Now in its third generation of family ownership, Aherne’s is outstanding for the warmth of the FitzGibbon family’s hospitality and their enormous enthusiasm for the business which, since 1993, has included some fine accommodation. But it is for its food - and, especially, the ultra-fresh seafood that comes straight from the fishing boats in Youghal harbour - that Aherne’s is best known.
While John FitzGibbon supervises the front of house his brother David, who is a Euro-Toques chef, reigns over a busy kitchen. There are two bars – the front bar is quite large and traditional, with lots of wood and a timeless atmosphere while, beside the restaurant, a chic little bar doubles as a cocktail bar where aperitifs are served,
Wherever you choose to eat it, the bar food tends towards simplicity, and is all the better for that; seafood chowder, locally smoked Yawl Bay salmon and oysters make for great snacks or starters (all served with the renowned moist dark brown yeast bread), and you’ll find at least half a dozen delicious hot seafood main course dishes like baked cod wrapped in bacon and gorgeous prawns in garlic butter - its sheer freshness tells the story.
The restaurant is a lovely room, recently refurbished in an upbeat classical style that makes a fine setting for some outstanding cooking. Meals served here are naturally more ambitious and, while the menu includes some token meat dishes - roast loin of local lamb with chargrilled vegetables and a mint jus, perhaps, and char-grilled fillet steak with champ and pepper sauce - seafood is still the undisputed star of the show.
Specialities like pan-fried scallops with bacon & spinach, or fresh crab salad can make memorable starters, for example, and who could resist a main course of hot buttered Youghal Bay lobster? These are, in a sense, simple dishes yet they have plenty of glamour too. And don't forget to allow room for something from the delicious range of traditional home-made 'Desserts by Anne' (bread & butter pudding, coffee meringue gateau with Jameson whiskey filling, rhubarb crumble, hot chocolate pudding with cream....etc etc), or the mainly local Irish farmhouse cheese selection.
It is well worth planning a journey around a bar meal at Aherne’s - or, if time permits, have a relaxed evening meal followed by a restful night in their classy and extremely comfortable accommodation.
A wine list strong on classic French regions offers a good selection of half bottles and half a dozen champagnes.
Seats 65 (private room, 20); children welcome (high chair, childrens menu, baby changing facilities); toilets wheelchair accessible. D 6.30-9.30 daily; early bird D €25 6-7.30pm; fixed price 2/3 course set D €25/35; also à la carte; house wine €22, sc discretionary. *Bar food daily, 12-10.
The stylish rooms at Aherne’s are generously sized and individually decorated to a high standard; all are furnished with antiques and have full bathrooms. Excellent breakfasts are served in a warm and elegantly furnished residents’ dining room.
Studio apartments are also available, equipped to give the option of self-catering if required.