Macdonald Portal Golf, Spa and Country Club, Tarporley

PUBLISHED: 21:51 28 December 2009 | UPDATED: 15:47 20 February 2013

The dining area of the Ranulf

The dining area of the Ranulf

Guests at a Cheshire Life 'ladies only' lunch just couldn't tear themselves away from a relaxing lunch at the Macdonald Portal Hotel

Enter the gates of the Macdonald Portal Golf, Spa and Country Club and prepare to be stunned. On a clear day there's a sweeping vista beyond its 300 acres that encompasses nine counties. It's a view extraordinary enough to distract the attentions of the most ardent golfer enjoying the pleasures of three of the most impressive courses in the country.

However, we ladies who gathered at the hotel for the latest glamorous Cheshire Life lunch were not here to follow in the spiked footsteps of Michael Owen, Alex Ferguson, Dennis Taylor and other celebrity golfer patrons but to enjoy the equally pleasurable temptations of a lunch devised by executive chef Gary Hazlehurst.

Gary is no stranger to creating a menu for a special occasion. Since the hotel opened in June 2007, he has catered for everything from weddings to the Lady Taverner's Golf Day and lunch. He also helps to maintain the high standards expected by those who come here for the fine dining experience of its AA Rosette awarded Ranulf restaurant.

He explains that several things inspire him when he is devising a menu for a special occasion.

'What I usually do is pull together ideas for people and play around with them, testing out what goes with what,' he says. 'I try to use seasonal products and a lot of produce is Scottish because we are a Macdonald hotel and the whole group is dedicated to quality.'

The lunch kicked off with a glass or two of delicious pink fizz, a sparkling Pino Grigio Rose, which easily matched a champagne for its depth of flavour and sherbety aftertaste. This was sipped amidst the relaxing environment of the Ranulf bar area with its imaginative modern retro dcor.

Wines had been hand-picked by Marc Van De Wynckele of Forth Wines, who supply to the whole of the Macdonald group and he explained that the choices for the lunch had been based around the menu, so the stunning Assiette of Shetland Salmon - a prettily arranged plate of salmon terrine and salmon tartar, accompanied by a fabulous beetroot gravalax, horseradish cream, fresh peashoots and sauce Vierge was enhanced by a lively Sauvignon Blanc Sud De France by Robert Skalli France from 2007.

For the main course, Braehead's finest loin of Scottish venison served with butternut squash and vanilla puree, parsnip mash, creamed cabbage and rich red wine jus was a terrifically earthy and scrumptious winter dish that convinced most of the women at the table to ditch all their detox intentions for yet another day.

A wonderfully complex Pino Noir Sud De France again from Robert Skalli, France 2006 was chosen, Marc explained, with the ladies in mind.

'Because of the venison I wanted something big on flavour, but because this was a ladies' lunch I wanted something more delicate and ladylike with light touches of chocolate which I am sure the ladies will love.'

Remember, all this was said in a sexy French accent which may have been the reason Cheshire Life Editor Louise Taylor couldn't resist allowing him to make a speech to the assembled group - even though this was a ladies-only affair.

There were welcomes too from hotel boss Debbie Johnson and Louise herself during what turned out to be a warm and convivial social occasion.

Back to the food and the vegetarians were not disappointed by a thoughtful menu which included a first course of delicious beetroot gravalax, and pea shoots and a creamy goats' cheese, followed by a main of wild mushroom risotto and for dessert a superb chocolate fondant.

The non-vegetarian pudding was another lovely looker - iced Amaretto and Praline parfait with blood orange jelly and blackcurrant coulis.

Clearly, Gary is use to catering for all those hungry golfers who've completed a few miles around the 18-hole course because the temptations of a selection of superb Nantwich cheeses served with a homemade chutney defeated most of us.

Could we drag ourselves away? It was admittedly a tough call. Many of us lingered for some time in the Ranulf restaurant at our tables adorned with beautiful flowers arranged by Jo Yates of Winsford-based Forget Me Not and gazing at the gorgeous vista that has been the backdrop for many glamorous weddings and parties.

And to think that this had once been the site of someone's house. Now with arrival of the Portal Golf Resort we can all share in its magnificent attractions.

Portal Hotel Golf & Spa: Cobblers Cross Lane, Tarporley 0844 879 9082

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