MAYO WATER­FORD

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - SEVEN DAYS - Dun­gar­van, Co Water­ford tan­nery.ie ¤¤¤

small: half-a-dozen break­fast items, some gourmet sand­wiches, fresh smooth­ies and juices, soup and some pas­tries. There are a cou­ple of spe­cials on the board – a Ly­on­naise sand­wich (¤7) looks good – a tower of salad, mayo and pancetta topped with poached eggs, as does the Cow­boy Soup – a thick stew of tomato, ba­con and chick­peas (¤5). We’ve been ad­vised to come here to try the omelette with onion, mush­room and cheese but are too late for the break­fast menu (which fin­ishes at noon). In­stead we or­der a pitta pocket with or­ganic salad – with leaves that ac­tu­ally taste of some­thing – av­o­cado and dress­ing (¤6.50). It’s a lit­tle steep for a veg­e­tar­ian pitta, but it comes crammed with very fresh salad with shav­ings of car­rot and cu­cum­ber, and also some home­made hum­mus. The only down­side is that the pitta isn’t toasted. The baguette with fig, pro­sciutto and moz­zarella (¤7.20) does see the un­der­side of the grill – two long halves of fresh, doughy baguette are toasted un­til the cheese has bub­bled and are then topped with sweet sliv­ers of fig and lots of salty pro­sciutto and another moun­tain of those home­grown leaves. As we leave, a waiter wa­ters pots of ed­i­bles around us – great to see a small cafe be­ing so self-suf­fi­cient.

RAW

Radis­son Blu Ho­tel, Lough Atalia, Galway, 091-538 212, radis­son­hotel­gal­way.com ¤¤ Perched on the fourth floor of the Radis­son Blu Galway, RAW of­fers a sushi menu that also in­cludes a hand­ful of cold meat and veg­etable dishes. While the room re­tains a slightly cor­po­rate look from its pre­vi­ous in­car­na­tion as a meet­ing room, ser­vice is warm and friendly and the view from your ta­ble looks out over Lough Atalia to Galway Bay, where some of your din­ner has been landed. The menu is split into var­i­ous types of sushi, such as ni­giri (slices of fish on a ball of rice), maki (sushi rolls in sea­weed), temaki (hand rolled cones of fish and rice) and sashimi (slices of raw fish). Prices range from ¤4 to ¤18. There’s also an in­ter­est­ing sushi bowl (¤12) of sushi rice topped with fish in­clud­ing yel­low fin tuna and salmon, veg­gies, roe and nori (sea­weed). There’s an ex­pla­na­tion of what each dish en­tails – use­ful for peo­ple new to sushi – and you can see head chef Hisashi Ku­ma­gai work­ing away, ex­pertly as­sem­bling your din­ner. A bowl of edamame (salty steamed soy beans) is a must-have – pop­ping them out of their shell gives the same sat­is­fac­tion as pop­ping bub­ble-wrap. It’s also nice to see the price at ¤3, when so many places charge twice that these days. Maki op­tions in­clude a Cal­i­for­nia roll (¤8) with real crab (as op­posed to dread­ful pro­cessed crab sticks). There’s also a de­li­cious spi­der roll – fried soft-shell crab with av­o­cado and mus­tard cress – which has good, meaty crab and is the right bal­ance of crunchy and creamy. A plate of tuna tataki (¤13) has barely seared slices of yel­low fin, with a sake, soy and vine­gar sauce, topped with a punchy mix of spring onion, gar­lic, ginger and daikon radish. The four-course set menu (¤35) is a good way to try a num­ber of dishes. It in­cludes miso soup, and choices such as eel un­agi rolls, a sashimi se­lec­tion (the tuna is good – fatty but melt­ing), a chef’s 6-piece se­lec­tion of ni­giri and maki, and a very good Bar­bary duck breast (¤13), smoked and cut into thin sliv­ers that are dark pink in­side. It’s been mar­i­nated in mirin, sake and konbu (a type of kelp) and the ex­plo­sion of smoky, salty, umami flavours in your mouth is quite some­thing.

This is good spot for a date (ask for a win­dow seat) and you can also get take out.

RUA

New Antrim Street, Castle­bar, Co Mayo caferua.com An­nMcMa­hon openedCafé Rua more than a decade ago. She wanted to share her love of un­com­pli­cat­ed­food us­ing lo­cal, sea­sonal in­gre­di­ents.

Last year, I vis­ited their new branch in Spencer Street, which opened in 2008. Its first floor is a bright, light-filled room that holds a gro­cery and bookshop, with floor to ceil­ing shelves filled with jars of lo­cal jam, bot­tles of Ir­ish juice and pack­ets of fish smoked in the West. The shelves hold a choice se­lec­tion of cook­books, in­clud­ing Niki Segnit’s Flavour Th­e­saurus.

Once you walk past the good­ies, you’ll find Café Rua’s del­i­catessen, where we grabbed a cou­ple of their honey roast ba­con, ched­dar and Rua chut­ney sand­wiches to go. We tucked into thick slices of bread stuffed gen­er­ously with great in­gre­di­ents, the Rua chut­ney mak­ing a par­tic­u­larly good im­pres­sion. Their bread is made in-house in the Rua bak­ery, which is where their cakes come from too.

Up­stairs is where you can sit in for break­fast and lunch, along­side about 25 other din­ers. Lunch in­cludes sand­wiches and sal­ads from the deli, along­side hot treats like roast loin of pork with car­rots and red cab­bage. Last week­end, they were serv­ing aMayo Hot­dog as a lunch spe­cial - a De Búrca Cum­ber­land sausage with melt­edCar­rowholly cheese and arra­bi­atta sauce on a floury blaa with lo­cal leaves and sautéed spuds (¤9.95).

THE TAN­NERY

The Tan­nery was the first place I ever ate Ir­ish as­para­gus. It had been picked from their cook­ery school gar­den a few hours be­fore it found it­self on my plate. The com­bi­na­tion of its woody tex­ture and earthy flavour has been im­planted into my mem­ory bank of ex­cep­tional taste ex­pe­ri­ences. It was served, smartly shaved, along­side some sea­side sam­phire and a plump piece of roasted monk­fish cov­ered in herb but­ter.

Of course, it’s ru­ined all other as­para­gus for me see­ing as Ir­ish-grown as­para­gus is thin on the ground and our shops are full of im­ported spears that have trav­elled too far to have re­tained that same in­tense taste.

The Tan­nery is all about spe­cial ex­pe­ri­ences. Lo­cated in the sweet sea­side town of Dun­gar­van, its res­tau­rant boasts a light-filled din­ing room on the top floor and a re­laxed bar on the ground floor. Here you’ll find copies of the cook­books its pro­pri­etor Paul Flynn has writ­ten. You might know Paul from his recipes for Lidl, or from his RTÉ TV show with Martin Shana­han. He and his wife Máire opened The Tan­nery in 1997, and their busi­ness has ex­panded in the last 20 years to in­clude a cook­ery school and a guest­house, all lo­cated on the one street. While Paul and his team work clev­erly with lo­cal, sea­sonal in­gre­di­ents, Máire ex­pertly works the front of house. It’s the com­bi­na­tion of their tal­ents that makes vis­it­ing The Tan­nery such a joy.

Af­ter our meal, we slipped off to sleep in The Tan­nery Town­house, their gor­geous guest­house across the road that over­looks their cook­ery school and res­tau­rant gar­den, where my as­para­gus had come from.

En­joy­ing the eat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence here is an in­vest­ment, with main cour­ses on the Á La Carte menu hov­er­ing be­tween ¤25 and ¤30. Get there ear­lier in the evening for their Easy Evening menu and you can try their set menu for ¤30 for three cour­ses.

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