Burren Storehouse and Sheedy’s Hotel review

Burren Storehouse and Sheedy’s Hotel make Lisdoonvarna a food destination

   
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The Burren Storehouse

  • Kincora Road
  • (065) 7074084
  • Irish

There’s a screen the size of a tennis court at the back of this lean-to room. You can glimpse the Perspex roof in between sheets hung like billowing sails. Behind the kitchen counter a ginormous grill, spit and charcoal oven looks like it was designed by a fairytale giant for roasting boys. We’re in the Burren Storehouse, the latest addition to Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare, from the forces of nature that are Birgitta Curtin and husband Peter. The Swedish woman opened the Burren Smokehouse in 1989 to bring food from a beautiful place to a wider world. The new Storehouse is between the smokehouse and family pub and microbrewery. It’s a hybrid of music, big-screen venue, pizzeria and restaurant.

The floor is speckled concrete and the tables are picnic benches made from varnished curving lengths of timber. Tables and chairs by the windows look like refugees from a 1980s hotel function room. It all works in a handmade sort of way, helped by a beautiful summer evening outside the handsome floor-to-ceiling glass doors. The doors can fold back concertina style but they need fixing since someone drove a car into them.

Full disclosure? We were guests at a dinner here the previous weekend for the Burren Slow Food Festival. We enjoyed it so much we’re back on our own steam a week later and tonight we’re putting the wood-fired pizza oven through its paces. This is not the kind of setting in which you expect to find great food. But let’s raise a glass of craft beer to democratisation of food culture because that’s what happens. The pizzas have perfect crisp house dough with perfect pockets of warm air trapped in the paper crisp crust. And I’ve got one of the best bowls of mussels and clams I’ve eaten in Ireland. They’re from father and daughter team Gerry and Ciara O’Halloran who farm and forage shellfish on the Flaggy Shore.

Their Redbank mussels are knobbly specimens – juicy and fat, the clams sweet and soft. He has a fair few knobbly bits himself, Gerry says later when I phone to describe my dinner to him, and he tells me those were probably the last wild mussels of the season.

There’s a chilli-laced broth to set off my mussels and clams with benign looking chillis which turn out to hurt rather than burn they’re so hot. This great bowl of Irish seafood comes with a side salad served in a balsa-wood basket – the kind that typically holds bad chips. But these mustardy leaves are fresh and the cherry tomatoes burst with juice. Pizzas get wolfed, including a pineapple one (yes foodie credentials to the wind but I’m partial to a slice or two of pineapple pizza). It’s the first time this has come with shards of fresh pineapple rather than chunks that have turned syrupy from life in a tin.

The Burren Storehouse is my favourite kind of casual restaurant: a place where there’s nothing casual about the approach to the ingredients. It’s all delivered in the gentle style that I associate with this part of the country.

In a tale of two dinners we amble without children to Sheedy’s Hotel the next night for a more formal experience. I look a little longingly at the sunny back garden heading into the dining room with its linen tables and small window but, given the default climate most days of the year, cosy is probably a better bet than anything outdoors.

It’s old school dinner here with a crispy duck leg starter that couldn’t get much crispier, skin crackling under the fork, with meat still juicy underneath. It comes with beetroot remoulade which gives an earthy sweetness to the salt of the meat. Liam has organic Clare Island salmon, house marinated in ShortCross gin, which gives just the right amount of bitter to the luscious salmon flesh. We stay at sea for mains with baked hake served with chorizo and olives like a paella without the rice.

Seared scallops are served in a delicate lemon butter sauce flecked with chives from their garden and a pea purée. The roe have been fried crisp at the edges and dotted in the pea purée like small orange islands. Prices for main courses look steep but there are no sneaky sides to add to the bill. Both come with a cube of silky garlicky potato gratin and vegetables which tip us into too full for dessert territory.

Lisdoonvarna has gone through several incarnations from its glory days as a Victorian spa resort to its 1970s and early 1980s folk festival days. Now it has a great restaurant in Aidan McGrath’s Wild Honey Inn. The new Burren Storehouse and the formal elegance of Sheedy’s Hotel completes a hat-trick of places that make it an excellent destination for a food weekend. All that’s missing is a coffee shop for cake after a long trek on the Burren.

Dinner for five with beers in the Burren Storehouse came to €89.90.

Dinner for two with a half bottle of wine and a glass of Guinness came to €91.60 in Sheedy’s.

Sheedys Hotel, Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare (065) 7074026 

The Burren Storehouse, Kincora Road, Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare (065) 707 4084

Food provenance: Extensive. Sheedy’s use Garrihy Seafoods, Bernard Roughan Meats and Foleys Fruit and Vegetables.

Wheelchair access: Yes.

Vegetarian options: Good in both venues.

Facilities: Fine.

Music: Pop in the Storehouse, low-key jazz in Sheedy’s.

Verdict: 8/10 for both. A town reinvented through food. Christy Moore needs to write a follow up song