A tasty pitstop for tired travellers and weary pilgrims
The Tavern Bar and Restaurant is a treat at the foot of Croagh Patrick
The Tavern, Murrisk, Co Mayo: watch out for the next time you’re on the road to Westport that skirts around Clew Bay. Photograph: David Ruffles
At the foot of Croagh Patrick in the village of Murrisk sits The Tavern Bar & Restaurant, a pub that has been run by Myles and Ruth O’Brien since 1999. The pair brought years of experience working in hospitality abroad and at home to Murrisk, and have since then transformed this humble, smart gastropub on the coast of Clew Bay into a seven-days-a-week seafood hot spot.
The doorway of this unexpectedly vast pub is weighed down with positive plaques from the McKenna Guides, the Michelin Eating Out In Pubs, and Georgina Campbell’s Ireland. Food writers love this spot, and it seems that Westport walkers and Croagh Patrick climbers are equally charmed. We visit on a sunny Tuesday evening in August, and the place is packed.
First impressions are good. A cozy front pub complete with fireplaces is stocked with Irish gems such as Poacher’s tonic water from Wexford and craft beers from the even more local Mescan Brewery in Kilsallagh, Westport. Both provide good company while we wait in the bar for a table in the restaurant. We’ve arrived without a reservation, a rookie mistake for city slickers unaware of the popularity of this rural gem. But we’re in good hands.
While Myles runs the ship in the kitchen, it’s Ruth who is out front and leading her team. You can see how well a team functions when they are at their busiest, and it’s a joy to watch the Tavern in full swing. We’re greeted at the door, seated at the bar, watered and then seated in the downstairs restaurant (there’s an upstairs restaurant space, too) and fed, all within an hour and a half. It’s friendly, informal and efficient service at its best.
There are lunch and dinner specials that run alongside an all-day menu. The menu is almost disconcertingly long – it offers everything from chicken wings to burgers to pasta to wraps to braised shanks of Mayo lamb to Clew Bay seafood penne. The ample menu includes a kids’ meals section so it’s family-friendly too. A large menu is a risk for a quieter, less-established spot but The Tavern is heaving and all dishes that come out of the kitchen to us are successful. A special of pan-fried monkfish (€23.95) with a dollop of creamy champ is a fine example of why monkfish is a sought-after main course. Well-cooked fish with a lovely creamy mash, not too fussy but well-presented.
An open plate of Wards Fresh Crab Meat (€14.75) doesn’t mess too much with great raw materials. A minor irritant is the use of finely chopped raw red onion as a garnish on the plate. A pet peeve (or first-world problem) of mine is irrelevant garnishes, and this is repeated on the crab and Connemara oak-smoked salmon plate (€16.75). It doesn’t elevate the main event, which is the beautiful crab meat. It is allowed to hold its own by being lightly mixed with a lemon aioli. Some deliciously tangy buttermilk soda bread, home-made of course, and a decent side salad is served alongside the crab meat, and it’s a very enjoyable light supper for a driver facing into a long journey.
Some home-made brown bread ice cream (€5.95) is laced with Baileys and tiny chocolate chips. The chocolate distracts a bit from the caramelised toastiness of the brown bread element of the ice cream, which is otherwise lovely. Coffee is good, too (€2.40 for an espresso). It’s classic Italian in style and packs a punch.
The Tavern is a perfect pitstop for tired travellers or pooped pilgrims alike, and it is deserving of its many accolades. It’s definitely one to watch out for the next time you’re on the beautiful road to Westport that skirts around Clew Bay and Croagh Patrick.
The Tavern Bar & Restaurant, Murrisk, Westport, Co Mayo, 098-64060