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