The Burke family’s Armada Hotel sits hard against the beautiful bay at Spanish Point, only yards from the shoreline, with views of the sea and sky that change with the ebb and flow of the tide. It’s a magical location, and you can simply sit in a comfy chair in your room, mesmerised by the extraordinary sights, for hours, on end. But there is even more to this hotel than the view, and it’s these other attractions that will have you heading downstairs.
For a start, the head chef in the kitchens is Peter Jackson, one of the county’s most talented cooks, and Mr Jackson is fortunate to not only have a dedicated troupe of local suppliers, but he also has the produce of their own Armada Farm. Mr Jackson shows his verve in dishes like seafood broth with prawn wonton and salmon pearl, or haunch of wild boar with Polish-style stuffed cabbage. This is ambitious cooking, and it matches the tenor of the hotel, where an ambitious team are working very hard indeed to make their mark. The rooms are only gorgeous, and Johnny Burke’s Bar is one of the best on the west coast: do not miss their superlative Galleon, a tower of seafood for two people, which is amongst the best seafood creations served on the Wild Atlantic Way.
Chef Matt Strefford and his commis chef, Sarah Noonan, are creating a new prototype of the moden chef in the beautiful Moy House, hard by the edge of the sea in Lahinch. For example, when you eat breakfast in Moy, Matt and Sarah will have made the bacon, the sausages, the puddings, grown the berries, collected the eggs, picked the tomatoes, and birthed and reared all the animals who contribute to what is on the table. The meal on your plate is their creation, from inception to degustation. But that’s only the start: they are also breeding their own Dexter cows, keep Texel sheep, maintain a polytunnel, create their own manure with vegetable peelings and seaweed carted up from the shore. And when you bring this sort of peerless production into the frame with Mr Strefford’s meticulous, technically fluet and ambitious cooking, and you put it in the contect of one of the most beautiful houses on the west cost, you really see why Moy House is creating a new cutting edge for the Wild Atlantic Way. We are all going to be hearing a lot more about Moy House, and Matt, and Sarah.
Standards. If there is one thing that Michael Vaughan, proprietor of Vaughan Lodge, understands, it is that standards matter. Standards must not only be maintained, they must be improved. Each season in business, you must bring your experience, enthusiasm and energy to bear on the year ahead, and work to raise your standards.And, every year, Mr Vaughan does just that. He is a master at assembling a great team, and then getting them to be even better than they thought they could be. Through its history, ever since it opened in 2005, Mr Vaughan, his wife Maria and their team, have raised the bar, year after year. With chef John Gilmartin in the kitchen, the cooking offers a sublime taste of the West Coast – scallops with cauliflower and lemon emulsion; crab salad with macadamia and red chard; loin of lamb with smoked ricotta and wild garlic; john dory with borlotti beans and samphire; rhubarb and white chocolte cannelloni. The cooking is measured and expert and is, therefore, just like everything else in Vaughan Lodge. The Lodge is a place of profound enchantment, and it is one of the stars of the Wild Atlantic Way. Because they understand that standards must be maintained, and then improved.