We made a trip down to Co. Clare recently for a weekend stay in Gregan’s Castle to take the opportunity to taste the much discussed food of head chef Mickael Viljanen in the hotel restaurant but as we were booked in for dinner on Saturday it meant we had to find somewhere to eat on Friday night. I’d read about the Wild Honey Inn last year when it became the first pub in Ireland to get a Bib Gourmand from the Michelin guide so we figured we’d go there and see what it was like.
We weren’t sure if we’d need a reservation but were told by the hotel that they don’t take them and after a quick phone call we were told there’d be no problem getting a table anyway. On arrival we were told we could sit anywhere so we grabbed a spot beside the bar and the waitress brought us our menus and told us about the specials on the board which all sounded very good; in fact, my main course and our dessert were both taken from there.
For starters we also decided to get something between us and chose the crab claws in a garlic and chilli butter sauce: these were lovely and if we had known how nice they were going to be we’d have ordered two! The subtle hint of chilli was just right too, sitting the background of the lovely rich sauce and preventing it from being cloying.
Next up for me was a dish of hake, mussels, gnocchi, morteau sausage, round courgettes and olive tapenade which was quite a lot of components I thought but thankfully didn’t result in too many competing flavours overpowering the taste of the hake. The highlight for me was, given cured pork’s affinity for both shellfish and white fish, the less common choice of a French sausage when a lot of places would just lazily have used chorizo. If I had a criticism it would be that the tapenade was probably unnecessary although I find it very overpowering as an ingredient generally even though I will happily eat a jar of olives on their own to myself. My wife ordered something a bit more prosaic but still very nice: proper battered fish and chips with sauce gribiche as opposed to the usual tartar.
For our pudding we shared a lemon posset with raspberry sorbet which was fantastic, an intense lemony flavour with a lovely sharp acidity made it a really refreshing way to end the meal. Unfortunately they didn’t have any dessert wine by the glass but I did have a nice white (Ca Di Ponti 2010) from Sicily made with the Catarratto grape (also used in production of Marsala) to accompany my main. Service was very friendly and attentive and our waitress seemed to have a very good knowledge of the menu’s provenence, something I always like to see. The bill game to €56 including tip and two glasses of wine.