Pearl Brasserie, Dublin
The Pearl is one of Dublin's post-millennium successes that over the last year or so has finally begun to receive the acclaim it deserves. Sebastien Masi, one of the partners in the venture, used to work at the Patrick Guilbaud, which is now a neighbor. A seasonally changing menu features traditional French cuisine using fine Irish produce. Dinner is served in a comfortable, informal atmosphere that includes a giant peat fire in the Oyster Bar.
Reservations: 011-353/1661-3572 or visit pearl-brasserie.com.
This relative newcomer in the heart of Georgian Dublin is a relaxed option if you want to avoid the formality of gastronomic stars such as the Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud at the Merrion Hotel but still want quality produce on your plate. Peploe's uses the same supplier as Guilbaud, a two-star Michelin restuarant, so the meat dishes on the menu are consistently excellent. A popular meeting place, Peploe's is a lively hybrid of contemporary wine bar and upmarket bistro. There's an extensive list of fine wines—164 at last count. Depending on your leanings, do (or don't) take a look at the mural in the main dining room: Bill Clinton is proudly depicted in the crowd.
BEST NEW COURSE
Machynys Peninsula Golf and Country Club
Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, Wales
After a year of premature promises, uncertainty and the vagaries of the weather on Wales's southern coast, as of mid-May, golf will finally be played on Gary Nicklaus's new course on the Machynys Peninsula. For those who have waited patiently, especially those concerned that a rush to open would end in a destructive soft-spike stampede on a far-from-mature course, the reward is certain to be worth the sacrifice.
The 7,100-yard par-seventy-two design nods in homage to the links tradition, but it is nevertheless a thoroughly modern layout: Sixteen of the eighteen holes involve shots over or alongside water. Still, it is the stunning setting of Machynys, overlooking Carmarthen Bay and out over the Gower Peninsula, that will most quickly put this course on the map. The salt marshes and the Loughor Estuary that are the natural neighbors of the course are both quietly beautiful; the wide, sandy beaches along the bay add to the sense of escape.
The star holes of the front nine, lying west of the salt marshes, are numbers four and five, two strategy-driven par fours. However, it's unnecessary at Machynys to look for signature holes. And although young Mr. Nicklaus has delivered a spectacular terrain of rolling fairways, fescue-strewn rough and ponds aplenty, he probably knew it would be the feel and the setting of Machynys that would complete the sense of being somewhere special.
That feeling comes into its own on the back nine, especially from fifteen onward. If you need natural-distraction therapy, come to this stretch of holes: This is the point of the big-picture, big-impact views right across the bay. How you switch back to the task at hand—because you need a skillful shot over the lake at the 503-yard closing par five—will be part of the challenge.
The clubhouse, with an upmarket brasserie and an extensive spa, resembles a mini resort. The developers would like to see a hotel built in the future. But for now we should be thankful that golf balls will finally be flying at Machynys. It seems a minor matter that establishing room service will take a bit longer.
Greens Fees: $47$65. Tee Times: 011-44/1554-744-888 or visit machynys.com.
OTHER COURSE NEWS
Royal Liverpool Golf Club
Hoylake, Wirral, England
Is it possible to change a club's fortunes simply by buying ten acres of land to accommodate a parking lot and a hospitality area?Indeed, in this day and age such efforts can win back the privilege of hosting a major championship. The reward for Royal Liverpool is that the Open will return in 2006 for the first time in thirty-nine years. But beyond the logistical improvements, the changes to this classic links have been minimal. Its old-fashioned defenses, including subtle bunkering and several areas of interior out-of-bounds, haven't been artificially enhanced, although the course has been lengthened over the years to a stout 7,218 yards. After the tournament, there will surely be an onrush of visitors who will come to play the course on which Bobby Jones triumphed in the 1930 Open on the second leg of his grand slam. Try to enjoy this legend before the flood gates open.
Greens Fees: $187$280. Tee Times: 011-44/1516-325-868 or visit royal-liverpool-golf.com.
The Baglioni, London
Near the fashionable crossroads of Kensington and Knightsbridge, the Baglioni is a new five-star hotel overlooking Hyde Park and Kensington Palace. The location affords one luxury not mentioned in the promotional material—the fact that from here you can get out of London relatively quickly and head for places such as Wentworth and other Surrey heathland golf courses with relative ease. The hotel has sixty-eight rooms (of which fifty are suites), many of them with a working fireplace. But the traditional ends there. This is a designer palace with the same attention to detail that won its sister hotel in Venice, the Luna, deserved international acclaim. The Baglioni's Brunello restaurant, with its young chef, Stefano Stecca, is also top-drawer, as you would expect given the Italian pedigree.
Rates: $561$935. Call 011-44/2073-685-700 or visit baglionihotels.com.
Morgans, Swansea, Wales
There are few hotels in the world where you can't decide which room you'd like to sleep in, regardless of the price. Morgans is such a place—airy, spacious, impeccably appointed, yet unashamedly unstuffy. The twenty rooms (ten more are to be added by year's end) in this stately boutique hotel in Swansea—not far from the new Gary Nicklaus course on the Machynys Peninsula—are all individually designed, each with its own character. The same is true of the hotel's eateries, Morgans restaurant and the Plimsoll Café, as well as the Champagne Bar and the al fresco Morgans Deck.
Rates: $187$467. Call 011-44/1792-484-848 or visit morganshotel.co.uk.