tel: 087-653-5200; www.facebook.com/Stranded
I am proposing a statue be erected in memory of Hugh Bradner in any of a rosary of Irish seaside towns dotted along the south and west coasts, from Bundoran to Tramore, to salute his role in their ongoing revival as I’d venture his 1952 invention of the neoprene wetsuit has done more in recent times than any State intervention to reverse the slow suffocation of these former tourist honeypots, for so long withering in the face of impossible competition from foreign sun destinations.
We may have crystal clear waters, pristine beaches, and fabulous surf and winds rolling in off the western Atlantic but, without a wetsuit, our stretch of ocean has always been a tad too ‘refreshing’; with a proper wetsuit, it is possible to pass hours in the water, relishing some of the finest surfing in the world.
The last decade or so has seen a boom in the domestic market augmented by surfers from around the globe keen to tackle our monster waves and the impact of the whole watersports sector on local economies has been immense, underpinning a whole new revival of Irish beach culture.
By the ’80s and ’90s Garretstown’s status as one of the great Cork summer destinations was fast fading; these days, it is ‘G-town’, the epicentre of all manner of marine-related funk, one of the county’s most popular surfing spots with its own surf school and a cluster of food trucks, including excellent Seven Heads pizza, Rambling Sole seafood and Running Goat coffee.
On the promontory that divides Garretstown into two separate beaches sits a former cottage-turned-shop that must have sold a million ice creams in a former life but today is home to Stranded, G-Town’s own little ‘cerenguito’, a bright, friendly, clean space, sporting proprietor Stefania Sapio’s artwork on the walls. To the rear is a ‘glass box’ extension with removable roof and paving slab floor and while it could perhaps use a few plants to take the edges off a rather bald space, there’s no gainsaying the stunning ocean view.
Though it is late afternoon on a gloriously sunny day, this is No 1 Son’s breakfast as he recuperates after a hard night at the pleasure dome’s coalface and he kicks off with chicken wings with BBQ sauce, a fruity glaze with tropical tones, alongside, a creamy, tart ranch sauce and and some crisp, crunchy celery sticks.
I begin with pan-seared scallops. Though small, the size of Manx Queenies, they are succulent and delicious little bonbons of juicy marine umami; chorizo slices are possibly too large, somewhat overwhelming these petite morsels so I reduce quantities for a second perfect mouthful while No 1 Son devours my third, all smothered in a nicely rough-textured pea puree. It is some start.
Gambas pil pil is a bounty of exquisite meaty prawns sautéed with chilli and garlic (and some welcome fennel), the only caveat being the absence of a crust or two to soak up the infused olive oil.
Traditional Spanish Tortilla is made with too-floury potatoes but chef Joseph Capener nonetheless appears to have allowed for same and it survives as an extremely tasty dish. Side salad of fresh leaves and shavings of fennel bulb thoughtfully dressed with a delicate lemon-infused oil further illustrate his attention to detail.
No 1 Son has a main course of Donal Lordan’s burger, two patties of fine, savoury beef from the nearby Ballinspittle butchers, served with Gubbeen cheese, nice sweet and peppery in-house burger sauce and chips as thick as girders. The grace note on his side salad turns out to be home-pickled red onion with a sweet tang of star anise. Once again, it demonstrates a chef cooking straightforward dishes but with real care and regular flashes of considered originality, light years from the standard fare we were expecting and it is real treat.
My days of cavorting neoprene-clad through the waves may be long over, further distanced by the Japanese whale hunting fleet’s recent return to the world’s oceans with freshly sharpened harpoons, but we are resolute in our intention to return to Stranded, ideally for one of their regular live music, wine and tapas evenings, all to be relished as the sun sets over the beautiful bay — and, yes, we will raise a glass to Mr Bradner.
€52 (including drinks, excluding tip)
How to: (Summer) Tuesday to Sunday, 12pm to 8.30pm