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Trip report, Ireland May 2012 Cushendall, Ardara, Westport, Inis Mor, Ballyvaughan, Dingle and Kenmare

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Trip report, Ireland May 2012 Cushendall, Ardara, Westport, Inis Mor, Ballyvaughan, Dingle and Kenmare

GreenDragon | Jun 7, 2012 11:05 AM

Hi, I'm new here! Though I've been around Fodors and Flyertalk for years, I thought I'd pop in and see what the community is like. I've my full trip report here: http://www.greendragonartist.com/BI/B...

But here are the foodie highlights. Note: I had stomach surgery in November 2010, so my meals are small, but frequent. We were on a budget, so most of our eating was at pubs and such.

Cushendall: Our hostess recommended recommended Joe's (pub down the street) for an afternoon lunch, and off we went. I had the goat's cheese salad (a popular pub offering in Ireland) and V tried some Guinness bangers and mash, both were delicious. V had never tried goat's cheese before, but she was hooked when I offered some of mine to try. The atmosphere was gastropub/upscale but quiet on a Saturday afternoon. We returned for music later that evening and it was MUCH more crowded - standing room only!

Later the next night, we wandered around for some food. It was later now, after 9pm, so the only place serving was the take-away - I had some fantastic chicken curry, the place was called The Half Door. This was likely the best curry I'd had in Ireland (had better in Scotland a couple years ago).

One night we had dinner at Harry's, a restaurant on the corner. I had the seafood chowder (which surprised me by having chunks of tomato in the cream-based soup), while V had a platter with parma ham, chorizo sausage, and duck egg rolls. All was nicely presented and tasty.

Glenariff Forest Restaurant: After a lovely walk through the forest and waterfalls, we finally made our way back to the starting point, and had a lovely lunch in the restaurant there, along with about 15 motorcyclists. All rice-burners, of course - Harley Davidson doesn't seem to be very popular in Ireland. The restaurant itself was a bit touristy, but with lovely post and beam ceilings. I had some potato leek soup with brown bread, as I wanted something warm and savory. V had a goat's cheese salad. It wasn't the best of either, but we greatly appreciated the warmth after a wet and rainy day hiking.

Bushmills: We went into the town of Bushmills to find some lunch. It was about 3pm by the time the effects of the breakfast wore off, and of course that's when many pubs close for food. However, we found a tea shop called The Copper Kettle that served Irish lamb stew, and we had a warm, yummy, savory break. The stew had large chunks of meat, potato and other veggies in it, and was very thick and creamy.

Stroove:

Driving to Ardara, we detoured and drove around the Inishowen Peninsula. We were hungry about halfway in, and found Stroove, which appeared deserted. we kept driving into town, and finally found Carey's Fish & Chips store by the shoreline. They said the stores usually open during season, but we were early for that yet, being only mid-May. We had some chips with curry and a chicken kabob, and enjoyed not driving on steep, tiny mountain tracks for a little while. The food was OK, nothing special, huge portions. The girl didn't look like she should have been bothered with customers today. We went out to enjoy the quay, take some pictures of furiously lashing waves upon the rocks, and then retreated from the ocean winds into our car.

Ardara:

Since the wind was howling and the sky was weeping most of the day (especially the latter half) we were well-wearied and weathered, and decided to find some warming beverages and filling food. Marian recommended Nancy's Bar, and mentioned there was an event going on that night. When we arrived, it was certainly crowded, and when enquiring about food, was told that they weren't serving that night, because of the event, but that we could try the Heritage Bar. So we walked down the block for the Heritage Bar - who said food was more of a 'weekend' thing or a 'bank holiday' thing. We got the impression it wasn't really a 'normal' thing at all.

Right - so, off to the Nesbitt Arms, a hotel nearby. I have found that hotels serve food when no one else wants to, though not always the best food, it's the most reliable source. I prefer pubs for the atmosphere, but when those are unavailable, we can at least find food. And that's where we discovered the hardest working man in Ardara! He was desk clerk, bartender, busboy and waiter to a fairly full restaurant. I ordered the monkfish and prawn tart with vegetable soup, and V had the goat cheese salad, and we both had pints of cider. The hardest working man in Ardara booked around the place like a man on speed - taking orders from a party of 9, getting us our food (and it was not slow service, either!), cleaning glasses, etc.

The food was quite tastier than I had expected from a hotel restaurant in a small village on the northwestern coast of Ireland.

Donegal:
We wended our way through busloads of tourists in the center Triangle of the city, and settled on the Castle Bar Restaurant for dinner. After having been in places that weren't very tourist-ridden, I had forgotten how braying a group of American tourists could sound, and felt sad that I was one of them. "Is the bus coming back? I had to walk a whole block!" "Oh, look at this cute leprechaun doll I bought! Isn't it precious?" "When is this rain going to stop? It's ruining the whole vacation!" Sigh.

I had a delicious smoked salmon and crabmeat salad, and V had seafood chowder, and we each had a pint, and I felt better. We ignored the other tourists as best we could, and went out shopping in the rain.

Ardara again:

We decided to try Nancy's again, and as we reached the door, a thin young man named Angus insisted that we come right in. He mentioned that my hair was fabulous (he was rather fabulous himself, which we didn't expect in such a small town in the wilds of west Ireland!), and introduced us to Daniel and Michael, who were sitting at the bar. He said Daniel was a fantastic cook, and therefore with my glorious hair, we would make a great couple - certainly anyone could see the logic there! We settled down to a table, ordered pints and a Ploughman's Lunch of cheese, pickle and bread for a late night snack. We enjoyed the simple food - it had some nice cheddar and brie, and V and I fought over the bits of delicious sweet pickle relish. A bit fell off the plate - Thou shalt not waste the pickle!

The next day, we went into Nancy's for an early dinner (or a late afternoon meal, whatever you like). I had the special, a plate of steamed mussels, while V stuck with seafood chowder. The mussels were fresh and very tender, and the brown bread was soft and yummy. If Daniel was the cook today, he was quite good. The mussels were perfectly done, with the right amount of garlic and herbs. And of course, Guinness makes everything better, right?

Cong:
We walked down the street to the Crow's Nest Pub, and I had a Shrimp Rose Marie appetizer, while V had Fried Brie with Plum Chutney. They were both quite good, and we realized it was a place that catered to Americans as it was listed as shrimp rather than prawns. There was a big group of American tourists sitting next to us, as well, having a great time. I think there was a bit too much Rose Marie on my appetizer than I care for, but that was easily remedied.

Roundstone:
We made it around the coast to Roundstone, a sweet seaside village where we parked, took some photographs of the area, and found a place for lunch. O'Dowd's café had a Smoked Salmon Salad and a Seafood Cocktail Salad, with fresh whole grain scones and a shared bottle of cider. It also afforded a nice view of the harbor, and an upstairs room with a higher view of the same. The scones were very tasty, but a bit dry until I slathered good Irish butter on them. The salmon salad was tasty but huge.

Westport: We decided to take a break from pub food for the evening, and ate at the Indian/Nepalese restaurant down the street, The Everest. The food was delicious, we had Chicken Tikka Masala and Nepalese Lamb Masala. The lamb dish was very tasty, sweeter than I had expected, very aromatic. I wished I could eat more, but I am physically limited to what I can eat at one time, due to stomach surgery. And, of course, we couldn't bring any leftovers into the B&B on pain of death (there were forbidding signs in our room).

Inis Mor: When I got to Joe Watty's, I went up to the bar, and got myself a pint of cider and a Smoked Mackerel Salad. The smoky, salty flavor of the fish worked perfectly with the sweet balsamic dressing, it was delicious. There was a game on television, and everyone was very excited about it - Leinster was playing, and they won. This was evidently a good thing, judging by the cheering and other reactions. I'm rather a dunce about sports, but the mood was infectious. I ate again at this pub twice in my stay - once with a Greek salad, and again with the mackerel, which is only on the dinner menu. I still dream about that salad.

Ballyvaughan:
We ate at Monk's, which I'd gone to on my last trip to Ireland, and remembered fondly. We each had a half pint with lunch, me sticking with cider and V trying Smithwicks ("Smiddicks") for the first time. I had a salad that was made up of slices of black pudding, crispy bacon, slices of green apple, and a balsamic vinaigrette - it was a bit dry, but still a tasty combination. V had the goat's cheese salad once again. This particular combination never failed to satisfy either of us.

That night, we stopped for dinner at the Hyland Burren Hotel and Pub. It was very quiet, and we thought at first it was closed, but it was open. Again, not tourist season here yet, I suppose. I had the smoked salmon and prawn rose marie salad, while V stuck with her seafood chowder. It was rather nondescript - I actually can't remember the meal now, and that's very unusual for me.

The Burren: We stopped by the Burren Perfumery for some shopping. We went to the café for some food, and I had the goat's cheese salad with a locally made chutney. I think this was the least satisfying meal of this type we had - I'm not sure what was missing, but it was just... not quite there. I wouldn't think this was a complex dish.

Ennis:

We wandered around downtown a bit, found a parking spot, and decided on Brogan's Pub for some dinner. Once again the seafood chowder became a meal, though I had fried prawns and rose marie sauce - and we each had ½ pints to wash it down. It was reasonably crowded, and the waitresses were a bit rushed, but the food was decent. The fried stuff a bit heavy, though...

Dingle: We walked into town, and passed by the Aquarium, to find a fish-n-chips place. Today was Irish National Fish-n-Chips Day, and we meant to honor that. We stopped at Harrington's, had some cod, which was fresh and flaky, though a bit on the greasy side for my tastes. But hey, it's fish-n-chips. It's going to have some grease, right!

Later, for dinner, we settled into the very American-tourist-oriented Dingle Pub for some pints and to escape the rain. They had free WiFi, but only if you sat at one table in the pub, evidently. I had a meal of smoked salmon on brown bread, and while the bread was tasty, it was so dense it could easily give someone a head wound if properly wielded.

Killarney:
We went in to several different places, searching for food - all of them weren't currently serving, as it was that magic hour when breakfast wears off and the pubs are closed for food. We went into the Laurels, O'Connors, O'Somethingelse, and then found a real restaurant - Trevand's. I had some yummy fishcakes and V had a chicken tikka wrap. It wasn't the best food in the world, but it was tasty enough, and it was fuel.

Kenmare:
O'Donnabhain's was a gastropub and B&B we were staying at. We parked our car in the back parking lot (thanks to Jerry for directions), and went into the pub for food and pints. Our waiter, Michael, was Australian, and reminded us very much of Moe on the Simpsons - the way he looked, walked, etc. I had a seafood open sandwich with prawns (of course), while V had the seafood chowder - and we discovered the best brown bread in Ireland. It had honey or treacle in it, was sweet, soft, and absolutely delectable. Jerry said he would post the recipe on his website in a month or so, as he kept getting comments. Oh, and my meal included a large prawn, complete with head and antennae. I kept playing with it, and V said "You've got to stop playing with that, I just can't handle it!" Hehehehe...

The next night, we decided to go out to the take-away for chips and curry, and V had a chicken burger. They had decent food, and Jer (I assume that's the owner's name, as it said Jer's Take-away) is evidently the hardest working man in Kenmare. He was doing great, had several customers going at once, and I think owned the kabob place across the street, too. He had gone over there for more curry sauce the night before.

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