portion of battered scampi.The memories run deep.

Since then I am reliably informed the bar has stayed open two days a week to protect the license. No food is served.

Travelling in Strangford's general direction last month I decided to take a detour. I found the Pot in a sorry state.

Reflecting on the past and finding a pair of rose tinted glasses in a drawer at home I decided to buy it. We expect to close the purchase during December. Having a daughter in the catering business who is keen to take on something new I thought what the heck it's only money. I think my father would be delighted.

Given the substantial renovations, the patina of the old Pot is long gone. Alas, the days of the crisp white table cloth, the inch thick A4 size menu and bulging wine cellar are to a large degree extinct (unless you are after a Michelin star). 

Casual dining using fresh local ingredients is the prevailing mantra.

We can't bring the old LP back but I like to think we can instil in those working in it some of the excellent qualities for which it was previously renowned. The aim is to provide good wholesome food, a friendly and courteous welcome, attention to detail and reasonable prices.

I hope over the next few months to reconstruct some of the Pot's history.

Anything you can provide in that regard would be appreciated. Perhaps you could send the message out to those you have had responses from asking for their memories. Perhaps they will have photos stashed away somewhere.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Countdown: III

We are 1,600 short of the one million mark, judging by StatCounter.

The current prediction is that 1,000,000 shall be reached by Tuesday, 27th November, 2012.

Breakfast Cereals


The vast array of breakfast cereals currently available simply does not enthuse me at all. There appears to be a vast proliferation of every conceivable kind.

My preferred choice of breakfast ~ with the exception of a full, cooked British breakfast  ~ remains wholemeal buttered toast with home-made marmalade, honey or crispy bacon.

I like an Ulster speciality, the "plain" loaf, viz.  high-fibre Nutty Krust. This is a true Ulster-Scots tradition.

I had a fondness for honey and nut bran flakes, now no longer available in Northern Ireland. Apparently they are not sufficiently popular.

I like Alpen original muesli. though there are too many currants or hard raisins for my liking.

I feel that standard corn-flakes and honey nut corn-flakes lack nutritional value.

I have tried other cereals, though so far nothing has appealed to me.

The Lobster Pot


I WROTE THIS PIECE ABOUT THE LOBSTER POT RESTAURANT BAR IN AUGUST, 2008, AS RECOLLECTIONS OF THE LOBSTER POT DURING THE 1970s.

I HAVE RECEIVED A NUMBER OF MESSAGES SINCE THEN. THERE IS CLEARLY A MEASURE OF SENTIMENT ABOUT THE OLD PLACE. I'M PUBLISHING THE ARTICLE AGAIN, FOR THE BENEFIT OF NEW READERS

STRANGORD, COUNTY DOWN, IS ONE OF THE MOST PICTURESQUE VILLAGES IN NORTHERN IRELAND.



HERE HE GOES again, I hear you groaning. Timothy Belmont has wandered down Memory Lane and dived into the pond of Nostalgia. I'm permitted a spot of nostalgia now and again.

Heaven knows how many gallons of gin I have consumed since the mid-seventies; a fair amount of it within the walls of the revered Lobster Pot in the picturesque village of Strangford, County Down. 

Those were the days indeed. A perfect day started with the sun rising and waking me from my slumber very early on a Saturday or Sunday at Castle Ward.

Our boat, the Dolphin, was ship-shape and ready for action. The tide was right and a day was spent on Strangford Lough, the sea as calm as a mill-pond, perhaps visiting an island and having an Ulster Fry or fillet steak - from Duffy the butcher - whilst basking in the sunshine.

Incidentally, the Hon William and Mrs Ward (now the Viscount and Viscountess Bangor [Sarah Bradford]) beat us to it, on one occasion, by buying a whole fillet of beef, thereby leaving young Duffy with nothing. They were served just before us in the shop.

Evenings were invariably spent in the Lobster Pot. Here are some memories of that wonderful place:-
  • Driving down in our Mums' Minis, with petrol costing 70 pence a gallon
  • Celebrating exam results in the lounge-bar
  • The lounge-bar was carpeted, with brown or blue velour buttoned banquettes lining the walls and down the centre too, crescent-shaped
  • Memorabilia on the walls like stuffed game-birds in cabinets, a ship's wheel, port and starboard lights, a lobster-pot, lifebelts
  • A telly high up in a corner & inconspicuous
  • Spirits served in french-style wine glasses
  • Really large, fresh scampi - langoustines - & chips cost £3.65; tartare sauce in minute, sealed plastic packs but...
  • In the Dining-room sauces were served in stainless-steel dishes with spoons
  • A grand a la carte menu enclosed within a leather padded A4-size folder
  • The main menu was exhaustive in terms of choice; vegetables ranged from asparagus tips to sweetcorn or cauliflower, fresh peas, sauté mushrooms, leeks - almost everything
  • The main dining-room was at the front and a second one was at the rear
  • Great staff like Ann the head waitress and Jim the bar manager, both defecting to the rival across the Square when Walter became Mine Host
  • Two pretty waitresses in the bar in 1976 when I was sixteen and I fancied Julie. I sent her a Valentine card and addressed the envelope to "Julie the Sensuous Barmaid". Julie, if you're reading this now you know the secret; I know it's been preying on your mind for thirty years (!)
  • The Chicken Maryland was great; my favourite dinner was scampi, french-fried potatoes, french-fried onion rings, asparagus tips, perhaps sauté mushrooms too
  • We ate in the main dining-room occasionally; it was a toss-up between the LP or Aldo's in Ardglass (the late Samuel (Sammy) Crooks, a former Dean of Belfast, always recalled Aldo's green curtains!).
The Lobster Pot closed down in September, 2008. Here is an official Notice.

I have written about our last meal here.

It is inconceivable that the Lobster Pot's doors shall remain closed for good.

Recent owners, Messrs Johnson, McMorrow & Dabbernig excluded, have spent a small fortune in gutting out and dumping any vestiges of the original restaurant, which was renowned as being one of the most successful establishments in County Down during the 1970s and 1980s.

To my mind, it was a fundamental error of judgement to do this. Whilst it may have needed some minor redecoration, new upholstery and paintwork in keeping with its ambiance, it was foolish to spend money gutting the heart out of the dear old girl.

They may as well have changed the name. Her heart was mercilessly ripped out, thus making her utterly unrecognisable and a faint shadow of her former glory.

The Lobster Pot was never the same, to me, as a consequence of this action. It thrived in the safe hands of Dr Johnston in the sixties; and Seamus McMorrow during the seventies and eighties.

Things changed during the nineties, and I believe the Lobster Pot was never the same again.

I deplore the fate of the Lobster Pot, because I cared about it and still hold many happy memories of former times spent there with friends and family. 

I have such wonderful memories of the old place as it used to be.

First published in 2008.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Peaceful weekend

I stayed with friends at Ballyclare, County Antrim, last night. We enjoyed Thai cuisine ~ home-made scallop and prawn curry ~  wine and convivial company.

This evening I am at home, catching up on a few recorded programmes. I am minded to watch The Wolfman on Channel 4, which was partly filmed at Chatsworth House, Derbyshire.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Countdown: II

Visitor numbers stand at 996,000 as I type. The One Million mark shall be attained within five days.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Pizza Etiquette

reports in the Daily Telegraph that Debrett has launched a new Guide to Modern Etiquette [or dining in pizza restaurants!].

In a world of ever-changing standards, a Debrett’s guide to etiquette could be considered the last bastion of old-fashioned social decorum.

So it may be with some bemusement that readers behold their newest guide, on how best to eat with one’s fingers.

The list of modern “dos and don'ts” declares our “more informal times” mean it is now “acceptable” to eat with the hands rather than silverware.

Table manners “are no longer about adhering to a rigid, and outdated, code of conduct”, it proclaims, with the use of a knife and fork no longer an essential part of dining.

The guide, which includes a ten-point plan to eating with fingers, is a marked departure from previous guidance from Debrett’s, which emphasised the proper use of cutlery in polite company.

Jo Bryant, etiquette adviser at Debrett’s, has now insisted table manners do “exist for guidance”, but should not impact unnecessarily on the enjoyment of dining with family and friends.

The new guide, published today, states: “In our more informal times, it is acceptable to eat certain foods - such as pizza and calzone - with you hands.”

It goes on to explain the aim should be to create “as little mess as possible”, with food cut into manageable pieces and sufficiently cool.

“When eating with your hands it can be tempting to hunch over your plate,” it states. “Try to sit up straight, don't intrude into your neighbour's space and never put your elbows on the table.”

Critically, it stipulates diners must take “plenty of small bites”, with any food spilling down on the plate being dealt with using a fork.

“Don’t pick it up with your fingers,” the guide warns.

According to the new rules, which concentrate on Italian cuisine, diners should make use of napkins, placing it on the lap to ensure clothes remain pristine.

“Wipe your hands as you need to; but remember it's likely to be a bit messy. If your hands get food on them, try to avoid licking your fingers clean.”

Other pitfalls, such as getting food on the lips, should be dealt with in a discrete “dabbing” motion rather than “grand wiping gestures”.

In a point which would no doubt appear obvious to Debrett’s regular customers, it specifies: “Never wipe your mouth with your hand or talk with your mouth full - even if you have a conversational gem up your sleeve.”

The final point of the guide to modern table manners states:

“Eating with your hands is a relaxed and convivial style of dining, but don't let your standards slip. Remember your manners and, above all, never use your phone at the table.”
Jo Bryant, etiquette adviser at Debrett's, said:

"The British traditionally use a knife and fork when tucking into most meals. But the influence of other cultures and new foods, such as Calzone, means eating with our hands is a growing trend.Table manners are no longer about adhering to a rigid, and outdated, code of conduct. They exist for guidance but shouldn't take away from the pleasure of sharing a meal."

Debrett's traditionally prides itself on being “the modern authority on all matters etiquette, taste and achievement”, “recognising people of distinction and the finer things in life”.

The latest guidelines, which are to be published in Pizza Express restaurants nationwide, will join more traditional publications including the A-Z of Modern Manners, Etiquette for Girls and Debrett's Peerage & Baronetage.

Fulton's Lunch

Lunch for Timothy Belmont today at Fulton's Hawthorne Restaurant in Belfast.

Savoury mince tart with salad and coleslaw; which was sublime.

Alas, Fulton's simply did not have that certain je-ne-sais-quoi, that buzz, that it once enjoyed.

Is it finally running down?

Noblesse Oblige


A new documentary series begins this evening at 9pm on Channel 4.

The Aristocrats tonight features His Grace the 11th Duke of Marlborough, JP, DL, at his palatial Oxfordshire seat, Blenheim Palace.

At 200,000 square feet, the house is the largest in the British Isles. For 300 years it has been home to the Spencer-Churchills, since John Churchill was given its keys after his victory over the French in 1704.

The documentary provides an exclusive insight into one of the most infamous - and historically one of the bitterest - father-and-son relationships.

This film follows a story of reconciliation and redemption.

Sunny Marlborough, a former Guards officer, is 86 years old, courteous and fastidious.

His 56-year-old son Jamie, a courtesy lord, is styled Marquess of Blandford; or less formally, Jamie Blandford.

Jamie's excessive lifestyle and battles with drug addiction have been widely covered British media for most of his life.

This is the first time Jamie Blandford has appeared in a documentary. At stake is the inheritance of the biggest palace in the British Isles, Blenheim.

The Duke has dedicated his life to maintaining and safeguarding it.

Bigger than Buckingham and Windsor, with 187 rooms, the palace was given to the Marlboroughs as a gift from a grateful nation after the 1st Duke fought the Battle of Blenheim in 1704.

But after the Duke fell out with Queen Anne, he was saddled with paying for the rest of the construction, and the family joke that they have been fighting the 'Battle of Blenheim' ever since.

His Grace's solution was to open it up to mass tourism, and every year Blenheim receives 500,000 visitors.

Worried about the potential repercussions for Blenheim of his son's addiction, the Duke went to court in 1994 to disinherit his son: the first time an aristocrat had done so for 100 years.

Lord Blandford contested the case and eventually the two men reached a compromise: when his father died Jamie would inherit the title and the right to live in the palace, but a group of trustees would control the place and decide how much influence any Duke has.



NOW CLEAN, and reconciled with his father, Jamie, eventually to inherit the titles as 12th Duke of Marlborough (the title is customarily pronounced "Mawl-bro"), is back living on the estate, hoping to prove to Sunny and the all-powerful trustees that he is fit and able to take on the 'Battle of Blenheim'.

The cameras are there during the peak tourist season, often thwarted with bad weather, and in the run-up to the completion of a £2 million new block at the palace, opened by the constituency MP, the Rt Hon David Cameron.

Jamie Blandford speaks openly about the regrets about his past, feeling daunted but ambitious about running this incredible and grandiose estate. But will his father entrust him with his life's work and the Marlborough legacy?

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Tanqueray Bargain


Residents and tenants within the exempt jurisdiction of the Earldom of Belmont are advised that the Tesco Metro store, Connswater, is today selling Tanqueray Gin, standard 70ml bottles, at £8 per bottle.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Countdown: I

992,000 visits since the 2nd December, 2007. We are on target to exceed one million by the end of the month.

Ulster Grand Tour


A pal of mine has brought a website to my attention which, I believe, shall be of interest to readers at home and overseas, particularly my readership in the United States of America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand:-

The Ulster Grand Tour is an unique experience ... from Classical mansions to romantic Gothic inspired castles, Ulster's aristocratic families welcome the opportunity to open their doors and give you a glimpse into history. Our expert guides will ensure you have a memorable time while in Ulster.

The Ulster Grand Tour affords the specialised knowledge and experience of two guides, viz. Mark Donnelly:-

Mark Donnelly will be leading your group during the visit. Mark has a degree in History and Fine Arts from Trinity College Dublin. He trained at Sotheby's in London before travelling to work in South Africa as a Fine Art Consultant. 

He developed a successful business there before returning to his native Ulster where he has been advising clients for the past twenty years. Mark is involved in many aspects of the arts, most notably as the local representative of The Art Fund, a UK based charity funding museums and art galleries throughout the country.

He is also involved in the continuing development of Hillsborough Castle, home to the Royal Family when they are in residence, and a busy venue for charitable and other public events. He is passionate about the Irish country house and its survival and has an in depth knowledge in the field.

Many country house owners are either his clients/or his friends. You will be made to feel most welcome.

Robert O'Byrne is no less a connoisseur in his field:-

Robert O'Byrne, one of Ireland's best-known writers on art and architecture, the author of more than a dozen books on these subjects, including Romantic Irish Homes, Luggala Days: The Story of a Guinness House, and A History of the Irish Georgian Society. 

He is also a columnist for several publications including the Irish Arts Review and Apollo magazine. A board member of the Irish Georgian Society for many years, Robert is also a trustee of the Alfred Beit Foundation, responsible for the management of one of Ireland's most beautiful houses, Russborough, County Wicklow.

The Grand Tour includes some of the Province's finest country houses, including Baronscourt, Ballywalter Park, Mount Stewart House, Grey Abbey House, Killyleagh Castle, Montalto House, Crom Castle, Florence Court House, Belle Isle Castle and Castle Coole.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Imminent Articles

Forthcoming articles shall include the St Legers, Viscounts Doneraile, of Doneraile Court; the Style Baronets of Glenmore; the Barons HolmPatrick, of Abbotstown; and the Halls of Innismore Hall.

Mount Stewart's Spendour


It was a sunny day in April, 2011.

I decided to make a few rounds of egg salad sandwiches and motored along the coast to the glorious Mount Stewart demesne.

The Mairi Garden was in the process of being restored.

I found a secluded spot in the sun beside the Lake, settled down and listened to the sounds of the waterfowl, the only noise spoiling the peace and tranquillity coming from aircraft and motorbikes.

One feathered friend scored a direct hit on Timothy Belmont's shorts from high above in the trees!

On display in a converted outbuilding were the ceremonial carriage with the Londonderry livery,


and a gleaming lamp with the coronet of a marquess.


The Londonderry coat-of-arms emblazoned the carriage door.


First published in April, 2011.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Gorse Control


It has been a splendid day on Gibb's Island, a property of the National Trust on Strangford Lough, adjacent to Delamont Park, County Down.

About ten of us were burning gorse bushes, which had been cut earlier in the week. We lit two bonfires.


Cheese & onion sandwiches were the order of the day for Timothy Belmont today, washed down with English Breakfast tea.

Prior to departure, we checked an oak sapling which we had planted in the summer, affixing a protective cover round it.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Spartan Eason

I was in town briefly today, researching Doneraile Court and the St Legers.

Later I ventured in to Eason's store at Donegall Place, Belfast.

The ceiling on the ground floor appears unfinished: Bare concrete; ugly pipes, ducts, ventilators and wiring can be seen.

Is this their idea of a state-of-the-art shop? A sales floor without a ceiling?

Eason's appear to have removed the ceiling since it was occupied by W H Smith.

Furthermore, the floor is as basic as that of a butcher's shop.

Quite deplorable; so awful, in fact, that I shall avoid the place until such times as a ceiling is constructed.

North Irish Horse

CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE


ON THE 10TH MAY, 1958, THE GOLDEN JUBILEE OF THE TERRITORIAL ARMY IN NORTHERN IRELAND, A REVIEW WAS PERFORMED BY HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH THE QUEEN MOTHER AT THE ROYAL NAVAL AIR STATION SYDENHAM, BELFAST.


The 107 (Ulster) Independent Infantry Brigade was raised in 1947 by Brigadier Nelson Russell CB DSO MC.

The North Irish Horse, however, pre-dates the Brigade and was first raised in 1902.

In 1958 the Honorary Colonel was HRH Princess Alexandra of Kent.

The regiment is now at squadron strength and forms part of the Queen's Own Yeomanry.

Click on the image above for more detail. First published in May, 2010.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Burrendale: III

We ordered a cab yesterday afternoon, which took us into the town of Newcastle, County Down.

It was grey and wet, so we told the cab-driver to take us to the Percy French Bar, an appendage of the Slieve Donard Hotel.

Unfortunately, the Percy French was closed for refurbishment, so Lady A and self trotted instanter to the hotel itself, making a bee-line for the main lounge bar. B went into the town.

We were apprised that Dame Judi Dench CH DBE was staying at the hotel. She is filming some scenes at Rostrevor, County Down for a film entitled Philomena.

We had considered dining in the town. Whilst in the Burrendale spa, a lady recommended a restaurant called Vanilla.

However, in the event, we simply took a cab back to the Burrendale, where we ate last night.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Burrendale: II

We dined in the Burrendale Hotel's Vine Restaurant last night. I find the grub here hearty and substantial.

Lady A began with the French onion soup, served imaginatively in a large, circular bread roll the size of a melon, with the top sliced off, if that makes any sense. B had the same.

I ordered the smoked salmon and County Down prawns with a small piece of wheaten bread and side salad.

For the main course, I had the naturally-smoked haddock on a bed of champ potato, with a creamy sauce.

B had chicken; and Lady A, the roast gammon dinner. A large dish of mixed autumn vegetables was served separately.

The old Belmont nose-bag was in overdrive by this stage. Lady A was full and as a consequence unable to do justice to the roast gammon. She took her leave.

The dessert menu arrived. I chose the creme brulee, which was delicious. I cannot  recall what B ordered.

The  Vine dining-room is spacious, very relaxed and comfortable. There is plenty of room ~ and privacy ~ between the tables.

Earlier, in the Cottage lounge bar, Lady A had ordered us a round of drinks, including one Brandy Alexander. We heard much beating behind the bar, so much so that the sound was akin to the preparation of an omelette.

The waiter appeared with an Irish coffee! I have no knowledge of the discourse between Lady A and the barman at the counter, though, for  the benefit of the hotel, Brandy Alexander is customarily served as follows:-

One Martini glass
One part brandy
One part creme de cacao
One part cream

These ingredients are shaken in a cocktail mixer with ice cubes. Nutmeg is grated on top.

What is so extraordinary is the fact that so few establishments have such a classic, 1920s cocktail on their menus.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Burrendale: I+

Timothy Belmont swam the customary 120 lengths in the Burrendale Hotel's swimming-pool this morning; viz. almost one mile, because the pool is twelve and a half metres long.

We had a terrific breakfast. I skipped the cereals and fruit, opting for the full, cooked breakfast consisting of sausage, bacon, fried egg, mushroom, tomato, potato bread, soda bread, baked beans, and buttered toast.

After the swim, I spent some time in the steam-room and spa.

This afternoon, Lady A had booked some spa treatment for us; namely, reflexology treatment and a strenuous back massage, performed by two gorgeous blonde girls.

We are eating in the main dining-room of the hotel later.

Burrendale: I

Timothy Belmont threw a few things into the boot of the two-seater yesterday afternoon and drove off in a southerly direction, to one of Ulster's most notable seaside resorts, Newcastle, County Down.

En route, a  metallic blue Rolls-Royce Phantom passed me on the other side of the road. Well, readers, I recognised the registration number.

It was none other than Sir William Hastings. probably Northern Ireland's most famous hotelier. It would not be unreasonable to assume that the Hastings' had been to the Slieve Donard Hotel.


I ARRIVED at my destination, the Burrendale Hotel, in the middle of afternoon. Shortly after arrival I met my companions and we proceeded to our accommodation on the first floor.

The Burrendale seems to be a very comfortable establishment indeed. We all enjoyed a glass of wine in our room, prior to having a guided tour of the facilities.

There is a spa, complete with twelve-metre swimming-pool.

In the evening we dined informally in the Cottage lounge bar. I had County Down duck with large scallops and vegetables. Lady A had chicken curry; B, smoked salmon and prawns.

After dinner, we were entertained in the main lounge by a singer called Finbar, a considerable crooner in the style of Elvis Presley.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

TA: The Parade



On the 10th May, 1958, the golden jubilee of the Territorial Army in Northern Ireland, a Review was attended by QUEEN ELIZABETH THE QUEEN MOTHER at the Royal Naval Air Station Sydenham, Belfast.

The Order of Parade included massed bands playing from 1.30pm; arrival of Her Majesty at 3pm; the Inspection at 3.05pm; a March Past at 3.20pm; and departure of HM at 3.45pm.


In 1958 the GOC Northern Ireland was Lieutenant-General Sir Brian Kimmins KBE CB.

The commander of 107 (Ulster) Independent Infantry Brigade Group was Brigadier John Drummond CB DSO.

Click on the image to enlarge the detail. First published in May, 2010.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Viscount Dunluce


Randal Alexander St John McDonnell, Viscount Dunluce, is a courtesy lord and heir to the Earl of Antrim.

Lord Dunluce and his wife Aurora, Viscountess Dunluce, have a son and daughter, the Hon Alexander McDonnell and the Hon Helena McDonnell.

Lord Dunluce divides his time between London and the ancestral seat, Glenarm Castle, County Antrim.

He is a member of the Irish Landmark Trust; Trustee, Clan Donald Lands Trust; the Glenarm Buildings Preservation Trust; the Irish Grouse Conservation Trust; and Chairman, Northern Salmon Company.

First published in March, 2011.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Clive Dunn OBE, 1920-2012

I am saddened to learn of the death of Clive Dunn, OBE, Lance-Corporal Jones in the BBC's classic series Dad's Army.

Mid Island Day


About nine of us motored over, at low tide, to Mid Island today. Mid Island is on Strangford Lough, near Greyabbey, County Down.

The island has been associated with the Montgomerys of Grey Abbey; indeed, the cottage on the island is leased - or even owned - by the family.

The warden told us that one of the Montgomery children had a pre-wedding reception of some sort on the island a number of years ago.


Today we were clearing a thicket of heavy woodland. Two bonfires were lit and great progress was made.

As can be seen, Alan, slightly tongue-in-cheek, did not fell the fairy tree (!).

O'Neill Arms


Arms: Per fess wavy the chief Argent the base representing waves of the sea in chief a Dexter Hand couped at the wrist Gules in base a Salmon naiant proper.
 

Crest: An Arm in Armour embowed the Hand grasping a Sword all proper
 

Supporters: On either side a Lion, Gules, armed and langued, Azure, gorged with an Eastern Crown and chained, Or.
 

Motto: Lam dearg Eirin


The armorial bearings of 1st and last Earl O'Neill (1779-1841), as displayed on a sign outside the Thatch Inn, Broughshane, County Antrim.

I passed through the village yesterday, 6th November.

The crest is not shown; though the coronet is that of an earl.

Perhaps artistic licence has allowed the lions to be painted gold, rather than red (gules). The crowns and chains are painted black, as opposed to gold (or).

The O'Neill motto translates as The Red Hand of Ireland.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Cleggan Visit


I have spent a lovely afternoon with the most charming hosts, the Lord and Lady Rathcavan, at their home near Broughshane, County Antrim, Cleggan Lodge.

I enjoyed lunch with Lord and Lady Rathcavan; then retired to the sitting-room.

I took my leave at about three-thirty.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Papua Tour


The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, during their Diamond Jubilee tour of Papua New Guinea.

His Royal Highness wears the uniform of Colonel-in-Chief, Royal Pacific Islands Regiment.

The star of the Order of the Garter is worn; as is the badge of the Order of Merit.

Metro Dearer?

I'm only just beginning to recover from an obnoxious cold which has lasted all week.

I have been taking extra zinc and vitamin C, in the form of soluble tablets and hot, freshly-squeezed lemon drinks with honey.

The signs of improvement include the senses of taste and smell returning gradually.

What rotten luck!


FOR THE BENEFIT of those within the Belmont vicinity and beyond, Tesco's Connswater branch will be reopening on the 19th November, having been rebranded as Tesco Metro.

Tesco Metro stores are generally considered to be more expensive than their larger supermarkets, due to their having a lower proportion of basic foodstuffs compared to their more expensive options.

Prices in Metro stores can be 3-5% higher, I have read.

Shoppers be warned! Expect prices on many, if not most, items to increase at this store.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Blackberry Sponge


C'est magnifique! I can hear Anatole, Aunt Dahlia's chef, exclaiming. Le County Down blackberry sponge pudding, made with wild fruit, hand-picked from Rowallane and Portavo.

Brompton Bar & Grill



Here's an interesting interview with the Hon. Francois O'Neill, proprietor of the Brompton Bar & Grill, Knightsbridge, London. It will be of particular interest to readers with an Ulster connection.



      
    PHEASANT SHOOTING WITH THE BRAINS BEHIND THE BROMPTON BAR & GRILL: FOWL IS FAIR


William Sitwell, February, 2012


       "IT'S A FROSTY morning in Ballymena, County Antrim, an hour north-east of Belfast, and I’ve come here to get under the skin of the menu of a fashionable Knightsbridge restaurant.

We’re about to go shooting on the Cleggan estate and so — booted, gloved, ammo stuffed in cartridge bag and shotgun under arm — we listen to the keeper’s instructions.

He goes through the usual rigmarole — no ground game, that type of thing — and then he adds an element I’ve not heard before.  

‘Halfway through the drive I’ll blow my horn,’ he explains. ‘On that signal please raise your shotguns to indicate that you’ve heard me. Up until that point you can shoot birds into the hill. But after that only shoot where you can clearly see the sky.’

This is a reasonable request, as the beaters could come into view at this point and, as my brother once discovered, it’s very embarrassing to get blamed for peppering with shot those putting up the birds.

Having taken the spiel on board, we head into a van before trundling off through the woods and making our way to the first drive.


THE CLEGGAN SHOOT is famous for its partridges and is on land owned by Lord Rathcavan.

Back in 1980, Rathcavan, with his cousin Quentin Crewe — the celebrated traveller and writer — opened a restaurant on Brompton Road, the Brasserie St Quentin.

The establishment is now owned and run by Rathcavan’s 26-year-old son Francois O’Neill under a different name — the Brompton Bar and Grill.

And it was Francois who thought it a good idea for me to see where he procures the partridges that go on his menu.

Frequently during the shooting season, Francois will arrive at the restaurant on a Monday morning with a suitcase full of game — be it partridge, pheasant or woodcock — which the chef, Gary Durrant, eagerly puts on the menu.

‘I like the idea of the restaurant feeding off the shoot,’ says Francois as we climb out of the van, head through the trees, over a stile and out into a small valley. The guns in place, soon partridge are whistling over our heads.

With some height and a good wind, the birds are hard to nail. The day continues with tougher and tougher drives. The wind picks up and downing partridges needs a considerable swing of the gun and a seriously long lead.

After plenty of missing, aided and abetted by large swigs of sloe gin, the party returns at dusk to the house. The seven guns have shot 93 partridge, 30 pheasant and one woodcock, all of which can happily go on the menu back in the restaurant in London.

There Gary likes to roast the birds and serve them with a celeriac and apple purée and salsify chips. It’s a popular dish and, when it’s in season, the loyal locals happily tuck into game from the family estate.

Back at Cleggan Lodge, Francois talks about his culinary career. ‘Restaurants are in my blood,’ he says, ‘so when I left school I decided against going to university and became a chef.’



HIS FAMILY CONNECTIONS got him work — albeit peeling potatoes — at Mark’s Club in Mayfair. That job saw him working under the man he would later hire as his head chef when he finally owned the Knightsbridge joint.

But this wasn’t just a business handed down by Daddy.

In 1994, Brasserie St Quentin was sold to the Savoy hotel group before later being sold again to the Chez Gérard chain. ‘It became a tired restaurant,’ reflects Francois, saddened that a place established by his father had lost its old magic.‘The place was a disaster. The locals deserted it.’

In 2008, having spent a few years learning the cheffing game, Francois put together a small group of investors and bought the lease. ‘For my share I mortgaged a cottage I owned on the estate and took a hefty bank loan,’ he says.

He came up with a new name and re-opened the place as a modern bistro with a good value menu and a reasonable wine list.‘Although I have partners, they leave me to run the operation and it has given me the freedom to develop my own concepts and ideas,’ he says.

So you’ll spot Francois most days moving around the floor in his dapper dark blue suit, if he hasn’t nipped down to the kitchen to lend a hand. ‘I still cook a bit, and often run the grill section,’ he says. ‘It’s good way to interact with the chefs.’

He’s also pondering the idea of ‘developing the brand’ while actively pursuing another concept with a Spanish chef with the idea of opening a new place in the West End.

He’s looking at potential sites, but until that happens Francois will continue to be a familiar face on the Brompton Road.

Two doors away is the acclaimed French bistro Racine, and the staff joke that they watch him walk by each morning. ‘He always stops to study our menu,’ one chef there told me. ‘We’re thinking of writing “Good morning Francois” on it.’

Meanwhile, the next time you visit the BB&G to try a veal Holstein, rump of lamb, grilled Dover sole or the sticky toffee pudding, keep your eye on the bar.

If there’s a distinguished-looking gentleman sipping his drink and looking proudly over the premises, it’s probably Francois’s old man."

William Sitwell is a contributing editor at Spear's.

Taste Test

Fortnum & Mason has been trumped by the discount supermarket chain, Aldi, in an annual Christmas pudding taste test.

Good Housekeeping magazine, reports the Daily Telegraph,  judged Aldi's £7.99 orange-topped pudding to be the runner-up, describing it as ''delicious'' and ''a real bargain''; while Fortnum & Mason's £24.95 version was ''a real disappointment'', in 29th place out of 32 tested.

Waitrose won the category, with its cherry and almond-topped pudding with edible glitter.

Fortnum & Mason also scored bottom in the cranberry sauce test with its £10.95 jar, a category won by a £1.49 version from Tesco.

Good Housekeeping tested traditional festive food and drink from more than 20 retailers this year.

Experts ate and drank their way through 162 samples of champagne, smoked salmon, turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, Christmas pudding, brandy butter, mince pies, mulled wine, Christmas cake and Stilton.

Overall, it found that shoppers ''should head to the supermarkets'' for the best Christmas cakes, with all five shortlisted being supermarket own brands.

However, the mince pie category was dominated by specialists, including Bettys, Bertinet, Rose Prince, Harrods and Gail's, with Morrisons being the only shortlisted supermarket.

Waitrose won the champagne category with its Brut Special Reserve Vintage 2004, with Sainsbury's Taste The Difference Premier Cru Vintage 2005 and Tesco's Premier Cru NV both judged runners-up.

Aldi was also judged a runner-up in the smoked salmon category, won by Scottish producer Uig Lodge.

The Co-operative won the title of best turkey supplier with its British Elmwood frozen turkey, with Morrisons named runner-up with its frozen M Bronze free range British turkey.

Good Housekeeping consumer director Caroline Bloor said:
''Shopping for Christmas dinner - one of the most eagerly anticipated meals of the year - can be very stressful.

Deciding what to choose when faced with products you may only buy once a year can be hit and miss. That's why we've done all the hard work for you and tracked down the best options across 11 categories.

Our annual Good Housekeeping Tried and Tested special on festive foods proves you don't need to bust the budget buying expensive names to treat everyone to something special.

In most categories, the overall winner is from a high street supermarket. If you're going to splash out, save your money for the smoked salmon and mince pies.''

Friday, 2 November 2012

Innismore Hall


Innismore Hall, Derrybrusk, Lisbellaw, County Fermanagh, was once the nucleus of a large country estate, owned by the family of Hall.

The estate extended to 6,540 acres.

About 1870, Mr Richard Hall also had an address at Park Lane, London.

Mr Hall's daughter and heiress Elizabeth Jane married Mr John G V Porter JP DL, of Belle Isle, in 1863.

I believe that the original house has been demolished, its big columns now at the entrance to Portora Royal School.

I am appealing to readers for information about the Innismore estate.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

State Banquet


The Viscount Brookeborough (Lord in Waiting) was present at Heathrow Airport, London, yesterday evening upon the Arrival of The President of the Republic of Indonesia and Mrs. Yudhoyono and welcomed His Excellency and Mrs. Yudhoyono on behalf of The Queen.

The President of the Republic of Indonesia and Mrs. Yudhoyono, on 31st October, 2012, commenced a State Visit in London to The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh.

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh gave a State Banquet in honour of The President of the Republic of Indonesia and Mrs. Yudhoyono at which The Prince of Wales, The Duke of York, The Earl and Countess of Wessex, The Princess Royal and Vice-Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, The Duke of Gloucester and The Duke of Kent were present.

The following, among others, had the honour of being invited:

Specially attached to The President of the Republic of Indonesia and Mrs. Yudhoyono:
The Lady Elton (Lady in Waiting), the Viscount Brookeborough (Lord in Waiting) and the Viscountess Brookeborough, Mr. Mark Canning (Her Majesty's Ambassador to the Republic of Indonesia) and Mrs. Canning, Lieutenant-Commander Andrew Canale RN (Equerry in Waiting).

Diplomatic Corps:
His Excellency the Ambassador of the State of Kuwait and Mrs. Al-Duwaisan, His Excellency the Ambassador of China and Mrs. Hu Pinghua, His Excellency the Ambassador of Japan and Mrs. Hiroko Hayashi, His Excellency the Ambassador of Vietnam and Mrs. Nguyen Minh Hanh, and His Excellency the High Commissioner for Singapore and Mrs. Patricia Jasudasen.
 
The Cabinet and Government:
The Prime Minister and Mrs. Cameron, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (the Rt. Hon. William Hague MP), the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Hon. Mrs. Osborne, the Leader of the House of Lords and the Lady Strathclyde, the Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords and the Lady McNally, the Secretary of State for International Development (the Rt. Hon. Justine Greening MP), the Minister of State for Universities and Science (the Rt. Hon. David Willetts MP) and the Hon. Sarah Butterfield, and the Minister of State for Trade and Investment and the Lady Green of Hurstpierpoint.

Special Invitations:
The Lord Speaker (the Baroness D'Souza), the Lord and Lady Powell of Bayswater, the Lord and Lady Williams of Baglan, the Rt. Hon. Edward Milliband MP, the Rt. Hon. the Lord Mayor and the Lady Mayoress, General Sir David and Lady Richards, Admiral Sir Mark and Lady Stanhope, Sir John and Lady Sawers, Sir Kim and Lady Darroch, Sir David and Lady Brown, Sir Christopher and Lady Gent, Professor Sir Patrick and Lady Bateson, Sir Graham and Lady Wynne, Sir David and Lady Brewer, Sir Henry Keswick, Sir Simon and Lady Robertson, Sir John and Lady Peace, Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Hogan-Howe, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Humfrey, Mr. and Mrs. Simon Fraser, Mr. and Mrs. Alex Dorrian, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Dudley, Mr. Tom Williams, Mr. and Mrs. Ian Thomas, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Burge, Dr. Annabel Gallop, Mr. Richard Graham MP and Mrs. Graham, Mr. Robert Hardman, Mr. and Mrs. Nigel Hurst, Mr. and Mrs. Glen Moreno, Mr. Richard Olver, Mrs. Ghea Panggabean and Mr. Baskara Sukarya, Mr. and Mrs. Paul Polman, Ms. Ann Puntis, Ms. Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, and Professor and Mrs. Eric Thomas.

About Town


It has been such a fine autumn day today, that I cycled into town. I parked, as usual, at Fountain Street and strode into the much-revered Linenhall Library.

My subjects for research today included the De la Poers of Gurteen, and the Newtons of Dunleckney Manor.

Afterwards I ambled over to Sawers in order to purchase some of their battered scampi at the fish counter.

En route to Marks & Spencer's, I entered a menswear shop which had herringbone tweed jackets for sale; not dissimilar to the one I was wearing myself.

Mine isn't particularly old ~ perhaps 35-40 years old. My jacket (top) is made of heavy Harris tweed, great for colder weather. It has subtle colours in the pattern.

A young female assistant was beside me, tidying items. I couldn't resist beaming at her and quipping: I knew mine would come into fashion again, if I waited long enough!". She laughed.