Gorgeous Gort is what they call the town these days and, since it was lucky enough to be by-passed in 2010, that’s just what it is - and it is well worth leaving the M18 for a bite at Sarah Harty’s famously funky all day café.
It’s actually been going since 2005 but relocated to the current premises recently, bringing with it all the same quirky style - as they say themselves, “Since the beginning the café is all about the colourful people of Gort, simple fresh food, art and music.”
And, once you’ve had time to take in the originality of this entertaining place, you’ll find that the food is all about Gort and the locality too. Head chef Pawel Karnafel (formerly of several notable Galway restaurants including The Twelve, Ballynahinch Castle and the late lamented Cava) is well rooted in the Slow Food ethos of sustainability and seasonality, and you’ll find a supplier list and menus generously sprinkled with the names of the region’s great food producers - McCarthy’s breakfast meats, St Tola goat’s cheese, Burren Smokehouse fish, Mount Callan Cheddar and Cratloe Hills cheep cheese - and local foraged foods whenever they’re available.
They’re famed for great pizzas (a dozen to choose from), which go down a treat with families, but for something more grown up how about a local take on salad nicoise - made with Burren Smokehouse mackerel and served with toasted brown bread, it makes a tasty lunch for under a tenner.
The dinner menu is more expensive of course but it’s also distinctly adventurous and may feature edible seaweeds as well as foods foraged from the land - try a shellfish and vegetable pot, perhaps, with monkfish and pickled seaweed (about €16.50).
Vegetarians do very well here and, like all the best vegetarian food, vegetable dishes are not a token add-on but an equally appealing part of the menu - a growing trend at the moment, and very welcome.
Delicious desserts (cakes, tarts, cupcakes...) are displayed on the counter and may include fruity treats such as blackcurrant parfait with Italian meringue, pistachio and honeycomb, or cheesecake mousse with macerated raspberries and granola - and perhaps some gorgeous Linalla farm ice cream, made up the road on the Burren, at New Quay.
To accompany you’ll find Badger & Dodo coffee on the drinks list and, almost uniquely, the short but well selected, carefully sourced and informative wine list includes nine well-priced wines in five sizes ranging from small glass (125ml) to bottle (750ml) - and local craft beers, of course. Full marks. And don’t forget the events (details on website.)
A great place to eat and chill out - well worth a detour.