An Fulacht Fia restaurant, Ballyvaughan

Wild halibut roasted in Sicilian butter with a green pea and watercress purée.

Wild halibut roasted in Sicilian butter with a green pea and watercress purée.

This is a fairly new purpose built restaurant on the road from Ballyvaughan to Fanore. As you arrive at the T-junction in the village of Ballyvaughan, left will take you to the Ailwee Caves and the Corkscrew Hill, and turning right brings you to Fanore. An Fulacht Fia restaurant is just about a mile out the Fanore road on your left hand side and with fabulous sea views. It is built with lots of stone and blends in perfectly with its surroundings, in fact so much so that you need to keep your eyes peeled to spot the entrance. However once you are in the door there is a beautiful modern dining room with sumptuous dining chairs, good oversized tables, starched white linen, and proper wine glasses, all a good start to an evening.

The day that I was there was pretty windy but I can imagine that it is heavenly when the sun shines. There is an extensive menu with the emphasis on fish and locally bought produce. Most of the fish is landed at the local pier and collected every second day. I ordered the day’s special starter of crab claws in garlic butter with side salad and homemade breads. For mains I decided on the wild halibut roasted in Sicilian butter with a green pea and watercress purée, plus a side serving of roasted vegetable and potato for €24.50. Other interesting starters included marinated chicory and oak smoked potato salad with caper and raisin vinaigrette, €9.50, and fresh medley of local mussels and clams cooked in tomato, chili, and roast garlic broth, €8.50. While waiting for the starter to arrive I was served a tiny amuse bouche (pre-starter ) of marinated salmon which was delicious.

At this stage, I enquired about the origin of the name and was told that a fulacht is the ancient equivalent of a barbecue, actually it is a hole dug out in the ground, lined with timber then filled with water, to which are added red hot stones to boil the water. Then some meat is added, perhaps a haunch of venison (fia ) to the boiling water and covered with lots of straw and left to cook. Apparently the remains of these can be found in the area.

I ordered a glass of Galway Hooker chardonnay from a quite extensive and well thought out wine list, I would guess that the owners like their glass of good vino.

The crab claws were delicious and the garlic butter had the correct amount of seasoning. The accompanying salad had really good pearl onions that were homemade with a pretty good kick of chilli. I was tempted to request another couple of crab claws but decided to leave space for the main course.

The halibut arrived, as you can see in the picture, a very pretty and not too fussy presentation. As I sliced my knife through the halibut the juices ran out, telling me this was perfectly cooked. Halibut is an expensive fish and needs a careful hand when cooking to make the very best of it. Combined with some of the pea puree it worked perfectly, as did the wine. The other dots of flavouring were not just for decoration and each one helped to add a new dimension to a bite of fish. Some other interesting mains were rack of veal, marinated in rosemary, roast garlic, and mustard with a vegetable ragu, €28.50; and pan roasted breast of chicken stuffed with mushrooms and smoked pancetta, crushed chili potatoes, and madeira jus, €18.50. There was also steak, duck, more fish dishes, and a yummy sounding vegetarian millefeuille. For dessert I had the good old classic crème brulee, served with summer berries and espresso ice cream, €7. It came in a nice wide flan dish, which meant there was loads of caramelised top layer, just the way it should be, the texture and vanilla taste was perfect.

By now you probably have figured out that I liked this restaurant, yes I did, and I would encourage you to take a trip there for a leisurely evening. It is exactly 20 miles from the crossroads in Kilcolgan to the front door. However I would also suggest that you come early and drive on the coast road to Fanore first, it is just gorgeous, have a brisk or leisurely walk then back to the restaurant for the evening. You will never be asked to leave your table so you can take as long as you like.

The restaurant also serves Sunday lunch, €20.95 for two courses and €23.95 for three courses. It serves an early bird each day which gives you a 10 per cent discount off every item on the main menu. The telephone number is (065 ) 7077300.

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