It’s hard to top a meal of oysters and lobster al fresco overlooking the sea on a sunny day. This simple pleasure, one of the quintessential pleasures of the Irish summer, has never come cheap – you can cut costs by shelling the oysters and cooking the lobster yourself – but in Co Clare, on the edge of the Burren, it’s a Linnane’s institution keeps things relatively affordable compared to some others.
id-afternoon a few weeks ago we come without a reservation and are lucky enough to snag the last free table on the terrace outside. The other customers are a mix of locals and tourists. There’s a man from Alabama on a genealogy trip who talks so loudly that everyone in the restaurant has a full insight into his Irish roots. Anyone working in the hospitality industry says the exchange rate means there are more Americans this summer than there have been in many years. It’s like the good old days.
A couple of guys arrive by boat and tie up just a few yards away. They stroll onto the terrace for a beer and seafood. Yes, we all have green eyes, as does their adorable Doodle, who barks a little plaintively at being let on board and not being allowed to join. How well he could.
Linnane’s is owned by Conor Graham, a qualified chef, and his business partner Mark Commins, an accountant. They succeeded Graham’s parents, Eileen and Vincent, when they retired in 2016. Graham grew up on Weir Road in nearby Kilcolgan and his first job was at Moran’s Oyster Cottage, where Vincent worked for many years and which he and Eileen managed for a time in the early 2000s. It’s safe to say that Graham knows a thing or two about shellfish.
Graham and Commins acquired Flaggy Shore Oysters (adjacent to Linnane’s) from Gerry O’Halloran earlier this year and are now able to supply their restaurant with all of its oysters. Clams come to Flaggy Shore from a single supplier, Tommy Connolly, who farms them on floating beds in the pristine, world-class waters of nearby Kinvara Bay. After cleaning and boxing, they move on to restaurants like Aimsir and Patrick Guilbaud. As oysters take on the character of the water they are farmed in, a single supplier ensures consistency.
I have a particular fondness for the delicate, slightly sweet Flaggy Shore delicacies, smaller than the Gigas that are also on offer. So while there’s an extensive oyster menu with both cooked and dressed options — including grilled with garlic breadcrumbs and deep-fried, which might be a good option for a virgin oyster — let’s start with half a dozen of them, bare bar a slice of lemon. You’re pretty much perfect.
Next we share a New Quay lobster served with garlic butter and baby potatoes and an open shrimp sandwich. The lobster – two claws and half a tail for the 700g menu weight – is served very simply with a few leaves of Lollo Rosso. It’s been cooked for just the right amount of time (too long and it might be chewy) and the garlic butter is retro-fab, although a homemade mayonnaise alternative (rather than the grim sachets on the table) would be nice.
The shrimp sandwich on dark brown bread is also decent, although the portion of fresh shrimp from Cathal Sexton in Doonbeg could have been a little more generous. The salad, with its grated carrots and red onions, is decidedly old-fashioned. Again, homemade mayo instead of the Marie Rose sauce wouldn’t go amiss.
Most of the other customers seem to be eating breaded squid, fish and chips, and chicken wings, all of which must be good given the enthusiasm with which they’re eaten. However, I can’t help but feel that Linnane’s is missing a trick by not offering a larger selection of seafood (there are wild mussels on the menu, and I’m sure these are good), grilled fish, and sharing Whole fish offers options and a more modern presentation of the dishes. Given the location and the owners’ access to quality fish and shellfish, this shouldn’t be too difficult. A menu overhaul won’t come in the middle of a busy summer season (during which Graham has had to step into the kitchen due to staff shortages and even have his mother move in to help), but the quieter winter months should allow for some adjustments.
The short wine list is reasonably priced, with some good options for around €30. The young and friendly staff seem to be mostly local students for the summer. With a pint of Guinness and a glass of Trimbach Pinot Blanc, our bill came to €84.55 before service.
Fish and chips cost €16.50.
A dozen oysters and crab claws to share, followed by lobster and dessert for two, costs around €150 before drinks or service.
https://www.independent.ie/life/food-drink/food-reviews/linnanes-lobster-bar-review-i-cant-help-but-feeling-its-missing-a-trick-in-not-offering-a-wider-range-of-seafood-and-presenting-its-food-in-a-more-modern-way-41918576.html Review of Linnane’s Lobster Bar: “I can’t help but feel that she’s missing a trick by not offering a larger selection of seafood and presenting her food in a more modern way.”