Having been missed by Carlingford diners since selling their upmarket business Jordans Townhouse a decade or so ago, Harry and Marian Jordan returned in 2011 to take over The Oystercatcher Bistro on the square.
Keenly aware of the changing times, Harry and Marian have a very different focus this time around, with the emphasis now firmly on good food at affordable prices at their bright and stylishly simple restaurant on the square.
They even have a definition of “Bistro” on their website: “a small family run establishment sometimes only with one in the kitchen and one up front” And this is exactly what you get here, with Harry beavering away in the kitchen and Marian in front of house, looking after diners with charm and efficiency.
Their menu offers something different from other restaurants in the village, and has been carefully devised to make the very best of top quality produce available locally in a collection of dishes that are manageable for one chef to produce consistently well, and are mainly rustic. They are simple, traditional dishes in their own regions – but, when combined in a menu in Co Louth, offer a refreshing alternative to the dishes popular in the area.
There is no single style, but this is very much a man’s cooking, with lots of satisfyingly deep, gutsy flavours. Harry describes their food as “a cornucopia of influences, spices from North Africa and the Middle East, blended with Mediterranean flavours using Irish ingredients” - and most dishes are available as normal or large portions, allowing diners to mix and match their meals more freely than from the usual ‘starters’ and ‘main courses’.
Local fish and seafood comes first, naturally enough, and includes the famous Carlingford oysters (the all year variety) in a range of styles both hot and cold. Poultry and game follow and go far beyond the usual tame offerings, including several pigeon dishes, quail and an original pigeon and duck braise (‘PD Special’).
Meat choices make good use of local black pudding, offer a good steak from the local butcher, some lamb dishes with the Middle Eastern dishes that suit this meat so well (and which you will also find in the imaginative ‘No meat or fish’ options), and include a finger-lickin’ pork ribs house speciality, ‘only for the hungry’.
But it is when you have finally worked down to the Favourites that you get to the heart of this kitchen – topping a range of special dishes that include Coq au Vin and a Gypsy Stew, you’ll find Harry’s ultimate house speciality Cataplana, and it’s worth travelling to Carlingford for this alone: local fish, shellfish and vegetables supply the foundation and, when combined with traditional spices and Mediterranean flavours, the result is a richly flavoured and very satisfying rendition of the great Portuguese fish stew...
All this and tasty sides, great salads and bread (Marian’s speciality), lovely classical desserts, aromatic Greenbean coffee (from up the road at Banbridge, Co Down) and a short but appealing wine list – what more could you want?
Well, if you happen to want to buy an original painting you could have that too, as there’s an ongoing exhibition of artwork for sale on the walls.
A place well worth visiting.