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Westport Plaza Hotel, contemporary hotel in a quaint Irish town

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What began as a small family bed and breakfast operation in 1972 has now turned into not one, not two, but three hotels in and around the pretty western Irish coastal town of Westport in County Mayo, Ireland.
All built by members of the Doran clann, one of them - the four-star, 87-room Westport Plaza - is one of the three, located as it is in the downtown area of this once bustling port, now a thriving tourism center, a short 10-minute drive from the blustery Atlantic Ocean.
Access is easy, with safe, above and underground parking provided. Depending which entrance you use, revolving doors or elevator rides lead you to a broad, well-lighted lobby area featuring a long reception desk and lavish decorations. These include tiled pillars, cosy, off-green and light brown sofas with crimson lamps above, bookcases filled with row after row of Encylopedia Brittannicas and Jane Eyre, Charles Dickens ad Thomas Hardy classics and 3-foot tall wickerwork ampule-shaped flower vases. Blue, glass chandeliers add a touch of intrigue to the decorative artist’s palette. Paintings hang from every wall, including one of Noble laureate poet, Seamus Heaney, in relaxed, contemplative repose. Another, in stark contrast, a blue-gold piece, reminded me of Gustav Klimt, ‘reminded’ being the operative word here. Valued in the millions, Gustav would hardly be hanging around a hotel in Westport, no matter how attractive the surroundings.
Rooms are comfortable and cosy without being expansive. Windows look down on an inner courtyard overlooking the mountains, and the beds are fitted with the softest cotton sheets one could ever want. A second highlight is the bathtub, which delightfully converts into a mini Jacuzzi at the push of a button.
Breakfast is taken in the Merlot Restaurant, a Z-shaped set room, just off the main lobby, also used for lunches and dinners. This particular meal is buffet-style, though staff are keen to make sure if guests wish off-the-menu items. As such, one can enjoy items such as aromatic kippers and poached eggs beside the usual display.
Dinner menu is varied, including dishes such as pressed terrine of pork belly with a puree of black pudding (a delectable, Irish traditional mix of dried cow’s blood and oats) and horseradish, which goes extremely well with delicious multi-seed bread one is presented with. Other choices are trio of salmon, smoked and home-cured with picked red onion and lemon dressing and warm blinis; grilled Irish rib eye steak and roast rump of west coast lamb. The steak coming medium-well when it had been requested medium-rare illustrates an all-too common trait in Irish culinary tradition. As a nation, generally people in Ireland like their meats well-cooked. Blood on the plate is a catastrophe (except the black pudding). Thus, when ordering rare or medium rare, added emphasis is a definite requirement.
The lamb, in contrast, is soft, juicy and succulent, complemented perfectly by the parsnip puree, grilled courgettes, red pepper jelly and cherry tomato.
Deserts are not to be missed – one of the finest chocolate fondant or Grand Marnier crème brulee, the ultimate test in the illustrious art of French pastry-making.
The Westport Plaza provides live music as entertainment. Weddings play a big part in its annual activities.
A big draw for people to the hotel and to Westport itself is the inspiring, craggy peaks of Croagh Patrick, five miles away. The ancient ridges, once a Pagan stronghold is now a Christian pilgrimage site, but is also used for ‘iron-man type’ feats of athletic prowess. After wiping your plates clean of the mouth-watering fondant and brulee, you might need to do either, but as it often rains in Ireland, you might do neither.

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