Chow Town

Ireland delivers rich food, drink experience

Ireland was a rich food experience; I didn’t expect that, not each and every day. Of course, the big cities, Dublin and Belfast, offered excellent cuisine. And not surprisingly, I was in a seafood mode throughout my weeks there; it’s an island amidst cold waters.

I had fantastic oysters, shrimp, scallops, hake, haddock, seabass, on and on. I’m still thinking about a single oyster I had at Restaurant OX in Belfast; it was that good, a lovely blend of creamy and briny.

But there was great food everywhere. Cork’s Fishy Fishy (got to love that name) was disarmingly humble and almost touristy, but offered first rate fish. Galway’s Ard Bia was charm itself and the food had more soul than the name might suggest (Ard Bia means “high food”).

All of our evenings were topped off by warm pubs with traditional music; too many to name, though Shoot the Crows in Sligo remains my image of a happy Irish pub.

The most impressive pub we frequented unquestionably was the Crown Bar in Belfast. You have to see it to believe it, but it’s not all show. They have some very fine local beers — beer is so far improved in Ireland since my last trip that I was in bubble heaven. The Crown is visually stunning inside and out, but their snugs are as cozy as in Ireland.

We devoured food from humble to haut cuisine; perhaps most perfectly punctuated by OX in Belfast. Modern bectly punctuated by OX in Belfast. Modern but not precious; Clever, but never too clever; the Irish are unlikely to take themselves too seriously, even if they can’t seem to stop talking. Especially in Belfast, everyone knows that the truth is tenuous; and agreement remains tense.

No one is sure if they’re going in the right direction but they keep going because that’s far better than going back. The progress in Ireland is proven. Some people might want more, but this diner and traveler was utterly sated.