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This Michelin-starred pub sets the standard

Grub Spy Alan Kelly dishes the goods on Ireland’s tastiest dining destinations.

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The inn’s welcoming exterior.

The inn’s welcoming exterior.

The inn’s delicious food.

The inn’s delicious food.

The cosy ambience.

The cosy ambience.

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The inn’s welcoming exterior.

Once upon a time, and not so very long ago, finding world-class food at reasonable prices away out in the Irish countryside was well-nigh an impossible task.

WILD HONEY INN
Kincora Road, Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare
5 Stars
FOOD €160 WINE €62

Fortunately that boring undernourished landscape has pretty much been transformed by people like classically trained Chef Aidan McGrath and partner Kate Sweeney. In the last dozen or so years, since boldly launching Wild Honey Inn in Lisdoonvarna – which gave locals and visitors the opportunity to experience culinary magic – they have been phenomenally successful and at the forefront of Irish gastronomy.

As the old saying goes “Good fortune favours the Brave” and the champagne corks sure were popping in 2017 when their vision and courage was rewarded with an historic Michelin Star.

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The inn’s delicious food.

The inn’s delicious food.

The inn’s delicious food.

In fact it’s the first ever Michelin Star for an Irish pub. It may not look like it from the outside, but that’s what we’re talking about here – a pub. The building itself is not new.

Actually it’s so not new, it’s been some class of a hotel/Inn or tavern since the early 1860’s.

Although it’s a far cry from those bygone days, and despite being elevated by awards and stars, the inn still hasn’t lost its cosy pubby vibe. The central bar is still there, surrounded by tables and chairs, two open fires and buzzing with chatter and atmos.

And then there’s the amazing food. The menu is pleasingly short and all about letting go.

To kick off we try a masterful Tartiflette with wafer thin spuds and bacon with a hint of garlic, a splash of white wine and a dash of double cream. Adorned with seared blisters of creamy goats cheese rather than the customary Reblochon, and served with dainty wedges of pickled beetroot, it’s a luscious no-nonsense joy to eat.

Equally delicious is a duck-leg ballotine glazed with intensely flavoured Jerusalem artichoke purée, a light creamy artichoke velouté, diced black olives and finished with a slice of fried mushroom.

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The cosy ambience.

The cosy ambience.

The cosy ambience.

Mains are big on execution and correctness without missing-out on flavour. There’s a plump fillet of spankingly fresh wild turbot perched atop preserved super-sweet Dotterini tomatoes, a fondue of mussels and coco beans, some neatly sliced green beans and a brilliant green shellfish sauce. A perfectly cooked loin of venison is the star dish. With sweet shallot confit, a pickled blackberry, a coating of peppery polvrade sauce and a savoy cabbage leaf stuffed with venison fragments, slivers of onion, a pinch of foie gras and garlic, it is that perfect combination of great looks and mouth-watering deliciousness.

For dessert we try a pear and almond tart featuring a scoop of pillow-soft, yielding, chocolate mousse with a drizzle of warm vanilla scented custard. A cheeseboard laden with Gubbeen, Durrus, Cooleeney and a fig and almond compote completes a very special evening.

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Wild Honey is an Irish pub that celebrates Irish ingredients and Irish food culture in a delightful unpretentious manner. It is truly a blessed relief from those dreadful, uninspired countryside bars and restaurants from the past. Some might find it expensive, but for so many people it is like striking gold in the middle of nowhere.

For that special trip I would enthusiastically recommend a visit. You will not regret it.

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