Restau­rant re­view

The Draft House, Shore Road, Strand­hill, Co Sligo. Tel: 071-9122222; www.the­draft­ Eithna’s by the Sea, Mul­lagh­more, Co Sligo. Tel: 071-9166407; www.ei­th­nas­restau­

Irish Examiner - Weekend - - Inside - Joe McNamee

THE Fo­leys and I are abroad in Sligo. Re­ports from else­where con­firm the na­tional heat­wave per­sists but we shel­ter un­der a silken para­chute of lu­mi­nes­cent cloud. And we’re glad of it for, pri­mar­ily noc­tur­nal crea­tures, a Fo­ley’s head can, on oc­ca­sion, be overly sen­si­tive to di­rect on­slaughts from mid-sum­mer sun, in­deed, di­rect on­slaughts in gen­eral. This is such an oc­ca­sion. We make it to Strand­hill in Fo­ley­time, un­for­giv­ably west of the ar­ranged meet­ing hour, but tour guide Auriel Robin­son is sym­pa­thetic and pa­tient, al­low­ing us a mo­ment to grab an emer­gency take­away cof­fee to break­fast on the hoof dur­ing our guided shore­line walk. A mar­itime ar­chae­ol­o­gist, the highly in­formed Auriel also cov­ers lo­cal ge­ol­ogy, ge­og­ra­phy, his­tory and botany and af­ter a re­sus­ci­ta­tive cou­ple of hours on the Sligo coast we are re­ju­ve­nated, ed­u­cated and very hun­gry.

The Draft House gas­tropub is a more re­cent ad­di­tion to Strand­hill, pos­si­bly in­spired by the enor­mous suc­cess of nearby Shells Café and while Shells evolved or­gan­i­cally over the years, there is a sense The Draft House may have be­gun life via an en­trepreneur’s check­list. But if there was a check­list, it was on the money. In­te­rior de­sign is stylish yet wel­com­ing, dark wood in­te­rior with light stream­ing in from myr­iad an­gles, it might well be an old salt’s lo­cal in Nan­tucket. A good list of bou­tique Ir­ish dis­tillers is part­nered with the most ex­ten­sive craft beer menu we have en­coun­tered in Sligo and we im­me­di­ately set to slak­ing well-earned thirsts while pe­rus­ing con­sid­ered menus. Chan­son Fo­ley and I both have seafood chow­der, a de­cent ren­di­tion with prime fish pieces. My pot­ted lemon crab comes with a keen-edged fen­nel, or­ange and herb salad. Chan­son also opts for spicy chicken wings, chilli kick muf­fled by salty-sweet Cashel blue dip. Gam­bler Fo­ley en­joys lovely Hake while Cap­tain Fo­ley has beau­ti­fully cooked fil­lets of fresh sea trout served with fine lo­cal veg. It is a long and lazy lunch and our ex­cel­lent servers even per­suade us to try a crack­ing se­lec­tion from a com­mend­able lit­tle dessert menu.

That evening, we take a cab from our base camp by Lough Gill (site of Yeats’ Lake Isle of In­is­free) to the gen­teel Eithna’s, in Mul­lagh­more. Chef/pro­pri­etor Eithna O’Sul­li­van has been serv­ing up seafood for nearly three decades and you’d fancy many of the large fam­ily gath­er­ings span­ning gen­er­a­tions are se­rial re­turnees for the re­laxed at­mos­phere ex­udes hol­i­day re­lease. Over­look­ing the har­bour, we score a win­dow seat up­stairs but our gaze rarely strays from the plate for the rest of the night.

We en­sure an or­der for a de­li­ciously crisp and fruity Rueda, (Blanco Nieva, Verdejo, just €24) is set on re­peat, be­fore set­ting about highly ad­dic­tive Wild Gar­lic & Dil­lisk Pesto atop brown bread that threat­ens to de­rail ap­petites ever be­fore starters ar­rive. Su­perb Mul­lagh­more mack­erel fil­lets, crisped on the skin side, come with a vi­va­cious beet­root-sea­weed chut­ney and crispy fresh squid is sweet, ten­der and suc­cu­lent, lemon and lime mayo adding verve.

For mains, Chan­son can see no fur­ther than lob­ster, his choice vin­di­cated by an es­pe­cially fine spec­i­men, fresh prawns danc­ing at­ten­dance. Cap­tain and Gam­bler both opt for stun­ning whole Dover sole on the bone and if, I weren’t up to this re­view­ing lark, I’d have done like­wise.

My herb-crumbed crispy plaice has great flavours, not least from a nos­tal­gic white wine and seafood roux, though del­i­cate fish may have fared bet­ter in pan than fryer. Nonethe­less, it is de­voured.

There is some­thing old school about Eithna’s, in the best pos­si­ble sense, echo­ing Myr­tle Allen’s credo of ex­cel­lent lo­cal sea­sonal pro­duce cooked sim­ply and well but con­tem­po­rary touches — in­clud­ing the culi­nary ap­pli­ca­tions of sea­weed — il­lus­trate this is no menu pre­served in as­pic. Though stuffed to the gills, we are even per­suaded to try a choco­late and dil­lisk meringue, an in­trigu­ing no­tion but wasted on four full Fo­leys.

Time to call for the bill and say to our server: ‘I will arise and go now, and go to In­is­free ….”

Pic­ture: James Con­nolly

Eithna’s By the Sea restau­rant, Mul­lagh­more, Co Sligo.

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