Celtic Manor, near Newport: Review

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I’ve often travelled past Celtic Manor on the M4 en route to Wales: it looks pretty grand nestled on a hillside amongst the Coldra Woods. Home to the 2010 Ryder Cup and the 2014 NATO summit, locally-born owner Sir Terry Matthews presides over a resort that boasts three championship golf courses, two hotels, multiple dining options, a conference centre, a spa, tennis courts, a swimming pool…the list goes on.

We were invited to pay Celtic Manor a visit for a recent bloggers’ evening, which saw us dining our way through a selection of the resort’s dining venues before retreating to our room.

With or without your own transport, Celtic Manor’s easily accessible from Bristol: by car it’s around a 45 minute jaunt down the M4, by train, it’s a 30-40 minute journey to Newport station followed by a 10 minute taxi ride to the resort.

There’s no denying that the Resort Hotel isn’t the most attractive building from the outside, but step inside and it’s a whole new world, with a giant atrium with a very Welsh theme (the giant dragons make it hard to forget which country you’re in) and more than just a nod to its golfing credentials.

We began the evening in the new Signature Lounge, the use of which is available exclusively to guests staying in the resort’s Signature Suites on the sixth floor. Here we were introduced to the resort’s Food & Beverage Director Glenn Lewis, who was to guide us through the resort’s dining options that evening.

The Signature Lounge is a bright and open room with floor to ceiling windows giving fantastic views over the Coldra Woods, and where Signature guests can enjoy unlimited free tea and coffee, newspapers and an adults-only space in which to relax.

 

Celtic Manor - Signature Lounge

 

We were there for canapés with which to begin the evening, including a beautiful asparagus panna cotta with peas and pine nuts, and expertly carved Iberico ham (sourced directly from a Spanish supplier), served with toast, grilled peach and balsamic pearls.

 

Celtic Manor - Iberico Ham

 

Next, it was the turn of restaurant Steak On Six, which opened in December 2015. With 70 covers, the Celtic Manor team’s aim was to create a restaurant with an “upmarket rustic” feel, and the decor is certainly a talking point: think cowhide on the door and chairs, plenty of cow prints on the walls, and a fantastic mirror adorned with cow horns. Although such decor has the potential to be tacky, it’s been done well.

 

Celtic Manor - Steak on Six

 

Steak On Six serves steaks originating from all over the British Isles, and was awarded two AA rosettes the week before our visit. I love the attention to detail too, from the variety of different steak knives from which diners can choose, to the selection of Welsh salts available on each table to accompany your meal.

 

Celtic Manor - Steak on Six Salts

 

After sampling their signature chocolate truffles (I highly recommend the Penderyn whisky variety…), we headed back downstairs to another new restaurant: The Epicure Experience (formerly the Terry M restaurant), which offers intricate modern dining courtesy of none other than Richard Davies. Formerly of Michelin-starred The Manor House in Castle Combe, Welshman Davies told us how he’s always had a soft spot for Wales, and how he enjoyed his stint at Celtic Manor in the past. My guess is that a Michelin star may well be the aim for Epicure in the near future…

 

Celtic Manor - Epicure Experience

Celtic Manor - Richard Davies

 

Housed in a private dining area to the rear of the restaurant, we were treated to a cocktail composed of black muscat, champagne, Bacardi and Malibu, before being presented with our pre-starter: a light and foamy celeriac espuma on a spiced, smooth apple compote, and topped with small cubes of baked apple and grated truffle – a fantastic dish, but the flavour of the truffle was somewhat lost.

 

Celtic Manor - Celeriac Espuma

 

Our scallop starter was faultless: three juicy scallops, pan-fried in a dry pan, and served with a perfectly smooth cauliflower purée, tempura cauliflower, and both cubes and thin slices of earthy beetroot.

 

Celtic Manor - Scallops

 

It was then time to board a minibus to take us from the Resort Hotel to the Manor House Hotel – still part of the Celtic Manor Resort – where we were to experience Bristol-based Larkin Cen’s new dining experience: Cen. The 2013 MasterChef finalist is specialising in Asian fusion cuisine, and we were lucky enough to enjoy a demonstration from the man himself.

First, though, it was time for cocktails – look at how beautiful they are!! I opted for a chilli and mango concoction, which was incredible – although tricky to manoeuvre with its multitude of garnishes.

 

Celtic Manor - Cen Cocktails

 

We were led to a private dining room where Larkin demonstrated how to prepare his Cantonese duck dish that is served as a main course for two in the restaurant, showing us how to dry the skin out so that it cooks to the perfect crispness, how to add as much flavour as possible, and how the duck is cooked. You can see a video of his demonstration here.

 

Celtic Manor - Larkin 1

Celtic Manor - Larkin 2

 

We were then led through to the restaurant – all rattan furniture, wooden shutters and white ceiling drapes, very atmospheric – to enjoy the rest of our meal.

 

Celtic Manor - Cen

 

After some seriously good prawn crackers, we were served the aforementioned Cantonese duck, designed to share between two. The duck itself was incredibly moist and tender, and with large swathes of the fat removed before serving, it was lovely and lean too. Along with the obligatory pancakes and hoisin sauce, the meal included Larkin’s clay pot rice, topped with cured pork and full of flavour.

 

Celtic Manor - Cantonese Duck

 

Our dessert, simply titled “Chocolate”, was not simple at all: a rich and decadent chocolate tart was paired with homemade chocolate “Aero”, a thick chocolate mousse, chocolate biscuit crumbs, a malted ice cream that toned down the richness, and a freshness added with dots of mandarin gel and fresh basil leaves. There was also what appeared to be some kind of chocolate brittle – which I left, for fear of breaking my teeth – it was that solid…

 

Celtic Manor - Chocolate

 

A deep fried bao filled with salted caramel ice cream was served post-chocolate dessert, and was a mixed bag – the ice cream amazing, the bao itself somewhat disappointing due to the deep frying.

And with that, we re-boarded the minibus to take us back to the Resort Hotel, which was to be our home for the night. Our room was fantastic, classically designed and featuring a huge, comfortable bed with nice firm pillows and two armchairs in which to relax. Paintings and photographs of local Welsh scenes adorned the walls, a decent-sized television swivelled on its wall mount for easy viewing, tea and coffee supplies were ample, and the mini-bar was plentifully stocked.

Robes and slippers are provided for guests to use, and our bathroom featured both a bath and a shower, along with a selection of Elemis toiletries which smelled fantastic.

We also had the added benefit of a balcony overlooking the golf course: a beautiful view to wake up to the following morning after a great night’s sleep.

 

Celtic Manor - Room 1

Celtic Manor - Room 2

 

The following morning, we headed down to The Olive Tree restaurant, just off The Resort Hotel’s main lobby area, for breakfast. Rather than the a la carte menu (items range from £3 to £12.50), we opted for the buffet instead – and we were faced with a vast amount of choice. Hot options were plentiful and replaced at regular intervals, and not swimming in grease like some hotel breakfast buffets I’ve encountered in the past. Local Welsh yoghurts, a bakery counter, fresh and dried fruit, a variety of cereals, smoked salmon, meats and cheeses…there was something for everyone, and for a breakfast buffet, it certainly ranked among the best I’ve enjoyed recently.

 

Celtic Manor - Breakfast

 

It’s worth signing up to Celtic Manor’s mailing list: they regularly send out emails with details of special offers, and the prices are very reasonable indeed. Whether you’re a golfer looking to play on a championship course, a family looking for an escape with plenty for everyone to do, or a couple wanting a romantic retreat, the Celtic Manor Resort has something for everyone.

 

Please note: our stay and all meals were received free of charge, but in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.

 

One Response to Celtic Manor, near Newport: Review

  1. I am really genuinely pleasantly surprised reading this. I thought, like some massive places, Celtic Manor might be resting on it’s laurels a bit, but it looks gorgeous!

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