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Thursday, 26 May 2011

EATING OUT ~ 22 MAIN STREET, KILLYBEGS

22 MAIN STREET, KILLYBEGS ~ 25th MAY 2011

22 Main Street, Killybegs
We stayed down in Daisy Cottage last night and decided to go and try the new menu in the re-vamped 22 Main Street Seafood Bar in Killybegs.  The place enjoys a great location in the fishing port of Killybegs (8 km/5 miles from Daisy Cottage) with frontage onto the street and the rear overlooking the harbour and boats. 
The new interior and central island bar
We had seen the new interior a few weeks ago having bumped into the owner, Hugh, in the new (and very good) cafĂ© in Killybegs, Mrs. B’s.  We knew the place had been closed for a re-vamp and Hugh told us it was now complete and invited us over to see it (Mrs. B’s is just across the street from 22 Main Street).  The new restaurant interior is a great success. Lots of vibrant colours, great lighting and a brand new layout incorporating a central bar area.  Hugh showed us the new menu and having lots of seafood dishes it was obviously very tempting to us as we both love seafood.

Killybegs (the red building left of centre is 22 Main Street)
(Click photo to enlarge)
Hugh is one of the founder members of a great new initiative in Donegal (along with Enda O’Rourke of the Village Tavern in Mountcharles), the Donegal Good Food Taverns.  The initiative involves a group of like minded taverns getting together to offer locals and tourists great food, great bars and great Irish music and culture.  You can read more about that and our night at the launch of the Donegal Good Food Taverns HERE.

So back to last night. We decided to enjoy some wine with our meal so took the local Dunkineely taxi, the very knowledgeable of local history, Charlie Meehan.  On the short drive from Dunkineely to Killybegs I learned that the little house attached to Daisy Cottage (which we currently use as a shed!) once served as a bottling store in the 1950s for the pub that was in the now kitchen/diner of Daisy Cottage when it was owned by the Irish politician Joseph Brennan (who went on to become the Minister for Post and Telegraphs in 1965 in the Sean Lemass government).  Charlie told us he remembered as a school boy watching the Guinness from the barrels it came in in those days being dispensed into bottles in the store. There was no such thing as draught Guinness available here at that time hence the bottling.

That wee bit of history took us to Killybegs and we entered Hugh’s Seafood Bar assuming that a pre-season Tuesday night would be quite.  How wrong we were ~ the place was full and buzzing.  We sat at the new central bar in the restaurant while we waited the few minutes it took for our table to made ready by the friendly and welcoming waitress, whose name we learned is Claire.

Claire brought our menus and a gin and tonic for me and a whiskey for my better half.  Then came the very worst part of the night ~ choosing what to order!  Given that the sea is only a few steps from the back of the restaurant they have taken full advantage of this and so have lots of seafood choices available.  As I have said here, and in many previous blog posts, we both absolutely love seafood and the menu here had us spoiled for choice.  It took me an age to decide.  And then change my mind.  And then decide again.  Thankfully, despite being very busy, Claire was very patient at my indecision.

Maybe the speed at which my husband chose (seafood chowder (€6.50) and hake in a crab sauce ~ "Hake, pan roasted served with our own cream and crab sauce - €16.95) and settled back to enjoy his whiskey, impressed her.  I love squid (calamari) and I love oysters.  Both of which were tempting me.  I swung between the two for a few minutes and decided on the calamari.  Then changed my mind to pick the oysters.  Then back to the squid.  That was only the starters.  I was as indecisive about the main course too. 

Finally I decided squid ("Donegal Bay line caught squid, fried as calamari rings served with a peach and cardamon Greek style Donegal yogurt ~ €7.50") to start and the seafood platter ("Pan roasted seafood platter made up of a trio of fish, garnished with winkles and prawns served with a Bearnaise sauce ~ €19.95")for mains (it was the red gurnard part of the seafood platter that finally won the day. Or night).

I was being incredibly nosy, looking at plates being delivered to tables near us. Three French men on one of the tables beside us had ordered the oysters ~ one of them the cooked option and the others the “au natural” and served with wedges of lemon and Tabasco sauce on a bed of crushed ice, option. I would have chosen the later ~ I just don’t get cooking oysters. Why tamper with perfection?

The two people on the table the other side of us had obviously ordered “The Whole Works” which according to the menu is "The Whole Works: a prime strip of 10oz sirloin cooked on the griddle, mounted with French fried onion rings and a grilled mushroom, home cut chips and a Tyrconnell whiskey based pink peppercorn sauce ~ €22.95".  I have to say the plates which arrived for that order looked very impressive and would certainly fill any hungry man (or woman). 

We decided not to order a bottle of wine (he wanted red, I white) so instead settled on wine by the glass (average price €5.50 per glass).  The wine list is short but has well chosen wines with all bottles available by the glass too which is sadly rarely the case.

Seafood chowder and brown bread
Our starters arrived and we tucked in. Him tasting some of my calamari and me tasting his seafood chowder. The seafood chowder was creamy and full of a variety of fish and crustaceans and served with two chunks of brown bread.

Calamari with peach and cardamon yogurt
My calamari (and baby octopus) were cooked perfectly, tender inside and coated with a crispy batter.  The side of peach and cardamon yogurt was the perfect accompaniment.

After a well timed break between courses ~ I hate having food served too fast! ~ our main courses arrived accompanied by two side orders (included in the main course price) consisting of sugar snap peas, ratatouille, and gratin potatoes.

Hake and creamy crab sauce
I tasted his hake dish and the creamy crab sauce ~ both delicious and bursting with flavour.  My dish too was delicious with the fish on the platter (hake, salmon and gurnard) allowed to take centre stage and not smothered in sauce.  The only small gripe I would have is that my salmon was over cooked for me ~ I prefer mine very "pink" in the centre but I know many people preferred it cooked through.  And though the salmon was cooked through it was not at all dry which often happens.

Seafood platter
Way too full to even consider dessert, I declined the offer of the dessert menu (all desserts are very fairly priced at €4.95 each).  My husband on the other hand decided he had enough room for a dessert but sadly for him, his first choice of a blueberry and cream cheese tart was sold out so he settled on the chocolate orange mousse which arrived topped with cream, fruit, and a fruity glaze.  It was he told me very smooth and chocolaty with a hint of maybe quantro.  He polished the lot off!

Chocolate orange mousse
Later we had excellent espressos and brandies. We both love finishing off a good meal with espresso and brandy ~ a perfect combination.  Providing of course the restaurant serves good espresso and thankfully the espresso here was the strong, flavoursome kick we sought and with a perfect crema too.

Espresso and brandy ~ a perfect combination
Sated, we asked Claire for the telephone number of a taxi (Charlie, our Dunkineely taxi takes a well deserved rest after 10pm and this being nearly midnight we needed another).  Instead of just giving us a number to ring, which sometimes happens, Claire very kindly rang the taxi for us.  It was to be about 15 minutes so we filled the time with another espresso and brandy each ~ any excuse!

Our taxi duly arrived and it was none other than a chap we had used before, a brother of the lovely Noel Cunningham, “Mr. Showbiz” on TV3 and the host of the excellent Kitty Kelly’s restaurant just outside Killybegs on the Fintra road ~ another place we must visit again really soon.  Willie Joe, great craic as ever, entertained us the whole way home with his anecdotes.  I enquired too (thinking of course of our guests at Daisy Cottage) whether he also had a mini bus as we often have 10 guests at a time and obviously one taxi would be over and back three times to ferry that number to Killybegs (or anywhere else).  He assured us that was not a problem and would happily take a minibus to collect a full house from Daisy Cottage.

THE NITTY GRITTY

The starters are priced from €4.95 ~ €7.95.

The main courses are priced from €13.50 ~ £27 (for a full lobster) with the majority of mains being €13.50.
The tables are well spaced allowing privacy and space for diners and the padded chairs very comfortable.

There is wheelchair access both from the front and the rear and a separate lavatory.

Diners can stay on for drinks in the dining area which reverts to a bar after 11pm or go into the homely little bar attached, Hughies.  Live traditional Irish music some nights.

Background music (not piped!) was an eclectic mix of various artists and played low enough to not interfere with conversation, even in a busy restaurant.

WEBSITE: 22 MAIN STREET

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