Vaughan's Anchor Inn, Clare: A delicious seafood galore
The first time I visited Clare a few years ago, I remember being mind-blown by the fact that every pub and restaurant in the county served good food. Sincere, unpretentious good food. Even something as simple as the fish of the day, with a side of mashed potatoes and veggies, managed to make me realise that there was more to Irish food than bacon, sausages and Guinness - bear with me, I had no knowledge whatsoever about the Irish food culture at this stage, like probably most people who have just landed on the Emerald Isle.
Ever time I come back to Clare, I am still impressed by the lack of fussiness and simple straightforward quality of the food I am being served, and Vaughan's Anchor Inn is certainly no exception.
A stone's throw from the Cliffs of Moher, this B&B located in Liscannor has gained quite a reputation for its seafood offer and is recommended by the Michelin guide.
Don't expect anything fancy when it comes to the decor, it's your classic country town restaurant, but the menu is nothing short of inviting.
While studying the menu, we saw a few fish & chips coming out of the kitchen looking very promising but we all decided to go for the more refined options, which were plentiful.
After a gorgeous bread basket (including some delightful homemade sourdough) and an amazingly flavourful mise en bouche, which tasted like the most delicious velvety soupe de poissons, we shared the only meaty dish of the evening, a beautiful foie gras and duck terrine.
My main was a filet of cod with a hazelnut crust, served with leeks and prawns. I loved the crunchiness that the nuts added to the dish, with all the flavours complimenting each other perfectly. The side of vegetables and mashed which came with it allowed me to use up all the tasty sauce.
The rest of the table were just as delighted with their choices. The crab claws with garlic sauce were as fresh and deliciously stringy as they get, the monkfish with mussels and samphire was perfectly grilled, and the langoustine crumble, however slightly rich, was a pure delight, nicely balanced out with a fresh salad.
Some family members had raved about the dessert they enjoyed in Vaughan's a couple of days before so we made sure to save some room for it. The medley dessert for two - which was actually big enough to be shared by four people - was a delightful version of the often uninspired café gourmand.
It included two mini crème brûlée, a fabulously gooey chocolate soufflé, two mini macarons, a piece of bread and butter pudding with crème anglaise, two scoops of pistachio and caramel ice cream, and two parfaits with berry compote. Let's say that the plate came back to the kitchen rather clean after we took care of it...
The value of this meal felt extremely fair, with mains around €20 each. Ingredients are well-sourced, mostly locally, and the chef seems to take great pride in highlighting their natural flavours rather than overshadowing them with too much complication. Also, in case you haven't understood already, get the dessert for two...