Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Wild Honey Inn, Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare

We spent a day in the Burren recently, mainly to see the Cliffs of Moher - the last time I had been in that neck of the woods, I had been 10 years old and on the annual school tour. Thanks to the usual delays due to vomiting in the back of the bus, we didn't manage to make it to Ailwee Caves, or the Cliffs of Moher. School trips were a risky business - overheated kids and stressed teachers don't go particularly well together in the best of circumstances, and especially not on a bus.

Back in 1989, on that school tour, my lunch would probably have been some packed sandwiches, maybe a packet of crips and a carton of juice. Well, things have moved on a bit since then. Once we got to Clare, I put the call out on Twitter and the recommendations started to flow in. Top of the list was The Wild Honey Inn in Lisdoonvarna (thanks to Limerick foodie @italianfoodie).

Stitch and Bear - Welcoming interior of the Wild Honey Inn
The charming interior of the Wild Honey Inn
The Wild Honey Inn is a smart looking establishment both outside and in. The interior is warm with wood, and flashes of pink throughout. This theme even carries through to the staff uniform. Nightly specials are written on a mirror next to the bar which showcased a wide range of cooking. With a weak spring sun shining in through the windows and a turf fire being laid in the fireplace, the Wild Honey Inn was a warm and welcoming spot.

The bistro-style lunch menu was short and simple but featured a nice amount of local food and seafood (no surprise since America is the next stop over). He chose the Liscanor crab claws, sauteed in garlic and chili butter sauce. They were fresh and meaty, plump with the sweet taste of the sea.

Stitch and Bear - Liscanor crab claws at the Wild Honey Inn
Liscanor crab claws with garlic & chili butter sauce
I went for the mussels, which came out of the shell, gratinated with saffron and green beans. Although the portion initially looked small, it was packed with juicy mussel flesh and the two slices of homemade brown bread were used to mop up the fantastic sauce. 

Stitch and Bear - Mussels with saffron and green beans at the Wild Honey Inn
Mussels with saffron and green beans
It was hard to refuse dessert, so we shared a lemon cream served prettily in a glass with blueberry compote on top. Two spoons made short work of this creamy and tangy treat.

Stitch and Bear - Lemon cream with blueberry compote at the Wild Honey Inn
Lemon cream with blueberry compote
According to Wild Honey Inn website, chef Aidan McGrath places an emphasis on fresh, seasonal & local food. (This dedication was recognised with the award of a Bib Gourmand in 2010). The food we enjoyed was confident cooking indeed - no additional vegatables or bulk required with these dishes. The key ingredients were allowed to sing their own praises. 

The Wild Honey Inn also offers B&B accomodation and I really cannot imagine a better place to spend a summer's night. Good food, followed by good craic & music in the bar. Surely there is no better way to experience the west of Ireland.

The Wild Honey Inn, Lisdoonvarna, Co. Clare, Ireland. 
Tel: +353 (0)65 7074300
Twitter: @WildHoneyInn

[Recipe] Chocolate & Cranberry Blondies

Chocolate & Cranberry Blondies
I wanted to make something sweet, and thanks to inspiration from the Fuzzy Times blog, I chose to make Blondies. These are chewy, fudgy biscuits, which are infinitely adaptable. Based on the contents of my cupboard, I ended up making mine with Terry's Chocolate Orange and dried cranberries. One of the major bonuses of this recipe is that it can be all done in a single bowl - so minimal washing up required.

Preheat your oven to 180 Celsius and well grease an 8"x8" baking tin.
  • 100g butter
  • 220g light brown sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • pinch of salt
  • 140g plain flour, sifted
  • 1 cup of ingredients (chopped nuts, chocolate chunks, fruit etc)
Melt the butter (I melted mine in the bowl, over a pan of boiling water), then mix very well with the sugar until smoothly combined. Mix in the egg and vanilla essence. Mix in the flour and salt, followed by your choice of flavoursome ingredients. Pour into the tin, smooth and bake in the over for 20 - 25 minutes until set. Don't let the mixture overcook - you want the middle to stay gooey. Leave to cool in the tin and turn out on a wire rack.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

[Review] The Malt House, Galway

I spent a night recently in Galway, staying at the Hotel Meyrick on Eyre Square. I had been looking forward to visiting Galway, as it is a city which I do not visit often. But to be honest, I found Galway, at least in the tourist areas, to be a city without an identity, or at least, a mildly schizophrenic city. It just can't seem to make up its mind as to whether it's arty and cool, or else a party town with thumping music. Maybe all those years of overpriced Galway Races and Fianna Fail tents have left the city permanently damaged.

Take the King's Head pub. It's got amazing old features, and yet it was packed full of hens and lads on the p*ss. Loud music made conversation hard, and it's hard to enjoy your drink when gaggles of girls wearing too-tight dresses are thundering past on their way in. Our hotel room had featured an advertising brochure for the King's Head, and associated sister restaurant, The Malt House. Unfortunately, this brochure was half masquerading as a Guide to Galway, which didn't endear these establishments to me.

However, when we walked past the Malt House later in the night, I was pleasantly surprised by the menu on display outside and the overall feel of the place. (Being associated with the King's Head in the brochure isn't doing it any favours). Even better, the Malt House offers a permanent Value Menu, whereby 2 courses from the evening menu cost €25, or 3 courses for €30. (Eligible dishes are marked with an asterisk on the menu).

The dining room is smart casual with comfortable low lighting. Our server offered us a standard table for two in the middle of the room, but was happy for us to take a more comfortable table for four in a corner banquet. Jugs of water were offered, along with the chance to order some drinks.

The menu appropriately references a fair amount of seafood and local producers. I chose Coleran's Smoked Suckling Pig with Savoy Cabbage and Cider Jus (€6) and Baked Haddock & Pan-Fried Prawns with Bacon & Pea Risotto (€19) for my courses, while he chose the Malbay Crabmeat and Crabclaw Risotto (€9) and a special, Braised Beef Cheeks with Garlic Mash (€16). 

My smoked suckling pig turned out to be two generous slices of crispy fried pork with a subtly smoked taste. I didn't get the advertised Savoy cabbage, but I did get plenty of dark green regular cabbage with a gently spiced cider gravy. His starter of crab risotto was nicely creamy with plenty of good fresh crabmeat. However, a slight skin had formed on top of the risotto, suggesting that it had been left under the kitchen lights for a while before being served.

The size of the main courses, when they arrived, impressed upon us that this was a restaurant used to catering to people with big appetites. I received a substantial piece of haddock, 100% perfectly cooked (slightly translucent and flaking) along with 3 fried prawns, all sitting on a mountain of risotto. The fish was pure perfection, with a slight dusting of paprika adding some flavour. The risotto was very good, too good in fact, given the size of the portion. His order of beef cheeks fell apart into juicy, slightly gelatinous chunks when poked with the fork and came atop a large dollop of garlic mash (which appeared to have a lovely flavour of roasted garlic) and accompanied by a tasty jus, which didn't try to compete with the rich beef or garlic flavours.

Suffice to say, the Malt House exceeded my expectations. We received a very good meal, with good cooking skill and flavours. Prices are competitive and the value menu offers even better value. Diners with hearty appetites will not feel short-changed here and the support of local fish and produce is admirable. This restaurant embodies a standard to which more local restaurants could aspire.

The total, including alcohol, came to €66. Damage to the waistline is a bit harder to estimate.

The Malt House, Olde Malt Mall, 15 High Street, Galway, Ireland  
Telephone: +353 (0)91 567 866

Malt House on Urbanspoon
© Stitch and Bear | All rights reserved.
Blogger Template Developed by pipdig