Heading West for a Gourmet Treat
The people of the west of Ireland are hewn from an extraordinary landscape bathed by the temperamental Atlantic Ocean. What was once a hard place to to make a living, is now one of the country’s most trendy places to visit. Videos of surfers enjoying the waves, drone footage of the spectacular and often mountaineous scenery, images of remote villages and cosy bars, where there’s always a fire in the hearth and a tune on the fiddle as pints are poured, have done much to attract tourism. The Wild Atlantic Way has also increased visitor numbers all along Ireland’s western seaboard, from Kinsale to Donegal.
While West Cork and Kerry have long enjoyed a gourmet repuation, it’s now the time for the counties of Clare, Galway and Mayo to lap up the attention of the public and the critics. Here’s a roundup of where you should be headed for a gourmet treat, when you’re way out west!
The Roadside Tavern and Burren Microbrewery, Burren Smokehouse and Burren Storehouse are a collection of food businesses owned and run by Peter and Birgitta Curtin. Superb home smoked salmon and wild fish come from the smokehouse, whilst a trio of ales are brewed by Peter upstairs at the Roadside Tavern and served in the bar and Storehouse.
The Burren Storehouse is fast gaining a reputation for casual dining at a great gig and event venue. Not to be missed when you’re travelling through the village of Lisdoonvarna.
The Chocolate Shop in Doolin is owned and run by Patricia Farell of Wild Irish Chocolates. This time of year, Doolin is a quiet paradise by the sea, where you can experience a real west of Ireland coastal village - and enjoy some of these great chocolates while you’re there!
If you want to see a real chocolate factory in action, pop along to the production site at Tuamgraney, Co. Clare
One apiece for these two chefs, who both focus on using the produce of the immediate locality for a superlative fine dining experience, albeit presented in their own individual styles.
Real Italian food made with fresh Irish produce is a speciality at Il Vicolo. Set in an atmospheric old watermill, this cosy restaurant has magnificent personality, superb food and an Italian wine list like you just won’t find anywhere else.
On the casual dining front Maxwells Bistro is located in the heart of retail therapy territory at Willimsage Street in Galway City. Pop in from breakfast through till dinner, for a relaxed menu which satisfies the need to feed, whatever the time of day.
Ard Bia at Nimmo’s in Galway city’s historic Spanish Arch area has become known for eclectic cooking using Galway produce.
Rustic and cosy, this is the place to enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner or the fab Brunch at weekends. One of the best casual dining spots in Ireland.
If you fancy eating a meal surrounded by over 800 years of history, head to The King’s Head Pub in Galway’s Latin Quarter, which has direct links with King Charles I and his execution. The original fireplace in the pub is still intact and houses a roaring fire. A potted history presented in the bar gives a taste of the heritage of this building, one of the oldest in Galway. None of the ambience of those old days has been forsaken for modern design. The feel is very much in keeping with Days of Yore – minus twee. Proper pub grub is on the menu, with an array of favourite dishes accompanied with a selection of draught beers, craft beers and stouts, plus a full compliment of spirits and wines. Live music each night adds an element of craic to the culinary reputation!
The Bistro at The Kings Head is a more formal dining space but with a relaxed atmosphere. Chef Brendan Keane and his team thrive on sourcing locally produced ingredients to let the food do the talking. This close relationship with local suppliers is reflected in menus, which change to incorporate seasonal fresh ingredients as they become available.
HERON’S REST BOUTIQUE B&B
Sorcha Molloy has converted two town houses with views of the Corrib river into Heron’s Rest Boutique Bed and Breakfast, accommodation with a difference. Breakfast is cooked to order by Sorcha in the open plan kitchen in the dining room, as guests sit around the big table, grazing on home baked breads and scones, fruit and yogurt and fresh apple juice.
Hot dishes are quirky, reflecting Sorcha’s taste in getting away from the full fry up in favour of cooking more unusual and seasonal choices. You won’t be disappointed! And she’s a fully qualified barista, so great coffee is guaranteed. Rooms are impeccably decorated in townhouse style, and there’s the added bonus of a drop of port in the crystal decanter for a wee bed time nightcap before sleep.
Renvyle Country House Resort is known for its welcome to families, their dogs and anyone looking for the comfort of this family run hotel set in a characterful Arts and Crafts period house. Furnishings and décor are in keeping with the Arts and Crafts period, with simple lines and use of local tweeds for soft furnishings. Dinner at Roisin Dubh Restaurant is an absolute treat – cooked by Tim O’Sullivan and his team and served in a beautiful dining room that has all the charm of yesteryear.
By the fire in the lounge is where you’ll find friendly dogs curled up asleep, while their owner’s read the paper or have a drink. Blissful.
Connemara Coast Hotel is settled right on the sea overlooking Galway Bay with views across to the Burren. Breakfast for residents and the public is served in Daly’s Restaurant, a family restaurant with something on the menu to suit everyone. Lunch, Dinner and a full wine list is also available here. The Gallery Restaurant at Connemara Coast is a fine dining restaurant where the chef showcases local produce in a tasting menu. Superb tiered dining room with intimate spaces and great sea views.
The village of Moycullen, just outside Galway on the Clifden road, is home to White Gables Restaurant. Ann and Kevin Dunne opened here in 1991 and since then, have very firmly established themselves on the destination restaurant map. White Gables has a cottagey exterior look, but inside, it’s more French bistro in its décor. A lovely reception area gives way to a very classy dining room where service is impeccable and the food outstanding. Open for dinner only.
Next door, Enjoy @ White Gables is a more casual café and shop, where you can enjoy home baking, light refreshements, lunch and afternoon treats, then browse the shop full of cute culinary curiousities.
The white beach and rocky headland of Ballyconneely is just the most picture perfect spot to house a longstanding artisan business. Connemara Smokehouse was born in 1979, when John and Bridget Roberts became two of Ireland’s earliest food producers, smoking wild Irish salmon caught in the Atlantic Ocean. Today the business is in the hands of son Graham, who grew up watching his parents in the smokehouse. Visitors are welcome at the Smokehouse, Visitor Centre, with tours at certain times of day, according to season.
An amazing spot, about as remote and wild as you can get on the west coast.
Delphi Country House and Fishing Lodge is a totally get-away-from-it-all destination in rural Connemara. Set in the stunning Delphi valley, the Delphi Lodge estate has its own lakes for fishing seasonal wild salmon, and a salmon fishery which replenishes baby fish into the rivers on the estate, so they can swim out to sea and return as adult fish when it’s time to mate. There are no keys to the doors of the comfortable bedrooms (who needs them!) and breakfast and dinner is taken around the large dining room table with all guests together. Home from home in an idyllic fishing lodge that you won’t want to leave.
The Tavern Bar and Restaurant sits at the foot of Ireland’s most famous mountain. Croagh Patrick is just a short stroll up the road, a place where many a pilgrim has climbed the slopes to find spirutal awakening at the top. At the foot of the mountain, Myles O’Brien’s cooking utilises the best of Mayo produce, with meats and puddings from Sean Kelly of Kelly’s of Newport and fresh fish and seafood from the Mayo coast.
Open for lunch and dinner, The Tavern has a cosy bar area for day time dining with more formal restaurant upstairs for busy times and evenings.
In Westport, award winning chef Frankie Mallon serves up a daily changing evening menu of local specialities at An Port Mor.
Set down a little alleyway in the town, An Port Mor reminds us of a little bistro like you might find in a village in France. The cooking has French influences with classic sauces for fish and seafood. An absolute gem.
A place where Mayo produce is proudly cooked and served and the world gets to know about it! This ethos extends to Rua Deli and Café, a lively food hub