With the recent stories of five-hour waits to get through to the COVID travel cert helpline, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the world and its mother have opted to escape the unpredictable Irish weather and (let’s face it) often overpriced staycations for sunnier climes. However, on a recent visit to Connemara it seemed to be the opposite story entirely – restaurants and pubs were packed with Irish holidaymakers, and these days there's no shortage of places to get a great feed in the wild, wild West.
Dublin has seen an exodus of chefs and hospitality staff over the last year, and we’re pretty sure we know where they’ve disappeared to. There are loads of interesting, recent additions to the area, with a new shipping container/horsebox/caravan making an appearance on our Instagram feeds each week, and we're loving the impact on the Irish food scene. Here's where to make a beeline for next time you're in Connemara…
Galway City To Roundstone
Ard Bia @ Nimmos
Ard Bia At Nimmos is somewhere we go back to again and again, and it’s easy to see why it’s a hit with tourists and locals alike – no matter the time of day, it’s welcoming and cosy with excellent food and drinks. They're currently open for breakfast and lunch (dinner is on hold for the time being) but their weekend brunch is one of the few that we rate in the city – they recently posted a black pudding hash which we haven’t been able to stop thinking about since.
The Dough Bros
While their DIY Kits were a godsend during the lockdowns, The Dough Bros is one place we can’t wait to get back into in person. Guaranteed great pizza and always a brilliant buzz, the ‘bros’ behind this venture always have interesting collaborations on the go. They’re just doing takeaway for the moment so grab a pizza and a ‘Dough Brews’ IPA and perch yourself by the Corrib to enjoy.
For a sushi takeaway on the go to rival any in the country, head for Wa Café. Head chef and owner Yoshimi Hayakawa attracts people from across the country for her sushi platters, rice bowls and gyoza. Desserts are way more than an afterthought too.
Marmalade Bakery is the place to stop for sourdough, cinnamon buns and sausage rolls. You'll also find cookies, muffins and topped potato farls. If you're staying in self-catering accommodation stock up and treat yourself to the breakfast of Kings the next morning - a few mins in a hot oven will do wonders to revive your haul.
Coffee Werk + Press is where you want to stop for a caffeine refuel. They have a few tables outside if it's dry and it's a lovely space to have a browse around, and to stock up on ground or wholebean coffee for your trip.
POTA, An Tulach
You may want to brush up on your cúpla focal for POTA, in An Tulach. The new Irish language café deep in the heart of the Gaeltacht is doing their part to keep the language alive, while serving organic, seasonal food. They were initially based in chef Diarmuid Ó Mathúna’s native Cork but relocated this summer. Don’t let your rusty Gaeilge deter you - staff are super friendly and they even provide some useful phrases if you want to give ordering through Irish a bash. An bhfuil cead agam…
Roundstone To Clifden
Good Stuff, Roundstone
Good Stuff is the toasty van of our greedy dreams – buttery, super cheesy, perfect sourdough served with a portion of pickles and Builín Blasta's famous smoked onion mayo on the side. Get there early as they tend to sell out. Extra points for the best coffee we found in the area.
Roundstone Country Market
Roundstone Country Market is only open on Sundays and it’s well worth timing a visit. Among the vintage crockery and homemade wares you’ll find Sand and Pebbles Seafood Truck serving lobster rolls and crab salad, and Le Crêpe Wagon serving, you guessed it, crêpes. Save some room for the creamiest, locally-homemade ice-cream at Jimmy’s.
Sweet Nothings, Ballyconneely
On the scenic drive from Clifden to Roundstone you’ll find a dotey little thatched bungalow housing Sweet Nothings, serving vegan and vegetarian cakes and savoury dishes. While they’re operating on a takeaway basis at the moment, they have some picnic benches outside and there are plenty of beaches nearby to enjoy your lunch. Don't miss the cakes - this has been called some of the best vegan baking in Ireland.
Clifden to Cleggan
Baidin @ Clifden Boat Club
The newest kid on the block was set up by three friends with experience in some of Dublin's top rated restaurants, including The Fumbally and Cirillos. While Báidín only opened at the start of July, they've generated a lot of buzz, for good reason. The short menu changes daily and is very locally influenced. We tried one of each option and loved them all, but the surprising winner was the summer risotto. It was exactly what we needed on a typically Irish windy summer evening - warming and flavoursome with lovely crunch from the toasted pumpkin seeds and walnuts. Unfortunately, they'd run out of desserts when we visited but we made do with some Irish coffees (crack out the tiny violin) and will be back to try the sweet stuff.
Fadó Pizza, Clifden
Based in Clifden Camping & Caravan Park, pizza truck Fadó is serving some special pies with their hand-kneaded, 24hr proved dough. Simple and delicious, this would be a great takeaway to grab for a sunset dinner on the beach.
Wild Folk, Clifden
Wild Folk started as a yoga retreat filled with sea swimming and nourishing food, but pivoted to launching a food truck when restrictions wouldn’t allow them to hold regular retreats. They’re based at Clifden Eco Camping and are serving up some seriously tasty lunch and cakes from their little caravan, like squash and red lentil dahl with tamari seeds and cumin pickled red onion, and chai spiced pear and almond cake.
The Connemara Hamper
If you’re planning on picnicking or doing some upmarket cooking during your staycay, The Connemara Hamper is the place to stock up on provisions. As well as a full deli with cheeses, salads and sandwiches, they have a great range of our favourite pantry fillers including Harry's Nutbutter and Rosa Madre fresh pasta, as well as local smoked salmon, cheeses and jams.
The Lamplight Wine Bar, Clifden
The Lamplight has a brilliant selection of wines for a pre-dinner drink, or you could always settle in and order some small plates to go with it. A heated terrace at the back of the shop is the perfect place to hole up with some friends for some well needed catch-ups.
The Sea Hare @ The Pier Bar Cleggan
This is the second summer for The Sea Hare pop-up in rural Cleggan and it's as popular as ever. They have a daily-changing menu depending on what’s in season and what they can source locally, but alongside this they dedicate the weekend to freshly caught lobster and mussels. We visited for their Saturday Lobster lunch, served with a choice of lemon mayo or wild garlic butter and a homemade brioche bun (still warm from the oven!) for dipping. Do yourself a favour and ask for a double helping of the garlic butter – we would drink this by the mugful if it was socially acceptable. They host a number of dinner events and guest chefs during the season so keep an eye on their Instagram for news.
Inishwallah, Inishbofin island
Inishbofin is well worth at least a day trip from Cleggan, if only to visit renovated double decker bus Inishwallah, parked up on the island. The menu gets its inspiration from afar - this is definitely not the food you would expect to find in this remote area. The owner grew up in Tennessee and has a Keralan background so expect some surprising island options like pakoras and tacos. A perfect feast to enjoy after a big cycle around the island.
Cleggan to Leenaun
12 Pins Food Truck, Letterfrack
This find was a welcome surprise for us – the shores of Letterfrack were not where we expected to come across a Filipino street food truck, but we’re glad that we did. 12 Pins Market & Food Truck only opened in the last month, with Emir Catague at the helm. He's crafted the small menu using his native recipes and time travelling the world while working on cruise ships, and we think this is one to watch.
Dooncastle Oysters, Kylemore
Dooncastle Oysters supply some of the top restaurants in the country and now us mere mortals have a chance to try the goods at their food truck in the stunning location of Kylemore Lough. There's plenty of other seafood options if oysters don’t float your boat, and Handsome Burger also have a food truck in the same spot.
Misunderstood Heron, Leenaun
Perched in what has to be the most idyllic location in Ireland overlooking Killary Fjord, you'll find Misunderstood Heron. These guys were one of the first serious food trucks to launch in Ireland – they’ve been serving casual, affordable, wholesome, flavour-packed food since 2017. We change our order depending what’s on offer, but we ALWAYS find room for one of their savoury pasties.
Did we miss your favourite spot in Connemara? Let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.