Cronin’s Sheebeen, Rosbeg, Westport, Mayo
Different people have different ideas about comfort food. In fact I have different ideas about comfort food depending on the day, or even the time of day you talk to me. For me it can range from Korean bibimbap to Japanese sushi, from Indian dosa to Italian gnocchi. I’ll lick my fingers with glee after eating a salt and vinegar sprinkled ‘fish and chips’ from their bag, or indeed newspaper. I’m happy to splurge on good shellfish, love a good pizza and a slice of chocolatey chocolate cake never goes a miss from my palate. And as I’m Irish, good ol’ traditional Irish food is always a contender. Gratefully for me I found comforting Irish food one blustery rainy day in The Sheebeen in Westport.
The one thing I’ve learnt about dining out as a parent is to, if you can, phone the restaurant before you darken its door. Even if there’s no booking required, it’s helpful to know that they cater for children, have high chairs if needs be, have room for a pram and if you are confirming your visit, they’ll most likely book you a table that’ll suit your needs.
I phoned Cronin’s Sheebeen in advance and after a few of the above questions booked a table for me and my little clan.
I’d read good things about the place but didn’t want to read too much as I like to make my own mind up. The drive from Westport Town where we were staying took no time at all and the winding road that hugged Clew Bay took us straight to the premises. As I mentioned it was one of those blustery rainy days, the type of weather that has you clinging for your scarf and scampering to get indoors.
And all the fumbling with jackets and dashing across the customer car park with toddler in tow to get indoors of Cronin’s Sheebeen was worth those few minutes.
It would have been worth a lot more, if truth be told, because we were greeted to the warm glow of an open fire, warm smiles of its proprietors and accepting nods of who appeared to be regular locals propped up at the bar.
Our table was reserved away from the more intimate tables, locals and open fire of the pub and snug, but at a comfortable larger table by a window that looked out onto Clew Bay (during peak season the restaurant upstairs is opened to give customers an even better Clew Bay observation post) and by a lit stove, that was boosted for heat as soon as we were seated. A sound gesture. I sat with my back against the window but couldn’t resist turning to take a peek every once in a while to observe the goings on, quiet as they were.
The restaurant area we sat in was full of character, with a bar and high stools. Tables and chairs, and walls adorned with art, music and gig posters of very good taste, in my opinion anyway. It was off-peak season, it was also the afternoon so in essence we had the area to ourselves to admire.
Proprietors Colm and Dolores, and their son Simon Cronin pride themselves on their reputation for good food and service and it hasn’t gone unnoticed, especially in recent years. With recommendations in the Michelin Guide and The Lonely Planet, and multiple awards acknowledging their food and gastro services I wasn’t surprised in the least at the friendly service we received. Nor was I disappointed with the comforting food we dined upon.
As it was March the menu available to us was the Winter Menu, and from it both Patrick and I chose one main meal each, well Patrick actually ordered the large version of a starter choice. We also ordered a meal from the Children’s Menu for Smith.
It didn’t take long for our meals to arrive. Patrick’s choice of locally sourced Fresh Killary Fjord Mussels which were steamed with white wine, garlic and ‘finished with a hint of cream’ looked fantastic and tasted it too. What could be better than mussels caught less than forty minutes away. He made light of his meal and even helped me with my generously portioned choice of Cronin’s Sheebeen Traditional Beef in Guinness (these were my meat eating days).
Described as “Prime chunks of local beef, stewed in Guinness & served with fresh seasonal vegetables & potatoes”, it was an option I couldn’t refuse. The meat was melt in the mouth, the stew so deliciously seasoned, the potatoes the consistency I prefer. My spoon kept returning to the bowl for more but being nine months pregnant at the time, I have to admit there wasn’t as much room as I wanted to finish the dish. Bad news for me but happy news for Patrick who practically licked the bowl clean. But he didn’t as we were in public. Having a healthy appetite anyway, I put this extra eagerness he displayed down to the tastiness of the dish and the gusts of sea air. Smith’s Homemade Fresh Irish Cod Goujons and hand cut chips went down a storm too, and was a fine size more than fit for a 12-year-old not alone a two-year old.
Our experience at Cronin’s Sheebeen has me writing about it now. The comforting food and warm atmosphere and service will have us coming back for more on our next trip out west. Only then they’ll have four hungry mouths to feed and not three.
Cronin’s Sheebeen have different opening hours for their Summer and Winter Menu’s so to save disappointed either visit their website or give them a call. If it’s a few drinks you’re after, I’d say the place is hopping during peak seasons and weekend nights (but don’t quote me on this). Drinking responsibly means leaving the car, bike or bicycle behind but the good news is that it only takes five minutes to get from the Sheebeen to Westport town centre by taxi.