I’m not sure there is anything that screams summer as much as a sublime seafood dinner overlooking a rugged coastline, and in Ireland we are spoiled for choice in both departments. The following restaurants all offer the same blend of summer sumptuousness – sheer views across the sea in which your dinner was swimming mere hours before.
Seafood bars sticking to the simple wisdom of doing one thing and doing it exceptionally well are the kind I want to find myself in. Whether that’s sitting at a picnic bench or elegantly staining white table cloths cracking shells, as long as I am taking in the stunning views with a chilled glass of wine in one hand and an oyster in the other, I am happy.
Admittedly, there are far more than ten treasures around Ireland, but rest assured that a meal in any of these gems will leave a lasting impression for all the right reasons. Whether it is a stunning sunset or brooding thunder clouds settling in on the horizon, the vista in each of these is the perfect backdrop for a memorable evening indulging in the delights of the deep, some of the finest seafood on the planet.
One of life’s foremost luxuries, there are few things capable of topping a succulent lobster and it needn’t be reserved for venues with white tablecloths and silver service. In fact, it is all the more enjoyable when it isn’t. This is exactly the case in Linnane’s Lobster Bar, a 300 year old thatched cottage looking out over the sea to Aughanish Island, a stone’s throw from the Flaggy Shore, where some of the most delicious oysters in Ireland reside.
Whether you’re sitting in the sun or curled up by the fire, you can enjoy the bounty gathered from New Quay Pier, from crab claws to lobster swimming along happily in garlic butter in this Michelin Guide recommended spot.
This seafood gem is for the purist – there is no meat on the menu at Out of the Blue and no apologies are made for it. The menu changes daily to reflect the freshest available catch – their tagline is nothing but the best will do – from Dingle Harbour, which this sea blue shack overlooks.
Out of the Blue is casual and laid back decor-wise but they take their seafood very seriously, think steamed crab claws still in their shells, home cured gravad lax and scallops flambéed in pastis. If you love seafood, this place needs to be on the top of your bucket list – sit on the picnic benches with a view of the Marina and surrender yourself to Dingle’s charms.
You simply couldn’t miss Eithne’s by the Sea, perched overlooking the harbour of Mullaghmore, Co. Sligo and emblazoned with a striking blue mural of towering Atlantic waves. Shellfish fresh of the boats in Mullaghmore and lobsters plucked from Eithna’s own pond beside the restaurant make up a menu that reads like an ode to the Wild Atlantic Way and even desserts at Eithna’s have a sprinkling of sea sorcery – think Chocolate and Nori Seaweed Meringue.
Lahinch is a surfers paradise, but if you prefer gazing at Atlantic waves crashing to catching them then make a booking at Barrtrá, set atop a hill overlooking Liscannor Bay. This cosy family run restaurant offers something a little different, with a five course surprise seafood tasting menu on offer.
Chef-proprietor Ruben O’Brien changes the surprise menu daily to utilise the very best local catch of the day. Expect Doonbeg crab, New Quay oysters and old fashioned Irish hospitality in this charming seafront cottage setting.
In magnificent Howth you are spoiled for choice for seafood with a view, from Aqua which feels like you are dining on a cruise liner to King Stiric, a long established eatery famed for fantastic fish. If you want something a little less formal, Octopussy’s, overlooking Howth Harbour offers seafood tapas worth sitting on a stool for, and I don’t say this lightly.
If, like me, you have a fear of ‘every bit the same’ dishes, why not indulge in an array of small plates, all composed of the daily catch from Doran’s fishmongers next door. Perfectly cooked calamari, prawns pil pil and moules with an iced cold beer on the picnic benches overlooking the pier – these guys arent lying when they say they have a licence to chill.
Moran’s Oyster Cottage has earned legendary status amongst oyster aficionados the world over and should be on every bivalve obsessive’s must visit list. If you love nothing more than a dozen oysters, there are more than a dozen reasons to make your way to Moran’s – an authentic thatched cottage dating back to 1790, overlooking a picturesque weir at the mouth of the Dunkellen and Clarenbridge rivers.
Native Clarenbridge oysters are plucked from a natural, untouched oyster bed here from September to April. Outside of native season you can enjoy delicious gigas oysters, grown locally. That said, if oysters aren’t your thing, Moran’s is still a great shout for other seafood treats like Rossaveal crab claws and prawns as well as Galway Bay mussels. Top it off it off with Moran’s famed homemade brown bread and a pint of Guinness and you have an unforgettable Irish seafood experience.
With expansive views across Baltimore Bay, The Lookout, on the first floor of The Waterfront Hotel, is a prime sunset watching spot. Well, it is if you can see over the obstruction which comes in the form of one of the most impressive seafood platters I have ever come across. This cornucopia of crustaceans is famous in its own right, having been brought to West Cork by Youen Jacob, a Frenchman who injected beautiful Baltimore with Breton charm with his arrival in the 1970’s.
Jacob’s renowned seafood restaurant, Chez Youen, closed in 2010, but lives on through The Lookout, also owned by the family. The aforementioned seafood platter is one of the original Chez Youen dishes still present on the menu and with good reason – overflowing with local lobster, oysters, langoustines, crab and mussels and served simply with Breton mayonnaise and two buckets – this is perfection.
Offering a seafood chowder which gives New England far more than a run for its money, Kealy’s Seafood Bar looks out over boats bobbing in Greencastle Harbour, the very ones which landed the perfect catch in said chowder.
More than a little retro in it’s decor, the menu at traditional Kealy’s is far from dated, packed with elegant classics which let the freshness of the seafood caught off our rugged North coast. Think Turbot with Crevette Sauce and Foylemore Oysters served with homemade bread and you’ll see why simple is usually best.
Returning to the West Cork seafood haven of Baltimore, Casey’s Hotel and Restaurant just outside the village offers sweeping views across Church Strand Bay. Another bay, Roaring Water, is a name you will recognise if you are a mussel fan and those served at Casey’s are harvested from the family’s own fish farm in Roaring Water, so it doesn’t get much better than that for a moule enthusiast.
Accompanying the spectacular local and seasonal seafood offering are organic home-grown salads and vegetables and perhaps a pint from Casey’s own on-site microbrewery – making this an understandably much loved institution in West Cork.O’Dowd’s of Roundstone is a Michelin recommended seafood treasure less than stone’s through from the water, in the heart of Connemara. With panoramic views over Roundstone Harbour and the Twelve Bens mountain range, sea-farers and land lovers will have their fill of stunning scenery as they tuck in to a menu littered with luscious local delights.
A Fisherman’s Platter is the way to go here, with delicious Connemara Smokehouse smoked mackerel, Aran Bay prawns, Kelly’s oysters, Roundstone crab claws and Cashel Bay mussels giving you a real taste of this beautiful region. On the side? Seaweed Hummus made with local carrageen and some Nori bread means every treat from the sea can play a part in your meal at O’Dowd’s.
Growing up with the name Darina, I was constantly asked if I could cook like my namesake. With that(and greed) as the ultimate motivator, I realised that baked goods make excellent bribes and an obsession was born! I am the only person to have contested both Masterchef and the Great Irish Bake off, fuelling my desire to focus on food in a serious way. Working with TheTaste allows me to satisfy this craving and marries my food fascination with my love of writing and ranting.