Showing posts with label Burren Smokehouse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Burren Smokehouse. Show all posts

Monday, October 4, 2021

Limerick's Strand Hotel: Gateway to the city, the county and the coast.

Limerick's Strand Hotel: gateway to the city, the county and the coast.


It would be easy to say that the Strand Hotel is part of the fabric of Limerick City. And you’d be correct, to a degree. It stands foursquare on the Bunratty Castle side of Sarsfields’s Bridge with the mighty Shannon River flowing in front towards the Atlantic edge. Go up a storey or two and you see King John’s Castle and the much more modern Munster fortress of Thomond Park. Thomond Park and other local locations is where you see the European embrace.

But fabric, while it can be strong, pleasingly patterned and delightfully colourful, doesn’t quite describe this Limerick hotel. Might be too much to say that it is the heart of the city. Better maybe to describe it as an active organ  of the Treaty city. And proud of its engagement with people from the surrounding area.

Pigtown Plate

The river is hard to miss but let us dig a little deeper and we'll see another artery, not at the front but at the hotel's rear,  and this is where their food and drink supplies arrive. From the long-standing orchards of the Attyflin Estate come apples and some of the best juices around. Speaking "juice", you’ll see the beer from close neighbours Treaty City on tap in the hotel bar. 

I remember enjoying Cleeves toffees in decades gone by. Cleeves may no longer may be produced here (Kildare nowadays, like with Cork’s Hadji Bey Turkish delight, is the place of manufacture) but the Strand chefs have the recipe and it appears on the dessert menu.

Night Time Panorama from the glass walled balcony

Limerick was and is known as Pigtown and that name is coming into wider prominence in recent years and could well help market the city into the future. This year, the recently concluded Pigtown Festival featured “The 061 Dinner” (0 Imports, 6 Restaurants, 1 Goal) with a 3-course dinner being served in different restaurants at the same time using only Limerick suppliers on the menu. Of course, the Strand was involved. 

Salmon Starter

It is not just a one-night stand with The Strand. Take a look at their current dinner menu and you’ll spot a Pigtown Platter (a very good one too, by the way!). And quite a few other examples of local produce being used.

And that includes a can of Pigtown Lager that I enjoyed in my room, another beer from the Treaty City portfolio. You can get their Pale Ale on tap in the hotel bar. Atlantic Edge and European Embrace are recent marketing buzzwords for the city but I must admit I much prefer the punchier Pigtown.

Chicken and rosti

I was a guest of the hotel recently and also stayed there early last year and took advantage of its central location to visit quite a few of the local attractions including King John’s, the weekend Milk Market, and the Hunt Museum. You can walk to all of these and more. Speaking of walks, Limerick has no shortage: guided, self-guided, even a food tour. Take a stroll up Thomas Street and see for yourself: restaurants and cafes galore, even a micro-brewery.

Dish of the Day: Salmon, mussels

Hop in the car and within sixty minutes you can be on the west coast of Clare or in the heart of the Burren or meeting your match in Lisdoonvarna. Doolin and Ballyvaughan are about 70 minutes away. Head southwest-ish and you’ll be in the Foynes Flying Boat Museum in 35 minutes. Interested in more modern flying machines? The Shannon Aviation Museum is just over a quarter of an hour away. And that is just a handful of the attractions in the area.

The amazing Burren, an easy drive from the Strand

And you’ll be returning to one of the most attractive and comfortable hotels around. I really enjoyed it. From the moment we arrived on Thursday afternoon until we left on Friday morning, we met with nothing but smiles and courtesy from every single person, from reception to the bar, to the restaurant to the guy serving at the breakfast buffet.  

Dessert with Cheeves!

Speaking of smiles and courtesy we met some members of the Stormers Rugby team from South Africa and enjoyed a couple of brief chats with them ahead of their game against Munster. It is a large hotel but a very friendly one. Four stars for sure but a chatty engaging informality also abounds. 

Lots of hotels are now focussing on sustainability. Energy Conservation, Water Conservation and Waste Management are three main targets for the Strand. You see lots of press from various organisations and you wonder what’s really going on behind the scenes. But, without doing any deep digging, I noticed two ways in which this hotel is tackling the issue.

Reception area

Firstly, the waste bins in the rooms are dual purpose in that each bin has two separate (marked) containers, one for recyclables, the other for more general rubbish. And the drinking water for guests comes not in a glass bottle, not in a plastic one, but in a special carton (made by Borrisoleigh Bottling Company in Tipp). It has a paper based body with a plant-based shoulder and cap and is recyclable.

In the heart of the city and a gateway to the Wild Atlantic Way, the Strand is very well equipped. It has a 20-metre pool, on-site parking, free high speed broadband, air conditioning in all 184 rooms, plus a variety of well-equipped spaces for special occasions (anything from parties to conferences).

Award winning juice

The River Restaurant & Bar, renovated this year, boasts floor-to-ceiling windows offering stunning river and city views. Enjoy Al Fresco dining during the long summer evenings on the outdoor terrace overlooking the Shannon. Paddy Anslow is the new executive head chef,  having replaced the renowned Tom Flavin earlier this year. The venue is open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner and more.

The main event for us in this room was, of course, the dinner. Quite a choice of starters, soup, chowder, Chicken Wings, Golden Arancini and a Local Salmon Plate included.

That Salmon Plate was one of our two and it turned out to be a superb plateful indeed which included Poached and Burren Smoked Salmon and roe, pickled onion, saffron mayo, seasonal leaves. Perfectly cooked and presented and CL did it justice.

I wasn’t found lacking either as I too had a beauty based on pigs from the nearby Rigney’s Farm (see what I mean by supporting local). Full description: Rigney’s Pigtown Plate - ham hock croquettes and ham hock terrine, 24 hour slow cooked and pressed, apple gel and crisp apple. Local and luscious.

Beer from the nearby Treaty City

A trio of salads on offer included the New Leaf Urban Farmers Salad (roasted vegetables, red onion jam, Leahy's Farm goats cheese, citrus scented pesto dressing). Hard to resist that but we did and also the burgers!

Rigney's Farm also featured on the list of mains which also included Catch of the Day, Sirloin Steak, a Thai Coconut Curry, Roast Rack of Bacon and more. A fine selection of sides also, including Cajun Spiced Chips!

Not too easy to make our selections here.  CL choose the Pan Seared 100% Irish Chicken Breast (with Rigney’s black pudding and leek potato rosti, all in a red wine reduction); a superb piece of poultry and that innovative rosti also a delicious delight.

I had the Dish of the Day: grilled salmon with mussels. Arrived in a tempting presentation, at the proper temperature and it was cooked to perfection. One or two pieces of grilled lemon plus little bits of bacon (not quite lardons) added a lovely little tang to the flavour and the result was a 4th clean plate on the way back to the kitchen. By the way, we also had a shared dish of seasonal greens (beans, mangetout, and some roasted potatoes). 

Delicious Beech Tree & Velvet Piopinno Mushrooms at the Milk Market

And we would finish well, and locally also. From seven desserts plus an Irish Cheese selection, we picked and enjoyed the Attyflin Apple and Pecan Crumble (with vanilla ice cream) and the Cleeves Toffee and Chocolate Slice (with Scup gelato peanut butter ice-cream).

So it was a happy couple that made our way, just a few steps, to the very comfortable bar area to try out the Treaty City Pale Ale, regarded here as perhaps their best beer. And that too got a big thumbs up as did our total stay in the Strand, including their Taste the Place campaign.


Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Taste of the Week. Burren Smokehouse Hot Smoked Salmon

Taste of the Week.
Burren Smokehouse Hot Smoked Salmon

Visited Lisdoonvarna earlier this year and called to the Burren Smokehouse. Always do when I'm in the area. Among my purchases was this hot smoked Irish organic salmon, smoked over oak with honey, lemon and pepper, by Birgitta Curtin. By the way, all visitors have the chance to see a short video on how they produce their famous smoked salmon and you also get a tasting or two!

Got our Hot Smoked out of the fridge the other day and enjoyed it, our current Taste of the Week, with a simple garden salad. Superb.

The farmed salmon comes from the clear turbulent waters off the west coast of Ireland, from locations such as Clare Island (Westport). Here, "lean muscular fish are naturally high in Omega 3 & 6 oil".  The smokery adds "only the purest natural ingredients, sea salt, natural oak smoke, locally grown herbs, and wild seaweed foraged in West Clare".

Burren Smokehouse  
Co. Clare 
Tel: 065 7074432

Also in Clare recently:
Bunratty Castle & Folk Park
Hazel Mountain Chocolate
The Burren Brewery
A Tour of Clare
St Tola Goats Cheese visit
Henry's Bistro & Wine Bar Ennis
Burren Gold Cheese
Red Cliff Lodge Restaurant Spanish Point
Oar Doolin
Noel's Restaurant at Bunratty Manor

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Coast of Clare

The Coast of Clare
Bridges of Ross near Loop Head

Before the crow came...
The coast of Clare provided the backbone for our journey in May, beginning on the Clare-Galway border, calling to the Flaggy Shore and the Fanore Beach, a quick trip inland to Lisdoonvarna, then the pier at Doolin, skirting the cliffs of Moher (we had been there a couple of weeks earlier), then a call to Ennistymon and its cascades, roadworks meant we didn’t get near Doonbeg; then we visited Loop Head Lighthouse (just about able to see in the fog) and we did call to the Bridge of the Rosses before continuing on via Carrigaholt and Kilrush to end up at Bunratty.

Lots of good food and good lodgings over the three nights and four days and more on that later. We left Cork early on day one and our first stop was about noon at the amazing Hazel Mountain bean to bar chocolate factory

In Ballyvaughan, I saw a crow walking behind a heron who was stalking prey in seaweed at the edge of water. Each move that the heron made was “copied” by the crow. The heron seemed to get fed up of the unwanted company and flew across a narrow stretch of water to the opposite shore. On the ground, the same scenario happened again. This time though the crow got even closer and the heron flapped his wings at his “shadow”. Still, the crow stayed close. Eventually, the heron took off on a longer flight out over the water and parallel with the shore. The crow followed suit but only for a brief spell before turning back and landing on terra firma. Perhaps he wasn’t too happy with the flight over the bigger expanse of water. I reckon the heron was happy to have seen off his tormentor.
Tea and Garden Rooms Ballyvaughan

We had provisionally noted Ballyvaughan for a lunch stop but were in no mood to eat anything after all that delicious chocolate! The Tea and Garden Rooms were closed for the day (May 1st) but the Monk seemed to be getting takers for its lobster offering (49.50) and its promise of a taste of Irish beers.

At the Flaggy Shore, we had a view of Galway across the bay, not the clearest as the day was getting duller. Does anyone know how it got its name? I couldn’t see any reason to call it flaggy. After passing the Black Head we arrived at Fanore Beach. Here, there is no shortage of flat rocks. The dunes are of some importance though that doesn’t seem to hinder the congregation of caravans and mobile homes. Some fine walks around here also, starting in the beach car park. The River Caher, the only river in the Burren to run its entire course overground, enters the sea here.

As we drove down the coast road (R477), we thought we’d make a visit to Lisdoonvarna to see the Curtins. Birgitta was not at Burren Salmon when we called. Here, all visitors have the chance to see a short video on how they produce their famous smoked salmon. We enjoyed that and the tasting that followed. Couldn’t make our minds up between hot and cold smoked so we bought both along with some trout and mackerel.
Mural in Burren Smokehouse

Since we were so close, we decided to walk up to the Roadside Tavern to see Peter and who did we meet on the way only Birgitta. Had a small tasting of their amazing no-hops beer and then a wee chat with Peter who was asking for Jack Lynch, his fellow micro-brewer from Mayfield (Cork). More on Peter’s beer here.  
Roadside Tavern

Back then towards the coast and our base for the night, the absolutely splendid and very highly recommended Sheedy’s B& B in Doolin. And also highly recommended, for dinner, is the Oar Restaurant (a short walk from the B&B).
Doonagore Castle, with the islands in the distance

The following morning, after a delicious multi-choice breakfast at Sheedy’s, we spent a short spell on the pier at Doolin, watching the ferries coming and going from the Aran Islands. Then a narrow road took us high into the hills, past Doonagore Castle, and eventually we had great views of the three Aran Islands. Soon we passed the Cliffs of Moher (again, we had been, as we had been in the Doolin cave, a couple of weeks earlier). See account of earlier trip here.
Poet Brian Merriman in Ennistymon

Time then for a bite to eat and we thought of the Little Fox in Ennistymon. Seating and tables are fairly basic here but the food is the luxury. Some lovely dishes on the menu including Campfire beans with garlic yogurt, basil oil, Inagh Free Range Sausages, with fried egg on Hugo’s Sourdough. Another dish to catch the eye was the Mohammad’s Flatbread, with roasted squash, crème fraiche, fried egg and garden greens. Alas, breakfast in Sheedy’s had been so good, we could only manage a cup of locally roasted coffee and a delicious lemon cake.
Cascades in Ennistymon

We almost forgot to check out the town’s famous cascades, just a very short walk from the main street. The water pours down a series of natural steps. Spectacular stuff in the middle of the town, well worth a detour. Speaking of detours, the next one took us well away from Doonbeg and the west coast, even down to Kilrush before heading back towards beautiful Kilkee. With the weather closing in, we headed for the Loop Head Lighthouse.
Loop Head

The rain stopped for a spell and then it got a bit brighter but the improvement didn’t last and it wasn’t at all good when we paid our fee (a fiver, I think), for the tour. We were told what we could have seen! Very tantalising, having climbed over 70 steps. But that’s nature! She doesn’t have to perform just because the tourists are in town. The weather had eased somewhat as we walked, on a hard path mostly, over by the Bridges of Ross, a spectacular coastal landscape, amazing rocks and at least one big arch.

Back then to village called Cross where we had booked into the Old School B&B. Here again we had a great host in Ian and also his wife Teresa (whom we had met earlier in her part-time role as lighthouse guide!). Headed up to Kilkee for the evening meal and the crab claws were the highlight of our meal in Naughton’s Bar in the town .

The following morning found us on the road east, close to the north bank of the mouth of the Shannon, the giant stacks of Aughinish Aluminium visible at almost every turn. Our first stop was to see the ruins of Carrigaholt Castle. A man was busy in the seaweed below, working hard shifting and shaking bunches of seaweed. He told me he was foraging for periwinkles and seemed to be quite successful on the sunny morning.

The sun stayed with us as we arrived in Kilrush to visit the Vandeleur Walled Garden (no charge). The Vandeleurs, planters in the 17th century, were well established here for hundreds of years but their reputation was severely damaged with mass evictions during the famine period. Now though, this is a peaceful colourful community place with that historical garden, a bistro, a garden centre and woodland trails. Well worth a visit.

After that, we headed up towards Ennis on our way to Bunratty where we spent the full afternoon enjoying the Castle and its Folk Park. . Our base for the night was the nearly Bunratty Manor. Here we enjoyed a superb dinner and a fine breakfast too before heading off home on the following morning. It was a terrific trip to Clare.
Naughton's Kilkee

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Superb Dining at Red Cliff Lodge in Spanish Point

Superb Dining at Red Cliff Lodge
 in Spanish Point
Beautifully presented starter: 
Chicken liver paté, with Hennessy brandy, hazelnut crumb, cherry gel and sea salt toasts
Christopher and Eimear King, newly returned from Spain, took over the Red Cliff Lodge early in the year and are doing a great job in this well located restaurant that overlooks the sea at Spanish Point in County Clare. An impressive location and also a very impressive, spacious and comfortable room.

I'm sure quite a few of you are familiar with Lanzarote. Perhaps you know the award winning Kristian's? It's in Puerto Del Carmen and our duo ran it for the five years before their recent return to Ireland and the Red Cliff.

The emphasis will be very much on local produce. Of course they don't have to go too far for fish and seafood in any case and suppliers include Cathal Sexton, Gerrighy's and Burren Smokehouse. "All meat and chicken on our menus are locally sourced by fourth generation master butcher Noel O'Connor and certified Irish."

Chef Christopher certainly knows how to handle this excellent produce and the dishes are superb. We had an excellent meal here as you see from the photographs. The only "bad" mark was a few undercooked potatoes with the Hake but the potatoes in the side dish were perfect! Very Highly Recommended if you're in the area.


I loved this Warm Thai Beef Salad, with caramelised cashew nuts,
 pickled vegetables, sweet chilli and curry sauce
Delicious breads and that beetroot hummus was superb


Perfect: Baked Silver Hake, potatoes, radish and shrimp

Another well-executed dish: Salmon with Asparagus, 
leek, bacon, sumac dust and lemon butter, well cooked and delicious

You're in luck if this is on: Apple and blackberry crumble with Vanilla ice cream and creamy custard 

Meringue (strawberries and cream with mango and strawberry coulis)
The Venue
This is the ante-room,  a few tables here but main restaurant, in much the same style, is to the left.
Also in Clare recently:
Bunratty Castle & Folk Park
Hazel Mountain Chocolate
The Burren Brewery
A Tour of Clare
St Tola Goats Cheese visit
Burren Gold Cheese
Henry's Bistro & Wine Bar Ennis
Oar Doolin
Noel's Restaurant at Bunratty Manor
Naughton's Kilkee

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Taste of the Week. Burren Smokehouse Oak Smoked Organic Irish Salmon with Honey and Dill

Taste of the Week
Burren Smokehouse Oak Smoked Organic Irish Salmon with Honey and Dill

Our Taste of the Week comes from the Burren Smokehouse via the Simply Better section of Dunnes Stores. You’ll find it difficult to find the Burren Smokehouse on the label (back). I really don't know why supermarkets don’t sell local products with the producer’s proper name highlighted on the front. Would make shopping a lot easier.

But, in this case, it is well worth it. Birgitta Curtin is the smokehouse owner and her smoking technique plus the addition of the dill and honey makes for a gorgeous rich texture and flavour, a flavour that is both deep and long.

You need very little else. Indeed, it's probably best to follow the simple serving suggestion on the back label: separate the slices of salmon 20 minutes before serving to allow it reach room temperature and then simply serve, with lemon wedges, on some fresh brown bread (preferably homemade, as was the case here, thanks to the official blog chef!).

If you want something a bit more complex, then get your hands on the current edition of Simply Better with Neven Maguire; he has a tempting recipe there for Eggs Benedict using Birgitta’s salmon.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Head For Clare in 2018

When the snows vanish, it will be time to start thinking about heading to County Clare again...

Lough Derg

The Burren



The Burren

Where the Burren meets the sea

Cliffs of Moher

St Tola

Two pucks
 See more detailed County Clare posts here