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Pota review: If ever you were looking for the perfect Irish cafe, this is it

Corinna Hardgrave: This place is loaded with so many lovely things that I’m quite taken aback

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Address: An Tulach, Baile na hAbhann, Co na Gaillimhe, H91 A9W8
Telephone: 085-7566963
Cuisine: Irish
Cost: €€

It’s always the little things that stop you in your tracks. Things you hadn’t expected. Pota, where I stop for a cup of tea and a bite to eat on my way back home after a week in Connemara, is loaded with so many lovely things that I’m quite taken aback. It’s got the thatched-roof kerbside appeal and a fire-engine red door, but, inside, this former pub is bright and modern, with an open kitchen and bilingual “speisialta” chalked up on a blackboard.

I had been expecting scones and the like, but potted crab (€14) and fish tacos (€14)? Well, yes please. Not that I’m a scone hater, most certainly not. But in my haste to order I fail to notice that there are further options for people who wait to be seated and read the menu. Not that I would have changed my choice, but when you visit, do take a look, because there’s plenty to love, and the bric-féasta menu that runs earlier looks particularly interesting. We opt for some soft drinks, all of them Irish, and displayed in the open fridge on the way in, but if you’re catching up with friends and fancy a bit of vino, there are a few crowd-pleasing options.

Pota is “the last stop before the Aran Islands”—the ferry at Rossaveal is just 7km down the road—and this inspires everything about the place. The yellow lichen that clings to weathered rocks makes its way into the pendulum lights and soft cushions on the benches, two wicker lampshades handwoven by Cathy Hayden hang from the ceiling like lobster pots, and a stark grey Inis Meáin Knitwear blanket, with Seán Keating’s evocative image of an island currach being launched into the sea, hangs on a white wall above a sky-blue radiator.

The crab, which has travelled the short distance from Inis Mór, has been handpicked in Pota and gently folded into Velvet Cloud sheep’s yoghurt with tiny pieces of celery, red onion, sauteed garlic and a spritz of lemon juice, before being popped into a Kilner jar, sealed with butter and topped with a few wild-garlic flowers. Salad leaves from An Garraí Glas organic farm, across the road, are glossy with vinaigrette dressing, a few slices of cucumber have been lightly pickled, and three slabs of brown soda bread with just a hint of dillisk are on the plate. This really is one of the finest lunch dishes you could imagine—sweet pieces of crab, tasting so much of the sea with the perfect accompaniments.


The tacos are generous. Three soft purple tortillas are piled with sizeable chunks of golden battered fish, puffs of heat rising from the cod as I crunch through the red cabbage and carrot slaw. It could perhaps have done with a bit more chilli heat in the mayo, but it is deliciously satisfying.

For dessert, we find ourselves unable to stretch to more than one, and the roulade (€5) wins out against a choice which includes a carrot cake, lemon drizzle cake and chocolate brownie with Achill Island salted caramel. With just the slightest membrane of meringue crust, dusted with hazelnuts, it is soft and marshmallowy, filled with a berry compote and served with whipped cream. A nice cup of tea has us well set on our way for our return journey.

Ballymaloe-trained Diarmuid Ó Mathúna has brought potloads of experience from working in his family’s Cork pub, O’Mahony’s of Watergrasshill, and West restaurant in the Twelve Hotel in Barna, and crafted it into a space that delights in celebrating local producers and the community.

There are so many beautiful touches in this daytime cafe which make it feel uniquely inclusive. Rather than halfhearted kiddie meals, half-portions of any of the sandwiches are available, gluten-free bread is cooked first thing in the morning to minimise potential cross-contamination, the room is resolutely and intentionally accessible, with ample room for wheelchair users, and the sizeable bathroom, which is also accessible, has baby-changing facilities. There are outdoor tables for warm summer days, and if your much-loved mutt is of the well-behaved variety, they are invited too. The consideration that has gone into every little corner of this smart cafe is heartfelt. If ever you were looking for a template for the perfect cafe across the country, this is it. In Pota, it’s the little things that matter, and here, they count for a lot.

Lunch for two with two soft drinks and two teas was €42.50

THE VERDICT Simple, great food where all the little details matter

Facilities Spacious and clean, with baby-changing facilities

Music An Irish and indie mix, from Hozier and Ham Sandwich to Snow Patrol

Food provenance Hyperlocal—An Garraí Glas organic farm, Beechlawn, Aran Islands seafood

Vegetarian options A wide selection, including harissa baked beans with poached eggs, house focaccia with Aran Islands goat’s cheese, beetroot hummus, Beechlawn kale and caramelised red onion

Wheelchair access Room is accessible with an accessible toilet

Corinna Hardgrave

Corinna Hardgrave

Corinna Hardgrave, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes a weekly restaurant column