Resting on past glories

Clifden in Galway, Ireland. Ireland.com

Beware restaurants—and wineries, for that matter—promoting themselves by boasting of past glories.

It was easy to be seduced by the spiel in a tourist brochure, puffing a seafood restaurant on the Connemara coast in Ireland recently. It said this establishment had been voted Ireland’s best seafood restaurant in 2015. That’s a big accolade—but 2015 is now a long time ago.

To be fair, a fillet of parmesan crusted cod was beautifully fresh and superbly cooked—but unfortunately drowned in too many peas and a rather watery sauce.

It was described as “a powerhouse when it comes to dining out in Clifden”, such is its reputation for consistency and quality. Seafood is the star of the show with “local fishermen literally bringing fresh boxes of fish, shellfish and crustaceans to its kitchen door each morning…”

There’s a little cluster of other awards at the restaurant’s entrance. I’m sure I saw “recommended by Michelin” somewhere, too.

In reality the welcome was offhand and unwelcoming, the wine list was brief and pedestrian, the wine service uninformed and the staff couldn’t answer basic questions about the food or the wine.

The main problem was the oysters, which should have been first class in a place like this. A dozen came to the table looking drab, as if they’d been shucked yesterday, none of them still alive (a drop of lemon juice is the test), and tasting as though they’d been sitting in a fridge in their shucked state for many hours. They came with slices of lemon and a pot of what we assumed was red wine and shallot vinaigrette, bread and butter on the side. The ‘vinaigrette’ was unlike any vinaigrette I’ve tasted: no lively acid tang (was there even any vinegar in it?), and far from giving the oysters a lift, made the oysters taste muddy and dull. And the diced shallots tasted as if they’d been wallowing in this fluid for days: no fresh crunch of recently chopped alliums.

My Irish stew main course was little more than bog-standard Irish stew, and should surely have been more than a bowl of potato, carrot, celery and a few chunks of Connemara lamb, in an admittedly tasty sauce.

To be fair, a fillet of parmesan crusted cod was beautifully fresh and superbly cooked—but unfortunately drowned in too many peas and a rather watery sauce.

The service was really mediocre, more Alice Springs roadhouse than Guide Michelin assiette.

Beware restaurants coasting on outdated awards.


One thought on “Resting on past glories”

  1. Garry
    Garry says:

    Need to research where you eat Huon, like we research wines before buying! Caveat Emptor.

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