Coasting home

kerrycoastSo, down in Kerry for a few days, and we decided to ‘pop into town’, town being Cahersiveen. Cahersiveen has a super fishmongers , Quinlans Kerry Fish and a great fish orientated restaurant, QC’s . But, we didnt go there for lunch (although we got massive and super tasty fishcakes for later), but instead to the Kerry Coast Inn.

The chowder there is thin compared to some but extremely tasty. Fennel and coriander, lots of shelled shellfish (mussles, clams, even I think a periwinkle), and shredded smoked white fish dominate. Creamy but not top heavy, the chower comes with a generous side of brown soda bread. Well worth a visit

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No laughing matter in the Butlers

Continuing on the bank holiday (see here) the following day the weather cleared up and it became one of those limpid, mild days we get in the west, with a pale blue sky and an ocean almost flat calm.

After a long walk, from the village, over the cliff road to the near deserted Waterville beach nearly to the inny bridge and back we felt in need of some sunday sustenance and made our way to the Fishermans Bar of the Butler Arms Hotel. This is a bar I am most familiar with, having spent rather more of my youth ensconced therein!

 

 

Waterville now looks moderately busy again, with a lot of coaches and day trippers evident, more than the last few years it seems. The Charlie Chaplin statue and festival are a unique selling point and it seems the village is beginning to capitalise on it. For those who dont know, said CC spent many summer holidays in the village, through the late 1960s. His kids were well integrated into the local community, and we all played with them and treated them the same as any others.  He stayed in the Butlers and the hotel sunlounge, bar and public areas have many photos of him and his family.

The chowder was magnificent : it was nearly as dense as that which I had in Barberstown, filled with smoked and fresh cod, salmon, clams, mussels, a prawn or two, and finely chopped onion and shallots. It was very creamy and mildly spicy, the perfect light lunch combined with some brown bread and a creamy pint of stout. A great restorative which set us up for the rest of the afternoon. The bar was busy, but not overwhelmed, with walkers, locals, tourists and hotel residents passing through the three darkish rooms, the locals you know by their coming in the back door rather than battling the front where one is confronted by a wall immediately on entry!

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A dream in Waterville

So, June bank holiday weekend, and the rain beats down with a jungle ferocity. It doesn’t reall pay matter however as I’m back in my home village, Waterville.

Waterville is lucky in having several fine (if not necessarily fine dining)restaurants. One of the nicest, with a great mix of value/quality, is the Sheilin Seafood Restaurant. Aisling and Rob, with assistance from various other members of the family as and when needed, run this spot from two rooms of a converted private home. That is the first thing that strikes you; this is a comfy restaurant. It concentrates mainly on seafood, but carnivores are not going to go hungry with decent steaks, chicken and pork. But the main dishes are seafood, with standard fare supplemented by whatever is fresh. When we dined people were eating sole on the bone, or perhaps it was filet of whale the portion sizes were that large.

We went for chowder (duh) and wild mushroom soup, mains of grilled salmon with lime and coriander , and baked plaice (only shark sized in comparison to the sole-whales people were harpooning beside us).

The chowder was surprisingly light, belaying its look. It was heavy on salmon and several types of white fish (I suspect brill and pollock but as the restaurant was jammed the staff were under full pressure so I had no time to quiz Aisling), and with some clams lurking. The relative lightness was explainable by its being potato based not so much cream based, and it was lightly flavoured with tarragon. Also adding to the flavour and texture were shallots and finely chopped onions. It was a simple, light (for chowder) and delicious start, which complemented the homemade tomato bread.

If you like good honest friendly cooking, in a relaxed and cheery atmosphere, try the Sheilin. Youll see why it has good reviews, and not just for cooking.

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Mediocre enough in Maynooth

We headed for a drive, planning to go to Donadea Wood for a walk, but instead found ourselves heading for Maynooth. As we were in the area, we decided to step into Carton House for a light lunch. For those who dont know, Carton was one of the great houses of the Earls of Kildare, and the hotel website has a decent history as well as short history on Wiki. Whatever one might think of this great country house being a hotel and golf course, at least it was spared the fate of its sister dwelling, Frescati House, demolished and replaced with a shopping center.

We ate in the new lounge, which quite neatly blends the old and the new (reminiscent to me of Lyrath in Kilkenny), ordering chowder, a turkey sandwich and tea/coffee. The lounge was vibrant, with a convention beginning and its members registering and getting drinks from the bar, a lot of families and I guess residents sitting reading papers, eating and drinking. A glass and steel modern gas fire in the center (not to my taste but hey…) gave a focus.

Alas, and to our disappointment, things on the food front were at best so-so. For a top hotel to serve pressed turkey, the sort one gets in the cheaper parts of the deli aisle, with a pile of badly broken powdery corrugated crisps (which looked and tasted like Hunky Dory to us) is not on. The sandwich was served on doorstops of processed looking white bread, with a distinct lack of finess. “its like something youd get in the pub” was the comment.

And alas the chowder was no great shakes, for sure not worth the €8.50 (and not a patch on the same priced dish in Barberstown) . Chowder , recall, is supposed to be “a thick, chunky seafood soup” . Well this had seafood in fair profusion, but was thin, and frankly not very tasteful.  It was slightly oily, perhaps in fairness from the large amount of salmon, but unusually for me as I rarely use it i had to salt it up. There was a lot of what I think was diced celery, and some shredded white fish. It wasnt bad, it just….wasnt good. Hungry, I ate most of it. It came with two thin slices of what again to me seemed (but hopefully werent) commercial  brown soda bread.  A more different bread to the treacle feast in Ennis couldnt be imagined. No butter, but when I asked it arrived, cold as bankers heart and utterly unspreadable. So, a workmanlike chowder at best but well below what a top rated hotel can and should produce, especially at the price.

In fairness to the hotel, and to their credit, when I went to pay I mentioned the above, and the lounge manager didn’t demur, listened attentively, said she would pass the critique on, thanked me and gave a rebate. We are not good at criticism in this country and my experience is that good establishments want critical, in the best sense, feedback. So, mediocre enough in Maynooth.

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A whale of a time in Lahinch

Continuing on our Clare adventures we went as we often do to walk the beach in Lahinch. Actually, be blown along by the gale might be a better description, as the day was….blustery. An yet there were brave souls (or maybe just the insane) surfing and swimming.  Having grown up beside it, take it from me that the North Atlantic is not designed for swimming. Had god wanted us Irish to swim in the sea he would have placed the island somewhere off the coast of spain…

Having walked and battled and windblown ourselves into a hunger we went to the Atlantic Hotel in the main street in Lahinch. We had eaten there before, for both lunch and dinner, so knew that the portions were of a size to scare the bejazus out of even the hungriest. But, pelican fashion when our eyes hold more than our belly can , we ordered anyhow. We ate in the bar, a great mixed spot with some tables set up for formal eating, a larger group of surfers discussing more and more innovative ways to nearly drown themselves at one end, some locals supping porter at the bar, and a roaring fire to goggle an stupefy the tourists.

Again, Chowder, two this time one each, plus a hot tuna baguette, formed the lunch. And again we were not dissapointed. This is super food, the chowder majoring on smoked fish with giant flaky chunks of haddock and salmon the main notes and shrimp, clams and other piscine flakes the background. Exceptionally creamy and spicy, this was served with lovely crusty herb bread, and in a bowl that could double as a baptismal font. That plus sharing the tuna bap, hot with mayonnaise, sweetcorn and  red onion set us up for the rest of the afternoon and well into evening.

We have previously eaten there and both the fish and steak dishes are great, again massive in size and huge in flavor. I have had wonderful panfried whiting and a melting baked cod there, and tasted a tender as fillet but tasty as ribeye sirloin steak. Dont miss this if your in the area.

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The Old (ground) ways are the best

I have previously mentioned that we spend a lot of our “staycations” in Clare. Generally we stay in The Old Ground Hotel in Ennis, a wonderful spot, solid three star country comfort and a gem of its class. The Poets Corner Bar, the hotel cum public bar usually has music of an evening, and the bar food is excellent. The Old Ground has resonance for me as my father, back in the 1950’s, was manager there…

We ate in the restaurant, and in the bar, and yes, both times I had chowder. The bar and restaurant share a kitchen so the chowder was the same. As is the case with the food in general, it was hearty, tasty and unfussy. A special note should be made if you find yourself there to sample the blood orange and star anise homemade marmalade…divine

To the chowder : heavy on the shellfish and white fish, tomato based, quite creamy but not overpoweringly so, this soup was wonderful as a light meal with the hotel treacle bread, but given the size of the portions it requires careful thought if one is following up with a main course (especially if a starter has gone down also..). There was a hint, I thought, of tarragon, in the chowder, and more than a hint of spice and garlic. Overall a great dish, served in a tall bowl which kept it piping hot on both occasions.

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Chowder in receivership but quality in Fanore

We spend a bit of time in Clare each year, Ennis and Lahinch usually, but the email I got from Lucille on Chowder makes me think it may be time to venture further afield

 

All across the coast of Galway and Clare there are
delicious chowders to be had in restaurants and pubs – they favour the
creamy red kind; the Admiral (I think it was called) in Fanore had the
best, but there are great chowders in Ballyvaughan still and in
MacDonagh’s in Galway.

But the best chowder I’ve ever had – gone now too, unfortunately – was
in a pub/restaurant in Dalkey called the Ivory. I used to haunt the
place, going there after swims and dog walks, because of their rich,
fishy, shellfishy, creamy, hot, redolent chowder served in a loaf of
bread. You ate the chowder, then, if you had any room left, you ate
the bread. They still serve chowder, but it’s a pale thing compared to
the kind they used to have; I never go there any more.

The (Patrick) Ivory Bar in Dalkey is in receivership  – one of the things that happens in that process is that all too often the receiver properly concentrates on getting cash, and not necessarily on maintaining the top quality which may have gone before. Lets hope that things work out…

thankfully it seems the Admirals Rest in Fanore is still going strong

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