The recent launch of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way has brought even more groups to the jewel in its coastal crown, the marvelous Burren in north County Clare.
Although celebrated for its silver limestone landscape and dazzling wildflowers, this European Geopark has a shoreline rich in seaplants and shellfish of all kinds, while its nutrient-laced soil grows superb vegetables and summer fruits—delicious pickings for some of the Burren’s more innovative chefs.
Hazel Mountain Chocolaterie and Cafe
Equidistant from the scenic harbour villages of Kinvara and Ballyvaughan, this multi award-winning boutique chocolate factory is prized for its single estate bean-to-bar chocolate, and gluten-free baking. But it is Catalan chef Rosa Martinez who brings the cafe’s lunch and brunch menu to life. Using organic ingredients from owners John and Kasha Connolly’s polytunnel, Rosa makes the best soup in the Burren, while subtly using chocolate and cacao in her signature sandwiches. Don’t miss the grilled halloumi cheese on rye sourdough bread, brought to taste perfection with plum and chocolate chutney, Catalan spinach, and garlic, lime and maple dressing side salad.
Group tours of the chocolaterie, which feature a step-by-step talk on the bean-to-bar process of hand roasting, cracking, winnowing, stone grinding and ageing, as well as chocolate tasting, are available daily. John and Kasha also run team-building workshops on request.
Julia’s Lobster Truck
Only recently launched, Julia Hemingway’s Lobster Truck is quickly becoming an institution. Using seafood bought directly from the fishermen and shellfish farmers of New Quay, Julia serves up barbecued lobsters, lobster rolls, mussels, clams, fresh fish with home-cooked French fries made from local potatoes, and her special tartare sauce. At Daly’s country pub in Bell Harbour near New Quay, both outdoor and indoor seating are offered, and the magnificent Corcomroe Abbey ruins are a stone’s throw away.
Julia also serves from her home base in Carran near the world-famous Burren Perfumery and can cater for groups and meetings in any outdoor setting. Her lobster truck schedule is posted weekly on Facebook.
Gloriously located in one of the most scenic parts of the Wild Atlantic Way, with the open ocean on one side and the Burren’s terraced hills on the other, Vasco transforms the produce and seafood of local farmers and fishermen, alongside the harvest of owners Ross and Karen Quinn’s daily seashore foraging, into dishes of real character. Having left finance careers to travel extensively, Ross and Karen returned to Ireland convinced that the ingredients they had taken for granted in Irish cooking back home were the best in the world.
They set about creatively using these ingredients in their new restaurant venture, conveniently set between Doolin and Ballyvaughan villages. Vasco is an ideal pit-stop for adventure seekers to refuel the body and bask in the Burren’s charms. How about local smoked mackerel with home-grown, caramelized onion and sea spinach tart? Or Burren organic kid goat with couscous?
Ross and Karen can create unique dining experiences for groups of up to 45 people, while their companion business, Vasco Adventure, arranges hill walking, cycling, caving, horse riding, beach and rock fishing, and surfing—for groups of all sizes. Fanore beach, beloved of surfers, swimmers, and fishermen, its sands magically golden, is just a five-minute walk from the restaurant.