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Snug fit in Bantry

The surprising thing about Ireland is that pretty much all of the rose-tinted stuff you hear about the place is true. It’s very green. The Guinness tastes better. The roads are appalling and journeys take for ever, but punctuality seems less important. Everybody smiles and will happily exchange friendly banter. The houses, and in particular the bungalows, are saved from utilitarian ugliness by striking bright pastel paint jobs. One out of every two days it is raining – not chilly, driving rain but gentle, warm showers born on a light wind. That much-quoted description “a fine soft day” actually makes some sense at last. When it comes to food and drink, Ireland seems to reverse the polarity and you end up with drink and food.
In West Cork the eating houses fall into two categories – there are smart restaurants that charge smart money and there are pubs and hotels that sell food. There is little blurring of the demarcation lines, the food offered in the pubs will be balm for anyone jaded by the gastropub revolution. Here you are much more likely to be offered a pork chop than slow cooked belly pork. When you do see “Asian influences” or “hoi sin burger” such dishes are best avoided becuause the cooking skill can lag a long way behind the menu copy. The one constant is the young people serving behind the bar or acting as waiters and waitresses – they smile; they’re efficient; they’ll remember your round of drinks and who had what; they smile at your feeble jokes and, quick as a flash, reply with something altogether funnier.
The service standards are impeccable. When it comes to the food be careful what you order.
The Snug is a small bar on the Quay in Bantry. It’s a friendly place - “fresh seafood chowder” (€ 6.95 / £6) comes with chunks of sweet brown soda bread. A big bowlful with rich white velouté, mussels, scallops, smoked haddock, white fish. Good food great value. The blackboard lists other adventures – three small, thin cut pork chops come with four scoops of mash, great gravy, veg, (€ 10 / £8.50).
Honest food good portions. You can have a huge amount of Bantry Bay mussels (€ 16.50 / £14). But food is not the top priority, drinking takes the lead and the best dishes are all good “soaker-uppers”. The other slightly spooky thing is that every eating house seems to run the same menu. Chowder is everywhere and after extensive field trials our party thought that the chowder was best in the Wander Inn, Kenmare – lots of fishy bits in a washing up bowl full of creamy delight, or so it seemed. When seeking grub it is sensible to stick to those bars that stick to the classics – bacon and cabbage, Irish stew, mussels, fresh fish and of course the omnipresent chowder.

The Snug, the Quay, Bantry, Co. Cork, Ireland +353 27 50057
The Wander Inn, Main Street, Kenmare, Co. Kerry, Ireland +353 64 664 270
www.thewanderinn.com
Charles Campion - Friday 16th August 2013

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