Restaurant review: Linnane’s Lobster Bar, Co Clare

Linnane’s Seafood Bar and Restaurant is located at New Quay in Clare and run by Eileen and Vincent Graham.

EATING near the seashore, on the very edge of the tide where those lingering smells of half-deckers’ diesel, frayed, drying ropes, seaweed turning to acrid soil to be eventually blown back to sea and jumbles of lobster pots stacked like an already-drunk July 12 bonfire of hate, whets the appetite for good food, like the three daughters of the old river god Achelous — the Sirens — whetted appetites sometimes as pressing but not always as easily satisfied. 

Despite everything, despite shaking off the old shackles of judgement and fear, getting a Big Mac to-go is probably still easier than getting a Ms Mac to go. Or, dear sisters, even a shy Mr Mac.

Both appetites assert themselves as the sun and horizon fall into each other’s arms; it’s as if the turning of the day swings the pendulum from the mundane to the sensuous, be it on a plate or where ever you fancy.

If you’re at a summer place these appetites can mix like a grand paealla, all kinds of colourful everything; some of it light and zesty, more of it robust and filling. All of it alluring. 

Linnane’s Seafood Bar and Restaurant at New Quay in Clare, run by Eileen and Vincent Graham, certainly seemed a summer place. 

All human life was there and it is so very close to the shore it would not have been surprising to see a party of seals at the next table clapping flippers in delight. 

Families with mothers dressing like daughters; young couples swooning but he sticks to steak and porter, yards from the fish store — wake up smell the coffee on that one lady. Older, rhumey-eyed, quieter couples wondering where the years, and the children they brought there on holidays, have gone.

Linnane’s is just a headland away from the Flaggy Shore, a place wonderfully used by Seamus Heaney:

A hurry through which known and strange things pass

As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways

And catch the heart off guard and blow it open

He could have been talking about any seashore place but his lines fit New Quay well — as did the militia of local youngsters in their first job, all sweaty, helpful, smiling while they served visitors, putting on a happy face despite the rain and wind.

There were three of us — DW and a very secular PP — and after a long day smiling at March weather in late July we had probably invested too much hope in the idea of a redemptive meal saving the day. 

It was more common-garden than anything as magnificent as the surrounding and incomparable Burren might inspire. There was nothing wrong with it, it was just fairly ordinary.

DW and PP opened with crab claws and garlic butter — an easy choice as we had seen a boat land a few crates of crab just as we arrived. 

They were perfectly good but it’s just possible that Seamus Heaney might not have been moved to eulogise them. I chose mussels marinara hoping for a mainlining shot of sea and salt but got a bowl — a very generous one — of shellfish that had long passed the Rubicon between sparkle and weariness.

For her maincourse DW asked for cod which was described as pan fried on a bed of chorizo, baby potatoes and mussels but it came in a heavy tomato sauce, a winter coat on a summer day, that smothered everything else on the plate.

I chose my biannual lobster and, this is little enough to do with Linnanes, it confirmed my contrarian view that very few things are as over-rated as this over-priced crab. It was served with a salad and the usual garlic butter but I had to ask for some potatoes.

PP, at my pressing unfortunately, chose sea trout. There are very few things as lovely to eat as a fresh, tide-blue sea trout. 

This dish, with crabmeat stuffing and lime and ginger add ons, was overly complicated for something that is essentially the very essence of wild food.

There’s no need to dress it up, just cook it simply and let it speak for itself. Desserts — Pavlova and and Bailey’s cheesecake — were entirely serviceable.

This was an unremarkable meal served in a lovely corner of the West of Ireland.

The food might not be memorable but it is a perfect setting for a memorable experience.

The tab

Dinner for three with a bottle of wine — Pecorino at €28.50 — and a pint of Guinness came to €155.25, tip extra.

How to

“We are open every day at 12 midday and serve food from 12.30pm onwards.”

The Verdict

Food: 6/10

Service: 8/10

Atmosphere: 9/10

Value: 6/10

In a sentence: A wonderful setting with a calming ambience serving food that is entirely serviceable but hardly memorable.

Linnane’s Lobster Bar,

New Quay,

Co Clare;

tel: 065-7078120;

www.linnanesbar.com 


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