Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Scotland may have some lessons to teach Ireland about food

Sometimes, you find a place that chimes with everything you think, feel and believe about food. A place that focuses on simple things such as quality and flavour, generosity and community. A place like Loch Fyne Oyster Bar.

"Oh, I have to bring you here," my boyfriend said when he saw Loch Fyne come up on the sat nav. "My mother used to love it."

Loch Fyne Oyster Bar grew from what was essentially a stall by the lake. Its setting is stunning (excuse the cars above but the fact that I couldn't get a picture without cars shows how popular this place is).

It's still quite a modest building, as you can see from the pictures above but when you get inside, you can't help but be impressed.

The first thing you see is a range of seafood. This is appropriate as Loch Fyne was established 32 years ago with the idea of growing oysters in the clear waters of the lake. This is still its main focus but it has grown to include a cluster of businesses, all of which focus on offering great food. 

Seafood and fish is still at the heart of Loch Fyne and there is quite a variety on offer; all locally and sustainably sourced. This is a food business that takes such concepts seriously. It works closely with the Marine Conservation Society and is committed to its environment - something that is highlighted throughout the store.

Its staff are wonderful too. We didn't know what fish to buy and the staff offered taster samples of a variety of different ones before we made our final decision. Perhaps their generosity has to do with the fact that for the past eight years, the Loch Fyne company has been run by its employees. Its team of 140-odd staff now have a say in the future of the business and it's in everyone's interest to keep the customers happy.

As well as the seafood and fish, the shop stocks a selection of other top-quality Scottish produce too. There's shortbread, honey, muesli, cereals, tablet (a type of Scottish confectionery) and so much more.

And that's not all. There's also an adjoining café, serving simply cooked food using the quality ingredients on offer in the shop. Mussels, smoked rainbow trout, whole roasted seabream, beef casserole and venison were some of the dishes on offer when I was there.

I'd love to see more places like this in Ireland. Places where people can buy food directly from those involved in producing it. Places where  producers can serve their food with pride. I know we've got farmers' markets where customers engage with food producers and get to ask them questions but we don't have enough farm shops or places like Loch Fyne .

Or maybe we have some that I'm not aware of. Do you know of any? If so, post a comment to let me know. I'd love to visit them.


  1. I agree! These are needed before a Food Trail is put on the map. I will stop by the Market on Friday to talk with you about the Christmas Market Dec 17/18 in Dingle...

  2. Hi Sharon,
    I have actually finished up at the market for a while. It's too cold and it's got quiet so there's not much point in my standing around in this weather to little or no avail
    But you can email me: sharondingle@yahoo.com.

    I think Dingle and Ireland needs more of these. I might try convincing Tommy Bruic to set one up at his farm. Any other suggestions?

  3. I agree. I will check back i na few weeks to see if any of your commenters leave names of places around the island. I know there are a few farmers here in Galway that sell their stuff during the summer (out in front of their farms on the road) but no 'shops' on their land. We try to buy as much as possible directly from the source.

  4. Mona,
    Wouldn't it be great if there were more places like this? I know a farmer here in Dingle who has a dairy farm on which he milks cows, whose milk he sells directly to shops and markets and uses to make cheese. I'm going to try to convince him to set up a farm shop...
    I've been to visit the Glenilen Family in Cork and while they don't have a farm shop as such, they do welcome visitors and you can buy their lovely produce and view it being made. I think it makes you have more respect for the food you eat when you see the care that has gone into creating it.

  5. This place looks amazing Sharon! I often see little seafood 'shacks' on UK and US food programmes but I haven't seen anything similar here. My local town is right on the coast and there is a fishing community but we have no fishmongers!!

  6. Don't get me started on seafood shacks! I don't know why we don't have them. We visited a tiny village called Crail where lots of lobsters are landed. There was a ramshackle shack right at the end of the pier where lobsters and crab were cooked fresh from the sea. You sat on the pier to eat them. We really need to get more things like this happening in Ireland.

    And regarding fishmongers: Dingle is one of Ireland's largest fishing ports and we didn't have a fishmongers until a few years ago. All you could get was days-old fish at the supermarket!

  7. This is my idea of heaven! Putting on my list of places to visit before too long. The setting looks incredible and I want to try every last one of those fishy products.

  8. This is my idea of heaven! Putting on my list of places to visit before too long. The setting looks incredible and I want to try every last one of those fishy products.

  9. Hester, if you happen to be in that part of the world, I can give you a long list of other places that are totally worth visiting too.

  10. We keep talking about opening a 'shop' here... but there is the issue of population! Would people travel? Living in rural Ireland with our nearest population hubs being Galway & Limerick - both an hour away! Love to hear people's comments.


  11. Margaret, this place that I visited was in the middle of nowhere, miles from the nearest town or even village. But it had built up a reputation and was seen as being worth a journey, to buy food and to have lunch. I have yet to visit you guys but from what I've heard, I think you've got what it takes to be a success too! I think Ireland needs more of this sort of thing and perhaps a countrywide food trail. You could be the trailblazers!