Just returned from another tour of the West. Some of the highlights:
--Our group of 5 checked in to Doolin just in time to catch the last dinner of the year at the Ballinalacken Hotel restaurant. We had been here several times previously and it continues to operate at a high level. Monkfish with lemongrass was exceptional, among several offerings. Deserts and the cheese tray were first rate, as well. They re-open around next Easter.
--Good pub food was to be found at McDermott's in Doolin. Several members of our group were impressed with the Atlantic salmon in particular. Much better than some other big name places (see below).
--A great find was the Doolin Cafe. This unassuming venue served up some serious chow and wine. Beef medallions and steaks were primo and the horseradish mashed potatoes were to die for. The goats cheese salad was a big winner, too, in the estimation of Mrs. FC. This place has the advantage of being next door to McDermott's, where you can while away the time with a pint or two waiting for a table on a busy night.
--A day trip to Galway yielded a fine lunch at Busker Brown's/Kirby's on Cross Street. Excellent seafood chowder and goats cheese salads were cited by our group along with a nice ciabatta bread on sandwiches. We also enjoyed a side trip to the cheesemonger, Sheridan's, I believe, where we scored some fine Irish cheese and the best stuffed green olives any of us had ever tasted. This day trip was capped off with a visit to The Quays for a few pints before setting sail for Moran's Oyster Cottage in Kilcorgan. Every town in the world should have a branch of the Quays, IMHO. Beautiful and fairly quiet, with fine service.
--Moran's was the disappointment of the tour. I knew we were in trouble when we were seated under photos of past diners like Woody Allen, Brian Dennehy and other celluloid stars. Expereience has taught me that the quality of food is usually inversely proportional to the number of celeb photos lining the walls of a restaurant, and this was no exception. Quite expensive for the money and not exactly easy to find, either, especially on a rainy night coming out of Galway. Our group agreed that the chow at McDermott's in Doolin was as good, or better, for about one-third the price.
--We also had a good meal at Vaughan's in Kilfenora. The Guinness stew was filling and delicious, while the seafood chowder was declared a winner, too. Visiting on Halloween, we were entertained by local kids dropping by for trick-or-treats and the good natured barkeep who handed out snacks from behind the bar to each. When we tried to get in on the action he good-naturedly told us to fly a kite, or something to that effect.
--In summary, airfares are dirt cheap in winter to Ireland and the West is beautiful (think Cliffs of Moher, among other attractions) and the place is not overrun with tourists right now. The food should pleasantly surprise you. What's not to like?