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The Lodge Restau­rant

Con­nemara Na­tional Park Hos­tel - Let­ter­frack Lodge Let­ter­frack, Con­nemara Co Gal­way 095-41222 lodge.ie Mike Laf­fey opened the Let­ter­frack Lodge as a hos­tel in 2000, which he runs with his wife Janet McDonnell. It has since de­vel­oped into more of a self-ca­ter­ing B&B, mov­ing away from stu­dent ac­com­mo­da­tion. “We’re ei­ther a re­ally good hos­tel, or a bad ho­tel,” jokes Laf­fey.

The Lodge Restau­rant is in its third sea­son. The lunch menu is a dis­tilled ver­sion of the din­ner of­fer­ing, and in­cludes Moules Frites (¤15), har­vested from Laf­fey’s own mus­sel farm in nearby Kil­lary. It’s an enor­mous bowl of plump, bright orange mus­sels gen­er­ously gar­nished with lo­cal sea sam­phire and the creamy sauce is de­light­fully salty and rich, with a pleas­ant con­sis­tency, per­fect for dip­ping the ex­cel­lent hand-cut chips into. The Lamb Burger (¤15) is ex­cep­tion­ally tasty. The lamb is Bernard King’s Con­nemara Or­ganic Moun­tain Lamb, and it makes for a juicy mouth­ful. A chia seed bun, made for the Lodge by Welsh’s Bak­ery in Clif­den, is a per­fect ves­sel for the burger. A tangy tzatziki, a crunchy seeded salad and those yummy chips make for won­der­ful ac­ces­sories to the burger.

Dessert (¤7) is a lux­u­ri­ously moist choco­late mousse cake with a tangy fruit coulis, and it’s made in-house, along with all other cakes on the menu, the bread, the scones and the flat­bread pizza bases. The cof­fee is agree­able though not re­mark­able (¤3), and is made with an Ital­ian blend sup­plied by the Gal­way Cof­fee Com­pany.

Though the ac­com­mo­da­tion is open year-round The Lodge Restau­rant is open from April to Septem­ber/Oc­to­ber. AMcE Café Aran Teach an Tea, Inis Oírr, Gal­way (099) 75092 cafearan.ie Run by is­lan­der Micheál Donoghue and his wife Alissa in the down­stairs of their fam­ily house, Café Aran’s spe­cials in­clude an Is­land Tart (¤7), which fea­tures those su­per spuds along­side the Donoghue’s home­grown herb pesto, wrapped in a light filo pas­try. Also dot­ted amongst the pesto and the spuds are dol­lops of Aran Goat Cheese, made by Gabriel and Orla Fa­herty on nearby Inis Mór.

Other sup­pli­ers in­clude the Friendly Farmer in Gal­way for the chicken in their tra­di­tional soup stew, known as Gran’s Chunky Chicken Broth. Also on the daily spe­cial’s board is freshly caught mack­erel, pan-fried whole so that its skin takes on a de­li­cious crispi­ness while its rich, oily flesh re­mains moist. It’s served sim­ply with some good coleslaw, ex­cel­lent po­tato salad and some beau­ti­ful mixed-salad greens from the Donoghues’ gar­den.

Also on the mack­erel plate (¤8) are thick slices of brown bread, which Alissa bakes us­ing her mother-in-law’s recipe, whose name was Mary Donoghue. Mary’s bread is light in colour, and springy rather than crumbly. It has many guest ap­pear­ances on the reg­u­lar menu, used as the base for a se­lec­tion of open sand­wiches. The Hens’ Egg Salad open sand­wich (¤7) looks par­tic­u­larly good, es­pe­cially as the Donoghues own the hens which sup­ply the eggs. You can’t get more lo­cal than that. Café Aran is open from Easter to Septem­ber/ Oc­to­ber. AMcE

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