Dining out on Christmas Day

There has been a steady rise in the number of people dining out on Christmas Day and due to the increase in demand, there are now lots of options available on the big day. Dee Laffan takes a look at why this is happening and what kind of packages are on offer.

While the majority of restaurants still choose to close on Christmas Day, staff taking a break from the festive season to spend it with their families, there has been a significant increase in the number of hotels offering residential Christmas packages and non-residential Christmas Day lunch.

The demand for this is being driven by consumers; families looking to enjoy a special getaway together during the holidays. Hotels are an ideal venue for festive activities anyway with idyllic scenery, or central locations and not to mention adorned in decorations and lights from ceiling to floor.

Xavier Perche is Food and Beverage Director in Lough Erne Resort in County Fermanagh, who are open on Christmas Day for residents and non-residents with various packages on offer. “I’ve been working in Lough Erne for 20 months, but for my 10 years in Ireland and the hotel industry here, there has definitely been an increase in demand and a change in the demographic as well,” Xavier explained.  

“I think if we were to double the number of places available for our residential Christmas package, based on enquiries, we would fill it no problem. Not only have I seen a big increase in the number of people opting to stay in a hotel for Christmas, but also dine out on Christmas Day. Families realising that staying in a hotel allows them to have an amazing time without having to do all the organising, cooking and cleaning up, so basically without all the hassle of having to do it themselves. Also I think it is that they realise that it is a magical getaway, especially for kids, and we have seen more and more families come. It is very magical for them, the hotel is fully decorated, we have lots of activities planned for them and for kids it is time away they won’t ever forget.”

“A noticeable change in past few years in terms of the demographic has been that it is more than just a big family gathering where lots of relatives reunite for Christmas. We now see more young families (couples in 40s, with 8-12 year-old kids) coming with their kids to celebrate with us. We do get some families booking in each year for the experience. This year we have 105 residents for Christmas and 60 non-residents dining on Christmas Day.”

For hotel residents at Christmas, a truly unique experience is given from the moment of arrival. Packages have become all-inclusive offerings with food and entertainment included. “Our Christmas package for residents is for two nights from the 24th to 26th December. On the 24th when arrivals begin in the afternoon, we have carol singing in the hotel,” Xavier described.

“Guests have that evening at their leisure, so they can dine in any of our options – The Blaney Bar, Catalina Restaurant and the Loughside Bar & Grill. We have a very special activity for families that evening as Mrs Claus comes to read stories to children in our library. We serve ‘Smores – cream crackers, chocolate, roasted marshmallows – for everyone to indulge in. On the morning of the 25th, we have Christmas breakfast followed by lots of activities including horse and carriage rides around the estate and Santa Claus comes to deliver personalised presents to all the children at 11am. Lunch is served in the Catalina Restaurant, an eight-course meal, and during the afternoon at different times we show lots of Christmas movies in our loft area, which has stunning views of the lake and a lovely fireplace. Followed by an evening buffet that is very casual and relaxed, people can just grab a plate of food and sit wherever they like in the hotel. The food is exceptional really for this and very much has a wow factor as we try to source amazing ingredients and have lots of options available. There is entertainment in the evening as well for residents as a band plays festive music in The Blaney Bar.”

“The eight course Christmas lunch starts with a pre-starter, then a choice of starter, a soup course, a choice of fish course, a choice of main course, a cheese course, pre-dessert, dessert, and of course petit fours. For the main course, we wanted to do a turkey dish, but something a bit different. Initially we did think about not including turkey at all and we looked at lots of recipes going back through the history of Christmas dinner, and found that in fact turkey is a recent addition, but in the end, we decided to include it as it might be too big a change. However our Executive Head Chef Noel McMeel has created something very special and different for guests – A Taste of Christmas, which is turkey prepared five different ways. Turkey leg and breast prepared in a variety of ways and sauces and garnishes that involve lots of spices, the smells and tastes each reminding you of Christmas but the presentation will be very different. We also have other choices on the menu such as goose, duck, beef and venison.”

“Noel is such a keen ambassador of produce from the locality and that means that most of the ingredients we are sourced from the area and we use Northern Irish suppliers as much as possible.”

“In the Loughside Bar & Grill, which is our casual dining option in the resort, we offer a non-residents Christmas lunch (price £95), a five-course meal with a glass of Prosecco on arrival for guests. There is live music playing throughout the day for our Christmas Day diners which makes the whole occasion very festive and fun.”

It’s not too late… five fantastic hotels serving up a dollop of Christmas!  

The Merrion Hotel, Dublin 2

Residents and guests are invited to enjoy a delicious Christmas Lunch or Dinner in The Garden Room. Chef Ed Cooney’s five-course menu will delight guests who enjoy a traditional Christmas meal. December 25th lunch or dinner with piano accompaniment – €195 per person, dinner and one night stay – €445 per person sharing.

Titanic Hotel, Belfast

Enjoy two nights bed & breakfast in the uniquely styled Titanic rooms, arriving on Christmas Eve to enjoy a festive beverage, Christmas day lunch is a splendid five-course meal in the Wolff Grill. Priced at £125 per person (children under 12, £62.50).

Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links, Dublin

Spend Christmas tucked away in a quiet corner of The Velvet Strand, one of Ireland’s most stunning stretches of uninterrupted coastline. The hotel is open on 24th and 26th serving food and entertainment in The 1780, Seaview and Jameson Bar, and residents only on Christmas Day in the hotel. Residents Christmas evening buffet for €42 per person includes starter, mains and dessert and tea and coffee.

The Savoy, Limerick

Christmas Day at The Savoy includes a Champagne reception in The Library followed by a five-course luncheon. Relax and spend time with loved ones with entertainment from their resident pianist and a special visit from Santa Claus with a gift for all. Adults: €110/children: €75.

Kenmare Park Hotel, Kerry

Spend Christmas in this little Victorian haven overlooking Kenmare Bay, walking with the Kenmare Walking Club or enjoying SÁMAS, their Deluxe Destination Spa, evenings by the fire or dancing in the Drawing Room. Rates are all inclusive of three nights five-star accommodation, full Irish breakfast daily, candlelit dinner nightly and a whole host of classes and activities planned as part of your festive break.

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