Stella Maris Country House Hotel
There is a Proustian quality in Frances Kelly's cooking, in the lovely Stella Maris, set hatd by the water’s edge just west of Ballycastle. Every dish Ms Kelly cooks seems to offer not just a series of tastes and textures, but also a series of associations, reflections, memories. Like the best novelists and musicians, everything she cooks seems intensely personal, as if she is writing an autobiography with each plate of food served. She isn't aiming just to feed you: she is aiming to etch the flavours into your memory. You won’t be able to forget those fresh scallops. The Mayo lamb. The west coast monkfish. You won’t be able to forget that perfect breakfast, and you won’t be able to remember the last time you enjoyed such a fine breakfast
The funny thing is, despite this lavish attention to detail, her work arrives as the essence of simplicity. After one visit to this idyllic seaside hotel, we wrote this: “Every single dish we ate on a recent family visit to Stella Maris was perfect in every detail. Not fussy perfect, or pretentious perfect, or obsessive perfect. Just perfect in and of itself...”.
Like the best female cooks, Ms Kelly knows where perfection lies, and she knows that it's not in demonstrating ego, but rather in its opposite: lose yourself in your work, and perfection arrives. Ms Kelly’s gift is as special as the sea-edge hotel she runs with her partner, Terence McSweeney, a house that is charming because it is so restrained and tasteful – exactly like the cooking. The area around Ballycastle is a truly special place, and a few days spent here is simply a magical experience.
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