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.